| Sachin Tendulkar during the Peshawar innings. (AFP)
Peshawar, Feb. 6: Sachin Tendulkar didnít explode as he did against Abdul Qadir 16 years ago, but nevertheless produced a masterly hundred to remind those writing him off that heís still there to be counted among the best.
Itís debatable how far Sachin (and India) would have gone had Asad Rauf not erred in giving him out leg-before, but his 39th ODI hundred ' he fell on exactly 100 ' couldnít have come at a better time in his career.
His last hundred was also versus Pakistan, in Motera, 10 months ago.
Except his immediate family, no one is privy to Sachinís inner-most feelings. Yet, in the lead-up to the first of five ODIs, his body language had indicated (a) heíd been hurt by the post-Karachi Test criticism and (b) would respond on the field.
He did, at the about-to-burst Arbab Niaz Stadium, this morning. Itís another matter that the statement-making effort notwithstanding, Indiaís 328 wasnít enough and Pakistan won by seven runs under the Duckworth/Lewis Method as the light had become unplayable.
Somewhat predictably, Sachin declined to comment on his innings. He simply said: ďPlease write whatever you think best. I donít have anything to say.Ē
One of the things to write about is that Sachinís role has to be re-defined. Itís not that he canít dominate, but the teamís interest will be best served if he allows the power-players to call the shots without compromising on rotating the strike.
That the score was past 300 when he got out (45th over) is in itself revealing.
Sachin didnít wish to speak, but Greg Chappell did share his thoughts with The Telegraph: ďIt was an excellent knock and made a mockery of what some people had written for the papers in India. Perhaps, they need to be thanked for motivating Sachin. I knew he was up for this one.Ē
Chappell added: ďActually, as coach, Iíd been happy with the way he was shaping up in the second innings in Karachi till that unplayable ball from (Mohammed) Asif. I sensed it was just a matter of time before he got a big innings. We lost today, but Sachinís return to form has been a gain.Ē
Returning to the match played in overcast conditions, the Indians didnít step on the accelerator in the last 10 overs (only 62 were added). Then, they allowed Man of the Match Salman Butt and No. 3 Shoaib Malik to hammer 151 for the second wicket ' despite the services of five specialist bowlers.
Rahul Dravid appeared inconsolable, but must take the rap for not hurrying with the overs. More so, when aware that the hosts were consistently ahead on the Duckworth/Lewis Method.
ďYes, we had to do the catching-up and it wasnít easy. Itís not a nice way to lose, though I accept the light was bad and it was difficult sighting the ball,Ē Dravid said. When Simon Taufel and Rauf offered the light to Younis Khan and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, parts of Peshawar would have had streetlights on.
If the end was rather dramatic, no less was Inzamam-ul Haqís dismissal (for obstructing the field) in that poor light. Big Inzy was fuming till late in the evening.