Sachin Tendulkar celebrates his century as the crowd gives him a standing ovation during a Test match in January 2008 © Getty Images
Sachin Tendulkar celebrates his century as the crowd gives him a standing ovation during a Test match in January 2008 © Getty Images

If Sachin Tendulkar scores a total of 130 runs in the two innings at the Sydney Cricket Ground in the 2nd Test against Michael Clarke’s team, will ensure that only Jack Hobbs, Don Bradman and Wally Hammond would have more Test runs than him at a particular overseas venue. Tendulkar has scored a double hundred, two centuries – all three unbeaten – and an average of 221 plus at the SCG!


Sidhanta Patnaik writes about the epic, two-decade old romance of Tendulkar with the SCG.


On the New Year morning of 1992 Sachin Tendulkar was still a beginner. Just 666 Test runs and a solitary century old, he had shown glimpses of his talent at Old Trafford against England. But a standout performance in the ultimate, character-testing surrounding of Australia  was still not on his curriculum vitae after two Test matches Down Under.


Tendulkar’s adaptability test against bounce and variation of Australia was the measurement criteria for critics to pass judgement and either hail him as a champion or dump him as a participant. For him there was no way to jump the precedent; to produce a powerful show was his only option. The opportunity was seized at Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) and the confidence was utilised for another impactful century at Perth in the same series. The double delight put the local witnesses in a judgemental dilemma. Their eyes needed some adjustment and mind some time to register that at Sydney he became the youngest Test cricketer to score a century in their land. That summer the legend of ‘Little Master’ took its formative shape and soon he was to become the centre of cricket’s universe.


By the time the scorecard of that Sydney Test match read “Sachin Tendulkar 148 not out“, a surplus of fearless and technically proficient character, and a wide array of percentage strokes against a worthy attack had already been displayed, at an age considered appropriate to enrol into the school of first-class cricket.


Uniquely Australia found a sportsperson who was culturally different but could be loved unconditionally, called as one of their own and whose influence shared through the common language of cricket. Formalities were skipped and without protest the Indian’s name was added into Australian High Commission’s list of honorary citizens. A residence certificate for Sydney was provided. Incidentally in the next Test match of the series he graduated to No 4, a position which – barring a few exceptions – has rightfully been his since then.


It has been two decades since that innings. The bowler whom he glanced to fine-leg for his first century in the southern hemisphere is now the bowling coach of Australia, the runs meter has risen to15,288, 51 Test centuries stand peerlessly. The brand’s strong credentials are now a regular source of inspiration. But for an Australian it is more essential that the trust and dignity that was bestowed upon this honorary citizen has been duly honoured through sheer performances. A total of 664 runs in seven innings, out of which four have been unbeaten, an average of 221.33 runs and three centuries are Tendulkar’s way of acknowledging the privileged relationship with his adopted country and city.


There was a minor blip in 2000 when he scored just 45 and four in the first Test match of the new millennium, but Australia was considerate. The side he was leading was not worth the salt it should have been. Moreover in that match VVS Laxman diverted the focus to other things that would have a say in future contests.


In 2004, it was Tendulkar’s turn to return the favour and reclaim form after having gone century-less in13 prior innings from December 2002 onwards.  To score 241 runs in the first innings, 60 runs in the second innings and remain unbeaten in both by curtailing himself from playing the bread and butter shot of Asian batsmen – cover drive, he conquered a new peak and expansively communicated that the key to strength lays in opening the lock of limitations. The deeds of that innings continue to gather added vigour and will become richer, the more the wine gets older.


In 2008, he scored 154 not out  and 12 in his autopilot mode and should have made it India’s match, but for the farces that marred the occasion.


Will Tendulkar score the 130 runs at the SCG?


Archives too justify the special chemical reaction that exists between the theatre of Sydney and the performer from India, every time they embrace each other and produce spectacles that leave a mesmerising feel among the spectators to come back for more. Unsurprisingly if Tendulkar scores a total of 130 runs in two innings in the second Test against Michael Clarke’s team, he would have ensured that only Jack Hobbs, Don Bradman and Wally Hammond would have more Test runs than him at a particular overseas venue. And the last of those three batting greats played in 1948 – the season when India first toured to Australia.


Though this piece of information gives fans and critics to cheer for another record beyond the now clichéd quest for the 100th international hundred, yet if the milestone is achieved it will just be appropriate. Sydney Cricket Ground is the venue where Don Bradman had scored his highest ever first innings score of 452, while playing for New South Wales against Queensland in 1928-1929. Certain derivations are best left to the cosmic powers.


In all probability the new year of 2012 will mark the end of his colossal relationship, but an old box still remains to be ticked. Despite Tendulkar’s continued heroics at Sydney Cricket Ground, India is yet to win a Test match here during all his appearances. The opportunity to seize a lifetime Australian citizenship and a permanent residency certificate from Sydney is for the taking. Now it remains to be seen can he or like so many other clinging sporting moments, romance decides to be late for this occasion too?


(Sidhanta Patnaik is a sport marketing professional, public speaker and writes for CricketCountry. His twitter id is @sidhpat)