Sachin Tendulkar: Most memorable moments

Team India members hoisted the Little Master on their shoulders after the World Cup win in 2011 © Getty Images

Sachin Tendulkar’s 24-year career has been studded with many a remarkable performance and many a magic moment. Abhishek Mukherjee makes an attempt to re-live the most unforgettable moments of the Little Master’s career.
Twenty four years, a lot of runs, a hundred hundreds, and a plethora of records; the tricolour on the helmet; billions of fans and millions of critics across all socio-economic strata; the perfect straight-drive and the mischievous paddle-sweep; the massive leg-break (which often landed mid-pitch); and the most innocent of smiles.

All that is past now. From now on we have to do with a lifetime worth of memories and the pride of being his contemporary — something our descendants will envy about. They will look up his videos and dissect his innings in a better way than we can; we, on the other hand, can narrate the magic moments of The Man — something that only our generation will be able to.

This article is about those moments: moments that even amnesia will not be able to eradicate from the fan’s mind; moments that do not necessarily make an entry on scorecards. Neville Cardus may be smiling somewhere in the theist Universe if he is reading this.

1) The unopened champagne

The long-awaited maiden Test ton had come at Old Trafford. We all know the story: set to score 408 for a victory India were reduced to 183 for six when Manoj Prabhakar, and the two of them played out time. Sachin Tendulkar remained unbeaten on 119 and was awarded the Man of the Match.

The problem was, the organisers had never thought of the situation where the recipient might not be of a legal drinking age; we really do not know whether there were hurried last-minute efforts to organise a carton of orange juice, but as things turned out, the Boy Man of the Match received a magnum champagne and he was not allowed to open it.

He was, you see, not yet 18.

2) The superhuman

Winning the Zimbabwe match was important for India after the defeat against South Africa. Unfortunately, the news came out just before the match: Tendulkar had to return home for his father’s funeral.

Nobody would have complained had he not returned. In fact, that would have been perfectly human and understandable. But this was no mere mortal: when he walked out his eyes were determined; he knew exactly what he had returned to England for, and nothing would stop him from doing that.

The hundred was reached in due time. He looked up at a place we have only heard about. A nation could not hold their tears back.

3) Snatching the ball away

I guess I will never tire writing of this. Everyone has read about this over a thousand times. This is about what happened before the over. Mind you, he was still a teenager — but the vice-captain of the nation. South Africa needed six to win from the last over with two wickets in hand in the Hero Cup semi-final.

The tall Mohammad Azharuddin and the burly Kapil Dev — the captain and the legend — were in a mid-pitch conference. All four seamers had overs left: who would it be? They had probably ruled Salil Ankola out — but would it be the (then) tearaway Javagal Srinath? Or would it be the cunning Manoj Prabhakar? Or, the most likely of them all — Kapil Dev himself?

Tendulkar’s frame seemed almost ridiculous in the conference. He looked so small that it would not have been surprising if one of the two asked him, “What are you doing here?” We all saw the youngster trying to convince his ‘elders’ something, and then — snatching the ball away, not looking back, and handing his cap over to the umpire for the only time in the match.

The rest is history.

4) Taking on Glenn McGrath

Even helmets, heavy bats, batsman-biased laws, and shorter boundaries do not make a 37-ball 38 sound as a good score; the videos would probably show the three fours and the three sixes which will mean nothing to future generations. For fans who have witnessed the nadir of Indian cricket at the turn of the millennium, however, it was another story.

India had lost 0-3 to Australia and 0-2 to South Africa in back-to-back Test series. Tendulkar had stood down as captain of India in protest to Azhar’s inclusion in the team after allegations of match-fixing. There was a new captain — which meant that the great man could finally breathe.

And then, when he saw Glenn McGrath in Nairobi, he erupted. He simply decided to take him on. An out-of-nowhere slog soared over third-man for a six; then he stepped out, thumping the dumbstruck bowler for a six and a four; seldom had McGrath looked so startled.

The shrewd brain had worked out that he might be stepping out again, so McGrath decided on a bouncer. Unfortunately, Tendulkar saw it early, and gave the hook all he had. The six was outrageous. The adrenaline pumping inside him had transmitted to an entire nation.

The two boundaries that followed were rather commonplace, and he did not last long after that. But those early strokes…

5) First sighting of the helicopter

The NatWest Trophy match at Chester-le-Street was going the usual way. The management had decided that Tendulkar would bat at No 4, and he batted on with nonchalant ease, racing to a hundred as India finished with 285 for four.

Something strange happened in the last ball of the penultimate over of the innings. With the leg-side mostly open, James Kirtley pitched one up on off-stump and Tendulkar’s wrists came into play in a rather non-trivial fashion: the bat swung in such a way that had he gone full with the follow-through it would have landed on his right shoulder.

Nobody seemed to be surprised, but this columnist was left extremely confused: how can someone’s wrist and bottom hand be so strong? An encore happened in the last ball of the innings, this time of Darren Gough: same line, the same absurd stroke, and the same result — a boundary.

MS Dhoni was perhaps watching the match as well somewhere back in this part of the world. Years later he gave the stroke a name.

6) The punch

The Australian summer of 2003-04 was not turning out to be the best for Tendulkar. He did not cross fifty in any of the first three Tests at The Gabba, Adelaide, and Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), often falling prey to indecisive pokes outside the off-stump. So, in the first innings at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG), he decided to eliminate the off-side strokes altogether unless it was a long-hop or a full-toss.

The amazing self-restraint paid off: fifty came and went without a proper celebration, but once he reached that three-figure mark he celebrated in a way the world has seldom seen in the man: as he ran for the hundredth run, the bat changed hands and the fist ended up punching the air. His body language displayed only one emotion: relief.

The double-hundred was celebrated in the usual fashion: the pressure, you see, was off.

7) The sprint

The ODI series was levelled 2-2. Tendulkar’s 141 in the second ODI had gone in vain. He was, of course, desperate to win the series. His 37 had set India off to a good start, but that had been his total contribution in the entire match. Pakistan were reduced to 58 for four after India had scored 293 for seven.

They were, however, not out of the equation — at least as long as Inzamam-ul-Haq was around. He had just started to open up and hit Murali Kartik towards long-on. It was well-placed, and hit very, very hard. Unfortunately, it did not have the elevation. Worse, he also underestimated Tendulkar’s catching ability at long-on.

Tendulkar moved a couple of paces to the left, stretched his body as far as possible [making sure that he did not touch the boundary line], and plucked an almost impossible catch out of thin air. And then flung the ball in the air — and ran; and ran; and ran; and high-fived with everyone who crossed his path.

Few things bring out the childhood in a man more than pulling off a series-deciding catch against Pakistan.

8) The full circle

The World Cup was won. Tendulkar was carried by his teammates on their shoulders. It was a spectacle on its own. “Sachin Tendulkar has carried the burden of the nation for 21 years. It is time we carried him on our shoulders,” said Virat Kohli later in an interview.

But that was not a Tendulkar incident. That was what they did to Tendulkar. They had done what all of us had wanted to do that night.

Twenty one years back, the champagne had been put away. Now, finally, as the patriarch of the winning side, he decided to go with the flow, just this once, with the ‘kids’. For once he just wanted to behave like a mortal as well.

9) Temper!

Tendulkar was not happy: he had been bowled by Doug Bracewell in the only innings at Hyderabad and by Tim Southee in the first innings at Bangalore. He was determined this time. Unfortunately for him, Southee did it again. He played across the line and the ball uprooted the middle-stump.

He was livid. And for once, the emotion showed: he lifted the bat to smash the remaining stumps down. Then he realised who he was and stopped; and took the long walk back. By the time he had reached the ropes his expression was as unfathomable as ever.

10) The child lives on

The guard of honour in the 200th Test was always on the cards. He was prepared for that. What he was not prepared for was that the Haryana team would greet him in a similar fashion when he would walk out to bat in his last Ranji Trophy match. They even saluted.

For once Tendulkar was embarrassed. He raised his bat, his face drooped, but the camera caught the shy smile. Yes, it was the same smile we saw in 1989.

Some things never change.

11) The other mother

When it all got over — the felicitations, the speech, the acknowledgements, even the lap [where they somehow managed to keep on taking turns to carry him seamlessly] he detached himself from the group. Alone. Far from the madding, maddening crowd.

Sachin Tendulkar: Most memorable moments

Sachin Tendulkar went back to the pitch at the Wankhede Stadium to touch it for the one last time.

Was he going to take another lap, all by himself?

No, he was going the other way — towards the centre where he had scored 74 a day back. We were perplexed.

Those boots — the last of the many that have carried him across a quarter of a century — eventually found their way to the pitch; his eyes lingered on the hallowed strip for a moment or two; then he stooped down, touched the pitch for this one last time, and left the ‘other’ home for good.

It was time to let go.

(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)