By Ronald Chettiar
International captains are wise in experience to advice their team not to provoke key players in the rival camp. Many batsmen will go out of their way to wish a dreaded fast bowler “good morning”. It may or may not help, but there is no harm in wishing the paceman!
Then there are players like Viv Richards who even the worst of sledgers stayed away from targeting because such any such indiscretion would only boomerang on them – and in a very hurtful way, It’s counter productive for the team.
In modern era, players have generally stayed away from provoking Sachin Tendulkar. The only way the maestro gets back – and get back, he will! – is with the bat. That would mean not just incurring the wrath of Tendulkar but that of his own team mates, should things go wrong.
The mind games ahead of the high-voltage semi-final between India and Pakistan semi-final is in full swing. But one was shocked to find the Pakistan captain, Shahid Afridi, choosing to play these games with Tendulkar! It’s shocking because Afridi should have been the one who should have prevented such indiscretion that has the potential to destroy his team. But here he was the instigator, when he brashly proclaimed in public that his team would not allow Tendulkar to score his 100th international hundred in the World Cup semi-finals! Brave, very brave. In fact, it’s more foolish than brave.
Tendukar has found an added edge to his special fuel. And should a Tendulkar special mastermind an Indian victory in the semis, Afridi will be hauled over the coals back home. Guaranteed.
History is proof that on the rare occasion somebody has made the error to needling Tendulkar, he has lived to regret his indiscretion.
Let’s recall those instances:
Bowler: Abdul Qadir (Pakistan)
Tendulkar was only 16 years old and on his debut tour of Pakistan, where he was facing some of the best bowler in the history of the game like Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Abdul Qadir. The Pakistani crowd jeered Tendulkar. Placards proclaimed: "Dudh pita bhachha, ghar jaake dhoodh pee” (Hey kid, go home and drink milk).
In one game on this tour, Tendulkar deposited Mushtaq Ahmed for two sixes in one over. Abdul Qadir challenged Tendulkar, "Bachchon ko kyon mar rahe ho? Hamein maarke dikhao" (Why are you hitting kids? Hit me if you can).
Tendulkar didn’t reply, his bat did! In Qadir’s next over, Tendulkar savaged the legend. The scoring sequence being: 6, 0, 4, 6, 6, 6!
Bowler: Henry Olonga (Zimbabwe)
In a crucial encounter in the Coca-Cola Champions trophy at Sharjah in 1998, Zimbabwe fast bowler Henry Olonga dismissed Tendulkar with a bouncer. As the batsman was walking back Olonga was jumping with joy and gave Tendulkar the glare. Tendulkar didn't react on his way back. But his computer memory had noted the moment. In the final, Tendulkar smashed Olonga to all parts of the park. He ensured that the match was a forgetful outing for Olonga by pulping him into submission with authoritative and aggressive strokeplay.
Bowler: Andrew Caddick (England)
Ahead of England’s 2003 World Cup match against India, pacer Andrew Caddick was quoted in a newspaper as saying: “I'm sure if he (Tendulkar) opens, I will be more than happy because it gives us a good chance of getting him out early with the new ball. At the end of the day he is only human and he does make mistakes.”
Caddick’s chest-thumping confidence was shattered when Tendulkar launched one of his short-ball in to space and out of the stadium. Many considered it as the shot of that World Cup. That one stroke showed who the boss was!
Bowler: Shoaib Akhtar (Pakistan)
In the same tournament, India were set to play Pakistan at Centurion. A day before the high- pressure match, Pakistan speedster Shoaib Akhtar told a TV channel that the Indian batsmen were not comfortable against quality pace.
When Shoaib came to bowl, Tendulkar unleashed a series of shots, one of which was an upper cut over the third man boundary for six. It was a shot that will always be remembered when India plays Pakistan. Tendulkar smashed Shoaib for 23 runs in first over after which the pacer was taken out of the attack. Tendulkar scored a blistering 98 in 75 balls while Akhtar gave 72 runs in his 10 overs with just one wicket to his name!
Afridi has dared to mess up with Tendulkar. India would be grateful to Afridi for pumping up the maestro. Pakistan needs to be wary of the backlash now. Afridi may have dug his own grave by challenging Tendulkar.
Pictures © Getty Images