It was 1994. I was watching cricket for around 3 years. At that time we did not have satellite channels in our television and I had to go to the local club TV room or one of my neighbours’ places to catch India’s match in case the match was coming in ESPN/Star Sports. Indian team was going through a transition and senior players like Kris Srikkanth, Ravi Shashtri and Kapil Dev was retiring one by one. At that time India toured New Zealand for playing test matches and ODIs.
So in one of such days I knew that there was an ODI match. I woke up around 7 and heard that New Zealand was bowled out for a low score (140 odd). It was a holiday and post breakfast I convinced my parents and went to my next door neighbour’s place to watch the match.
Till then, Sachin used to bat at 4/5 and hence when I saw Sachin batting the first question was, “How many gone?”
But I was told that, no wicket had fallen and Sachin was opening with Jadeja! Well that was a surprise!!
The One Day cricket was also going through a change at that time. The concept of field restriction in first 15 overs was floated by Richie Benaud in 1991 and was first used during 92 world cup. Some teams did some experiment with people like Martin Crow and Sir Ian Botham opening in ODIs. Even India tried with Kapil Dev and made him open couple of times without enough success.
Sachin was definitely a very good batsman by then. He did prove his worth in test matches with his 100s in Manchester, Perth, Sydney and Chennai. But in ODIs still his talent was not on full show yet. He used to bat on 2 or 3 down and mostly tried to get quick runs in the end of the innings.
So, it was nice to see him open and what an innings did he play! He was in full flow. All the shots in his armour were on display- drive, cut, pull, glance, stepping out and lofting the ball over in-fields; nothing was missed. Remember, this was 1994. ODIs still mostly were a limited over version of test cricket where teams used to start slowly and keep wickets in the middle over before going ‘bang-bang’ in the slog overs. But I guess someone forgot to tell Sachin that model on that day and he started hitting from the start. He reached 50 when the team total was 69 and when he was out for a delightful 82 of 49 balls, India’s total score was 117.
Some of his shot-making was audacious and there was never a moment when he let the bowlers dictate the terms. It was one of the most important innings for Indian cricket which changed the face of Indian team and world cricket for next 20 years (Another similar innings would be Virender Sehwag’s 70 ball 100 while opening for the first time in ODIs, the opponent was New Zealand again) and helped millions of cricket lovers in the world to enjoy the full batting calibre of Sachin Tendulkar.
Sachin is one of the greatest players in ODI cricket and there are lot more great innings played by him but for me this was the most memorable which first displayed his destructive batting talents in ODIs.
Obviously there are other memorable innings from Sachin which I remember very distinctly. The 98 in Centurion against Pakistan was a special innings as were his twin 100s in Sharjah. Also, I remember the start he gave when India was chasing 300 plus in the 3rd final of Independence Cup in Dhaka in 1998. That 40 of 26 balls was gem! Another exceptional knock was his 100 against Zimbabwe in Benoni where India had to chase 240 in less than 41 overs. Remember, it was 1997, 15 years back and scoring rates in ODI s were not as high as last 6-7 years (post the T-20s). And obviously there are some big innings, his 200 (the first in ODIs) against South Africa, 186 against New Zealand (Batting looked so simple in the later stage) and the recent 175 against Australia which somewhat turned the time backwards.
But despite all his unforgettable batting performances, for me the most cherished Sachin memory were the six balls bowled by him in the Hero Cup semifinal in Eden Gardens. For me it was more important than his 2 five-wicket hauls or the over he bowled against West Indies to tie the match in 1991.
It was 1993 and India was playing South Africa. It was the first match under floodlights in Eden Gardens. South Africa was chasing the modest 195 scored by India and required just 6 runs in the last overs with 2 wickets in hand. India’s main bowlers had not bowled their full quota. Pravakar, Srinath, Kapil Dev and Salil Ankola, all of them had overs left but after a long discussion Sachin convinced Azhar to bowl the final over himself. It was an awesome gesture by a twenty year old. He showed his maturity and ability to handle pressure in the international stage by that decision.
But what followed after was much better show of cool head and nerve. Sachin bowled wonderfully and restricted South Africa to only 193 and helped India win by 2 runs.
I was just 9 at that time and was watching the match in my home. I still remember the tension I felt during every delivery and the bundle of joy I felt after the last ball was bowled. Those were the moments for a 9-year old to fall in love with the great game and grow up dreaming about it and fighting for it. Sachin Tendulkar was a hero! He helped my country win a match!
20 years have passed and Sachin Tendulakar has achieved so many things in world cricket that a group of people calls him ‘God’. There are countless status updates on Facebook today announcing that they are going to stop watching One Day cricket because Sachin Tendulkar has retired. I may not be one of them but I love the game and I respect Sachin Tendulkar for his achievements and thankful to him for what he has done for the 90’s generation in India and world. The One Day cricket will never be same again without you. There will be Kohlis and ABDVs and Amlas but there will not be another Sachin Tendulkar who carried the dreams of a success-hungry and happiness-starved country for 23 years.
When he first came I used to not like Virat Kohli. I found him arrogant and upstart, his Orkut ‘About Me’ was full of ‘fuck’ and other expletives. But slowly Virat changed himself, rediscovered and then in one memorable April night did something which made me a lifelong fan of him. My final tribute to Sachin Tendulkar would be that wonderful video where Virat said, he carried Sachin on his shoulder because, “Well He has carried the burden of the nation for 21 years, so it’s time we carried him on our shoulders”.
Thank You Sachin Tendulkar for all the memories! I am proud to watch cricket in an era when you graced the blue jersey of India on the cricket field.