Kuala Lumpur: Booed in his last match; back to God-like status on his return.
Much happened in the six months since the Mumbai Test against England, including surgery on a shoulder carrying a heavy load for almost 17 years, but the best news is that Sachin Tendulkar is back making waves in a trade he has mastered.
It’s only Sachin, perhaps, who could script a hundred (and be adjudged MoM) on comeback. Sadly, the elements conspired to end Thursday’s DLF Cup match versus the West Indies under the Duckworth/Lewis Method and his spectacular (“special,” he himself accepted) innings went in vain.
Had rain forced the day’s second stoppage even one ball earlier, the four points would’ve been shared. As it turned out, the players went off at the end of the 20th over, with the West Indies 141 for two, 29 ahead of the par score.
According to an official release, Brian Lara’s team collected a bonus as well — five points, then, despite conceding 309 runs and taking no more than five Indian wickets. “We’re happy with what happened... We had our eyes on the Duckworth/Lewis and the par score,” chuckled Lara, who has now led the West Indies to five wins in succession over India.
Back to Sachin...
The unbeaten 141 (148 balls, 13x5, 5x6) was Sachin’s 40th in ODIs and took his tally of Test and ODI hundreds to a wow-evoking 75. Just once before, almost seven years ago, did he open and remain unbeaten with a hundred-plus score: 186 against New Zealand, in Hyderabad.
He was dropped by Carlton Baugh off Fidel Edwards when on five, but still had to smash through odds: A dual-bounce wicket (dangerous at one end), rain interruption and nerves associated with a first after a long lay-off.
Sachin, however, drove beautifully and gave the hammer-treatment when the West Indians pitched short. Outrageous hits blended with those where the timing was ethereal. He really let go after the hundred, helping himself to four sixes.
The reward, obviously, of focusing with a capital F.
The other day, for example, Sachin had declined to take a query about the iconic Michael Schumacher, with whom he has more than a passing acquaintance. “Please, I’m returning after many months... I’m trying not to get distracted by anything,” he’d told The Telegraph.
On Thursday, Sachin declared that a “planned (rehab) programme” had helped enormously, as also the decision to briefly play for Lashings in the UK. The practice matches in Bangalore and Chennai, too. “Because of the rain in Mumbai, once I returned from England, I had to train with rubber balls... That helped as well...”
A tad emotionally, he said: “Cricket has been my life... I’ve been living a dream and, so, the excitement and enthusiasm is always there. The day it’s a burden, I’ll step aside... Step back...”
The range of strokes unleashed was mind-blowing, confirming that Sachin’s body could cope with the physical demands. “I’m feeling fit... I lasted for 50 overs and was running hard till the end... It’s satisfying, but there’s disappointment that the match ended the way it did... The West Indies still needed almost 170 and that’s a huge number...”
Owing to a fault in the “underlying structure” of the wicket, a ridge developed at one end and batsmen were put through an even sterner test.
“That ridge couldn’t be missed... One didn’t have to be informed about it... Once the ball landed there, it could do anything... We kept that (ridge) out of our mind... I had to play a little differently and things clicked...” Sachin pointed out.
Lara, who felt his team had been “in front,” but that the match was nicely poised, saluted Sachin in glowing terms: “We suffered when he was there... His innings showed how much of a genius he is... One could only watch and admire...”
It’s a pity just a couple of hundred turned up at the Kinrara Oval. Sachin, after all, produced a hundred that wasn't of the everyday kind.
Footnote: Tournament director Brendan McClements, once a general manager with the International Cricket Council, clarified that “no team” asked for the match to be shifted to another wicket once it was underway. “There was a discussion, largely involving the umpires and the groundstaff, but a switch wasn’t feasible... That’s all...” Ironically, the wickets have been prepared under the supervision of the highly respected Les Burdett.