Sachin Tendulkar and his Midas moments as a bowler

Sachin Tendulkar was only a medium-paced bowler in his early days. He was more accurate, and could obtain swing under favourable conditions © Getty Images

Sachin Tendulkar is such a great batsman that people would easily overlook the crucial roles he had played with the ball for India. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at the second dimension of the great man.

All numbers updated till October 2013.

Thanks to BCCI, we know the exact number of Tests Sachin Tendulkar will play. A 100 hundreds is another milestone one would easily remember; not so easy-to-remember bit is the 30,000-odd runs (34,273 at the time of writing). The 200 international wickets, on the other hand, is a perfectly round figure that everyone somehow seems to forget.

A hundred meant the customary removal of the helmet, the ubiquitous raising of the bat in acknowledgement, that familiar look up at the heavens, and then, after a couple of minutes of break, he resumed nonchalantly, putting the landmark behind him. It was business: so serious that the helmet came on when he was waiting out there in the pavilion and never came off until he left the ground.

Bowling was different. He always grinned when the ball was thrown at him: he enjoyed bowling. For once, he was at the centre of action — and yet, people would not criticise him even if he failed. Whether in his 20s or 30s, Tendulkar always looked 16 when he picked up a wicket: the sheer joy with which he punched with each of the 200 wickets he took was a treat to watch. After all, how many times have you seen Tendulkar punch the air in ecstasy?

With what is generally written as right-arm medium/off-break/leg-break, Tendulkar recorded 45 Test wickets at 54.68; 154 ODI wickets at 44.48; and a solitary wicket in his only T20 International. Of course, he was never a champion with the ball; where he really contributed, though, was in picking up a crucial wicket there and bowling a handy spell there — helping his teammates to capitalise on his good work.

Tendulkar was only a medium-paced bowler in his early days. He was more accurate, and could obtain swing under favourable conditions. He ran in with a few casual steps, simply rolled his arm over, and though he did not run through line-ups, he persisted, and was never reluctant to experiment.

As the years progressed he developed an off-break and a leg-break as well. He could obtain prodigious turn (Rajesh Chauhan and Sairaj Bahutule were possibly the only Indian internationals among his contemporaries who could compete with him in this aspect), but his experiments often went wrong and ended up in terrible-looking full-tosses and long-hops and, as expected, yielding disastrous results.

Here is a list of Tendulkar’s most famous bowling performances:

1. 4 for 34 against West Indies at Sharjah, 1991-92

The Wills Trophy was yet another of those triangular tournaments that so characterised the 1990s (this was the tournament where Aaqib Javed had bagged a hat-trick in the final). India had gone in with a two-seamer-two-spinner attack, which meant that Tendulkar was introduced immediately after Manoj Prabhakar and Kapil Dev.

Nobody took the matter seriously when Tendulkar had Clayton Lambert leg-before. Then, with the score on 47, he had Gus Logie caught-behind, immediately after Carl Hooper was run out. There was a resurrection of sorts with a partnership between Richie Richardson and Keith Arthurton before Tendulkar found the former’s edge: Mohammad Azharuddin did the rest in the slips.

A run later, Jeff Dujon was caught-behind by Kiran More off him. West Indies were in tatters at 78 for 6; Arthurton attempted a recovery, but West Indies were eventually bowled out for 145 in 46 overs (Kapil Dev became the first bowler to reach the 200-wicket mark in ODIs in this match). A 108-run partnership between Navjot Sidhu and Sanjay Manjrekar sealed the match for India. It was the first time India had won an ODI against West Indies batting second.

2. Little triumphs in Australia, 1991-92

In his first ODI on Australian soil, Tendulkar saw India being bowled out for 126 on a bouncy WACA pitch. However, India bounced back: Kapil had Desmond Haynes caught-behind first ball, and his support cast — Prabhakar, Javagal Srinath, and the debutant Subroto Banerjee — all bowled brilliantly.

West Indies were down to 76 for eight before Curtly Ambrose and Anderson Cummins added 37 for the ninth wicket. Then Ambrose was run out when Ravi Shastri hit the stumps from mid-off, and it was left to Patrick Patterson to hold fort alongside Cummins. Azhar bowled out his four seamers and ran out of options by the time India had bowled 40 overs. West Indies were on 121 for nine.

He did not have a seamer to exploit the conditions. He could bowl himself; he could go for the defensive option of the orthodox Shastri; but he chose to take the risk and threw the ball to the teenager. There were ten overs left, but that was hardly relevant: West Indies needed six runs to score; they had a single wicket left.

Tendulkar’s first four balls had been worth two runs, Patterson placed the ball through mid-wicket for a well-run three, levelling the scores; the ball took Cummins’ edge, and Azhar, fielding at second-slip, flung himself in front of first-slip to pull off one those insanely low catches only he was capable of.

Then came the 3 Test wickets — all crucial ones. The first wicket came on a turning track at SCG where India had gone in with four seamers: the ball turned so much that Banerjee, who had been so impressive in the first innings, did not get a bowl.

Trailing by 170 Australia were reduced to 114 for 6, three of the wickets falling to Shastri. However, that man Allan Border managed a heist with Merv Hughes, adding 50 crucial runs in 76 minutes. It was then that Tendulkar looped one up: it took Hughes’ edge, and Prabhakar pulled off probably the greatest catch of his international career at first-slip with his left-hand stretched out.

There were still a few minutes left, and Shastri removed Craig McDermott; a debutant called Shane Warne, however, hung around as Border drew the Test for Australia with their last batsman Bruce Reid already down with an injured side muscle (not that it would have mattered: Reid finished his Test career with a batting average of 4.65).

At Adelaide, Prabhakar took out Geoff Marsh early, but Mark Taylor and David Boon hung around for long. Azhar brought on Tendulkar for a four-over spell: he bowled Taylor, and shortly afterwards, had Border caught-behind by Chandrakant Pandit. He finished with 4-2-10-2.

3. Hero Cup semi-final at Calcutta, 1992-93

Nobody gave India a chance in the first ever day-night match at Calcutta after Fanie de Villiers and Richard Snell bowled them out for 195. South Africa were batting comfortably, and at 106 for 3, it seemed that they had the match under control. It was then that Ajay Jadeja, brought on as a surprise move, removed Jonty Rhodes and Pat Symcox in quick succession, while Anil Kumble whisked out Andrew Hudson and Snell.

The sudden turnaround had left South Africa at 145 for 7, but there was more drama left in the match. After a short burst of frantic batting, Dave Richardson was run out, but he had helped the burly Brian McMillan put on 44. South Africa required 6 to win off the last over.

There was a mid-pitch conference between Azhar, Kapil, and Tendulkar. Kapil, Prabhakar, and Srinath all had 2 overs to go while Salil Ankola had 4. Then, in a move that surprised the huge cauldron that was Eden Gardens, Tendulkar almost snatched the ball away.

What followed is now part of Indian cricket history: the first ball was pitched slightly short, and McMillan hit it to deep point; Ankola threw the ball flat and hard to Vijay Yadav. de Villiers, keen to give the strike back to McMillan, ran for a desperate second run and was left stranded. 5 from 5.

de Villiers’ wicket was perhaps not the most damaging aspect of the dismissal; McMillan was off strike as Allan Donald, with no pretension whatsoever of being a batsman, walked out to bat. Tendulkar bowled outside off-stump, Donald had a heave, and missed. 5 from 4.

Tendulkar’s expression was unfathomable. He had won the battle so far, but he still had to finish it. The next ball was a slow leg-break that turned a bit, and all Donald could do was to play it back to the bowler. 5 from 3.

Poor Donald. He could not risk a slog, given that it was the last wicket. He was not capable enough to win the match by himself (he was not one to handle crunch situations with the bat anyway — as was evident in the epic World Cup semifinal of 1999). A helpless Donald strangely tried to play a queer stroke in response to a wide, over-pitched one but missed. Donald looked up expectantly to Steve Bucknor, but in vain. 5 from 2.

Eventually Donald connected well; the stepped-out, ugly-looking on-drive lacked elevation and reached Kumble at long-on. The batsmen had finally crossed over for that eagerly anticipated single. McMillan was finally on strike. 4 from 1. Could McMillan do a Javed Miandad?

This was when Azhar played a masterstroke. As Tendulkar recalled later, “Just before the last ball was to be bowled, wicket-keeper Vijay Yadav was asked to go back and be on the 30-yard circle to intercept an inside edge, should it happen.” It was a move that turned out to be brilliant in hindsight.

One could not blame McMillan for getting frustrated or losing patience: he had, after all, watched four balls helplessly from the other end as Tendulkar had easily outplayed Donald in a battle of nerves. Had he had his way he would probably not have allowed Donald a single ball. “What a way to christen the floodlights,” boomed Henry Blofeld’s voice on air as Tendulkar ran in.

The attempted yorker eluded McMillan’s almighty hoick and rolled to Yadav, who had been standing back for exactly that reason. The batsman ran for a bye, but it was all too late. Tendulkar’s cool had knocked the South Africans out of the tournament.

There was a postscript. When a rampant Brian Lara looked ominous three days later in the final at the same ground (he had raced to 33, taking 18 off an over from Jadeja); Azhar had kept a gap on the leg-side; Lara had tried to flick Tendulkar, and the leg-stump was knocked out. From 57 for 1 the tourists were bowled out for 123 thanks to Kumble’s 6 for 12.

4. Five for 32 against Australia, Kochi, 1997-98

India had recovered from 19 for 2 to reach 309 for 5, thanks to some brilliant performances with the bat from Azhar, Vinod Kambli, Jadeja, and Hrishikesh Kanitkar. Adam Gilchrist then took the attack it to the Indian camp, being particularly severe on Debasis Mohanty. Wickets were sporadic, and Australia eventually required 107 from 106 balls with seven wickets standing: Michael Bevan and Steve Waugh had settled down, and were completely in control after the initial onslaught.

Waugh, possibly with the intent to hit Tendulkar out of the attack, stepped out — only to hit the ball to Tendulkar. That opened the floodgates: a low, off-break caught Darren Lehmann on the crease, and ‘Boof’ was given out leg-before. Australia needed 87 from 89; they had 5 wickets left, but Bevan was still at the crease.

Tom Moody was greeted with a leg-break first ball that turned oddly, and he almost ended up hitting it back to Tendulkar. Some accurate bowling saw the target reach 75 off 60. As Tendulkar ran in to bowl to Bevan, Azhar repeated the trick he had done in the Hero Cup final for Lara: for a batsman extremely strong off his pads he removed all fielders from the circle. He wanted Bevan to play against the turn.

Tendulkar rose to the task: he came over the wicket, and slid one down the leg-side; Bevan overbalanced trying to flick it through the vacant leg-side, and Nayan Mongia whipped off the bails. The plan to remove one of the ODI greats of all-time had been executed to perfection.

After a quiet over at the other end Tendulkar came on again — this time to bowl to Moody. In sheer desperation, Moody tried to loft him out of the ground, missed the huge leg-break, and was stumped. Tendulkar was on a hat-trick. For once Warne emerged victorious in the duel as he survived the ball.

Tendulkar was now turning the ball viciously. The match was in India’s pocket — but they still had Damien Martyn to contend with. He was foxed as one from Tendulkar turned from middle-and-leg to beat his bat. Having decided to hit out, Martyn went for the clear the ground, but only succeeded in hitting it to Srinath at long-off.

Tendulkar finished with 10-1-32-5; Australia had lost their last 7 wickets for 65 runs in a span of 87 balls. India had won by 41 runs.

5. 3 for 10 against South Africa, Mumbai, 1999-2000

Those were dark days. Azhar was dropped from the side after the 1999 World Cup and India had a nightmare in Australia before South Africa arrived. As many as four men had ended their Test careers on the disastrous tour of Australia.

Tendulkar’s 97 had helped India to 225; he had found an unlikely ally in Ajit Agarkar, who had scored ducks in each of his last 5 innings. However, Gary Kirsten and Herschelle Gibbs threatened to take the Test away from the hosts.

Enter Tendulkar. He started off by bowling off-breaks to the left-hander and leg-breaks to the right-hander; suddenly, on a pitch where the quartet of Srinath, Agarkar, Kumble, and Murali Kartik had seemed ineffective, Tendulkar had the openers in trouble.

A tossed-up delivery had Gibbs in two minds: he wanted to play, leave, then play again, and the edge landed in Sourav Ganguly’s hands at first slip to end the 90-run opening stand. His job done, Tendulkar took himself off as his spinners reduced the tourists to 104 for 4.

He brought himself on again as Kirsten and Lance Klusener took charge. Then came the special delivery: Tendulkar flighted one outside Kirsten’s leg-stump; the ball spun viciously and bowled Kirsten round his legs. Four balls later, Shaun Pollock heaved one to Jadeja at mid-wicket.

Once again, Tendulkar took himself off; South Africa were bowled out for 176 and Tendulkar returned with figures of 5-1-10-3. However, India could not handle Donald, Pollock, and Klusener in the second innings, and Jacques Kallis and Mark Boucher helped chase down the 163 required for a victory.

6. 3 for 31 against Australia, Kolkata 2000-01

This was as big as it could get. It was the greatest Test the iconic ground had witnessed. Following-on after a deficit of 274 (mind you, the Test had already witnessed an excellent 110 from Steve Waugh and a hat-trick and 7-for by Harbhajan Singh), VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid famously added an epic 376. Australia were set to chase 384, or more realistically, bat out 75 overs.

When Michael Slater eventually fell to Harbhajan for 43, the Test was headed for only one result. Somewhat inexplicably, Justin Langer counterattacked before falling for a 21-ball 28. Venkathapaty Raju, playing his last Test, trapped Mark Waugh leg-before when he committed the error of playing spin from the crease.

This was when Matthew Hayden and Steve Waugh, the top run-getters in the first innings, took control. India had already received a further blow when Mongia got hit on the nose and Dravid had to adorn the gloves (Mongia came back later with a strange yellow helmet).

The pair added 50 before Harbhajan had Steve Waugh caught by the substitute Hemang Badani at backward short-leg and, 4 balls later, had Ricky Ponting caught by SS Das at forward short-leg to give the Tasmanian a pair.

Time was running out for India. Harbhajan had already picked up 4, but he needed someone to strike at the other end too. It was evident that the humongous frame of Hayden stood between India and a much-anticipated historic victory. It was clear that Raju was well past his prime, and having run out of options, Ganguly turned to the unpredictable spin of Tendulkar.

The batsmen crossed for a single off the second ball of Tendulkar’s first over. Adam Gilchrist tried to do what he has always been good at — stretching the front leg, playing across the line, and smash the ball out of the ground; unfortunately he missed the leg-break, Tendulkar found his pad, and Gilchrist bagged a pair.

Then came the big wicket: Tendulkar’s leg-break went past Hayden’s bat and hit his back leg as the big Queenslander tried to sweep; after some deliberation SK Bansal gave him out. Tendulkar picked up his third LBW when Warne misread a googly (it must have been well-disguised!), tried to pull from the crease, and was hit plumb in front.

The last two wickets lasted for 108 balls but eventually Harbhajan polished them off. India pulled off a historic victory and eventually came back from behind to clinch the series.

7. Taking it over from Kumble, St John’s, 2002

The figures read a commonplace 34-4-107-2. However, this was an absolutely flat track where India batted first and declared at 519 for nine- Laxman and Ajay Ratra scoring hundreds. West Indies responded with 629 for 9, all Indian bowlers bowled, both wicketkeepers scored hundreds for the first time in a Test, and it was a tame draw.

There was a catch, though: Kumble had been hit on the jaw by Mervyn Dillon, and was ruled out of the series. Before he left the Caribbean, however, Kumble decided to have a final go, and ended up removing Lara.

Tendulkar had been caught behind off his surprise arch nemesis Pedro Collins earlier in the Test. He had bowled several spells before, but for the first time he was up against a strong batting line-up on an absolutely flat pitch as the only spinner and one of the fourth bowlers for his side.

He toiled on admirably; he was hit, but never lost heart. He bowled his mixed bag; the frequent experiments were replaced by unyielding patience; and for once he proved that he could bowl long spells; he clean bowled Wavell Hinds and had Carl Hooper caught, and finished as the best Indian bowler (if one discounts Wasim Jaffer’s 2 for 11 when the Test had already turned into a farce.

8. Two for 36 vs Australia, Adelaide, 2003-04

It was a changed scenario: Australia, in their own den, piled up 556 with Ponting scoring 242. After Andy Bichel reduced the tourists to 85 for 4, Dravid and Laxman put up another epic partnership, this time adding 303 in quick time. Dravid scored 233 and Laxman got 148 as India finished only 33 runs short.

India began well with Agarkar trapping his ‘bunny’ Langer leg-before and removing Ponting soon afterwards. Hayden fell to Ashish Nehra, but Steve Waugh and Martyn batted with resolve and took the score from 44 for 3 to 109.

With 3 overs to tea, Tendulkar tossed one up outside Martyn’s off-stump. Martyn went for an expansive drive, and Dravid, stretching himself completely, picked up an outstanding catch at first slip.

In Tendulkar’s next over there was an encore: Waugh played a similar stroke and the ball flew to Dravid yet again. Australia never recovered as Agarkar ran through the tail before Dravid came to the party once again, guiding them to a historic 4-wicket win.

9. Magic ball to Moin Khan, Multan, 2004

India had amassed 675 for five with Virender Sehwag scoring 309, the first triple-hundred by an Indian. Tendulkar played his part, and a lot of controversy arose when Dravid declared the innings with the former on 194. Pakistan fought back admirably, and India hit back towards the end of Day Three as the hosts lost 3 quick wickets.

Tendulkar ambled in to bowl the last ball of the day to Moin Khan. On his day, Moin could be a nuisance with the bat, especially against spin. What followed was probably the most-watched bowling video of Tendulkar: the googly pitched on middle-stump, fizzed through between Moin’s pads and hit the leg-stump. A horror-stricken Moin returned to the pavilion.

Pakistan never recovered. They slumped to an innings defeats in this Test and in the third one at Rawalpindi as India won both their first Test and first ODI series in Pakistan.

10. The final hurrah, Newlands 2010-11

It was a saga of two great batsmen. Kallis stood tall in South Africa’s first innings, scoring 161 out of 362 (S Sreesanth picked up 5) after the series had been levelled 1-1. What followed was a treat for the Gods — a dominant Tendulkar against a rampant Dale Steyn.

In what turned out to be one of the greatest modern-day contests neither emerged at the top, Steyn finishing with 5 for 75 and Tendulkar with a defiant 146. India managed a 2-run lead. However, once again Harbhajan came to the party, picking up the first 4 South African wickets with 64 on the board.

The seamers came back, and soon afterwards the hosts were 130 for 6. India smelled blood: all they had to do was to break the partnership of Kallis and Boucher, possibly the two best South African batsmen against spin. It was not to happen: the pair added 103, and more importantly, batted out 138 minutes.

A desperate MS Dhoni turned to Tendulkar. The first ball of Tendulkar’s second over landed short — and again, like many others before — Boucher tried to pull it from the crease when occupying the pitch was the need of the hour. The venomous delivery rushed through and hit Boucher on the pads. It was the much-anticipated breakthrough. It was also Tendulkar’s 200th international wicket.

Dhoni, however, removed Tendulkar immediately. Kallis scored his second hundred of the Test, finding unexpected support in Steyn and Morne Morkel. The Test and the series petered out to a draw. Tendulkar has not scored a Test hundred or taken an international wicket ever since.

Trivia

– Hughes was Tendulkar’s first Test wicket at SCG in 1991-92: he had him caught by Prabhakar (mentioned above).
– His first ODI wicket came against Sri Lanka at Pune in 1990-91: he had Roshan Mahanama caught-behind (by More) and followed with the wicket of Dammika Ranatunga in the same match.
– In his only T20I (which was also India’s first T20I), he trapped Justin Kemp leg-before.
– The only time Tendulkar opened bowling in a Test was against the West Indies at Kensington Oval in 2002. The hosts required 5 to win. Tendulkar bowled a no-ball, but Chris Gayle could not score off the 7 balls.
– Tendulkar had come on as the ninth bowler in an innings against Guwahati in 2009-10 when Australia needed 10 to win; he conceded 11 in 5 balls to Michael Hussey and Adam Voges. This was one of only 13 occasions when nine bowlers were used in an ODI innings.
– Tendulkar never managed the 100 runs-five wickets feat in an ODI (Viv Richards and Paul Collingwood are the only ones to have achieved it). However, he is only one of 11 men (including Richards and Collingwood) to score a hundred and taken 4 wickets in an ODI against Australia at Dhaka in 1998-99, where he hit 141 and had took 4 for 38.
– He was a man for big occasions. Just like his First-Class and List A highest scores (248 not out and 200 not out respectively), his best figures in either format (three for ten and five for 32 respectively) also had also come in international matches. In fact, all 6 List A four-wicket hauls (including the 2 five-fors) had come in ODIs.
– Tendulkar has picked up 2 five-fors in ODIs. Amazingly, only two Indians — Harbhajan and Srinath — have claimed more (though six others have managed two each).

(Abhishek Mukherjee is a cricket historian and Senior Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He generally looks upon life as a journey involving two components – cricket and literature – though not as disjoint elements. A passionate follower of the history of the sport with an insatiable appetite for trivia and anecdotes, he has also a steady love affair with the incredible assortment of numbers that cricket has to offer. He also thinks he can bowl decent leg-breaks in street cricket, and blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in. He can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)