Some of the legends in the world of sports were mere kids in 1989 when Sachin Tendulkar entered the international arena. Lionel Messi (left) was two-and-a-half years old, Michael Phelps (centre) was four, Roger Federer (right) was all of eight years old, Sergei Bubka had not gone past the six-metre mark, Tiger Woods was a US Junior Amateur golf champion and Michael Schumacher was a Formula Three racer © Getty Images
Some of the legends in the world of sports were mere kids in 1989 when Sachin Tendulkar entered the international arena. Lionel Messi (left) was two-and-a-half years old, Michael Phelps (centre) was four, Roger Federer (right) was all of eight years old, Sergei Bubka had not gone past the six-metre mark, Tiger Woods was a US Junior Amateur golf champion and Michael Schumacher was a Formula Three racer © Getty Images

Sachin Tendulkar made his Test debut in Pakistan on November 15, 1989. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at what the world looked like when he stepped into the arena for the first time.

It was a completely different world when Sachin Tendulkar had stepped into Test cricket. It was an era when…

1. World Wide Web did not exist

In March 1989 a British computer scientist — then working for Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire [CERN] — called Tim Berners-Lee sent a proposal for a better communication system in his organisation. CERN took up things rather seriously; one thing led to other, and it was not until April 30, 1993 that CERN allowed World Wide Web [WWW] would be available to everyone. In other words, there was no internet.

Intel Pentium and DVDs also had to wait for a few years to arrive, 2G had not been invented, and digital answering machines were a thing of the future. Microsoft had not launched Windows 3.0, Windows NT, or Office; Apple Inc. was on decline; and Linus Torvalds had not started his project that would be the Linux kernel.

Additionally, The Hubble Space Telescope was not yet launched, and Fermat’s Last Theorem was still unsolved.

2. Public smoking was in vogue

San Luis Obispo in California became the first city in the world to enforce bans on smoking in all public buildings in 1990; this not only included offices and educational institutions but also bars and restaurants; the example spread and a lot of countries in the world have followed suit over the years.

This means that you could not have escaped passive smoking.

3. The world of medical science was a lot different

The Human Genome Project had not taken off; cloning of mammals was a dream; vaccine for Hepatitis A did not exist, neither did the Magic Pill; intravenous catheter shields were not invented; and Dr BG Matapurkar’s path-breaking research on stem cells was in the pipeline.

Oh, and there was no Viagra.

4. The Soviet Union was one country

Earlier, Mikhail Gorbachev had announced his Perestroika in the 27th Party Congress February-March, 1986; by 1988 he introduced glasnost, which gave the Russians a liberty only the most ancient of them had seen in their lifetime. Following what was the first free election in Soviet Union since 1917, Gorbachev was named the Chairman of Supreme Soviet on May 25, 1989.

However, with Russia opening up pro-Soviet Hungary opened up its doors to Austria; when the East Germans tried to escape to Austria through Hungary they were stopped. He was elected the first executive President of the Soviet Union on March 15, 1990. The Cold War effectively ended subsequently, and Gorbachev won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990. Soviet Union broke up later, with country breaking away from the other; 14 new countries were formed by end-1991.

To cap it all, the first McDonald’s in Moscow opened on January 31, 1990.

5. The Berlin Wall was still around

Years back, Russia-controlled German Democratic Republic [GDR] had started the infamous wall to isolate themselves from Federal Republic of Germany [FRG] on August 13, 1961. About 5,000 people tried to escape westward over the wall during the period leading to a death toll of about a hundred. The wire fence was improved upon and by 1965 a concrete wall had been erected. Grenzmauer 75 came into effect a decade later, reaffirmed the attitude of GDR.

As a result, the people took refuge in FRG and refused to return to GDR. Towards the end of 1989 the East Germans wanted to leave GDR for good as well, leading to the Peaceful Revolution. The SED Politburo spokesperson Günter Schabowski announced on November 9 that the wall be taken down; later that night it was officially announced that GDR would be opening its gates for good. The demolition started that night, and by December 22 it was gone forever. On October 3, 1990 Germany was unified.

6. Several other European countries were intact

End-1989 also witnessed revolutions in Poland (where it had all started) and several other European nations, resulting in the end of Communism in the countries. The Soviets withdrew troops from Poland and Hungary; the first free elections since 1939 were held in Bulgaria, since 1937 in Romania, and since 1923 in Albania. Yugoslavia split up in the early 1990s as well, giving birth to newer nations.

The European geography changed forever, rather unfortunately for school students in subsequent years.

7. It was not only about Europe…

Nelson Mandela was in prison; Zaire was not renamed to Democratic Republic of the Congo; the 20-year long Ethiopian Civil Wars was on; South Africa still ruled over Namibia; Afghanistan was not under Taliban control; Hong Kong was under British rule; and Saddam Hussein had not attacked Kuwait (which meant that the Gulf War was a thing of the future).

Hirohito was succeeded to the throne by his son Akihito in early 1989, triggering off the Heisei Era. The Heisei calendar represents the number of years elapsed since 1988 (Tendulkar had made his debut in Heisei 1, for example). Characterised by a rapid up-and-down in the early 1990s, the yen steadied following Japan’s alliance with the United States in the Gulf War.

8. Cuba had not entered its Special Period

The Cuban economy faced a major blow when Gorbachev’s Government announced that Perestroika would mean an end to Russian subsidies. As a result Fidel Castro was forced to improve relations with Panama (led by Manuel Noriega, whom Castro hated) and Nicaragua (led by Daniel Ortega).

However, Bush’s troops successfully invaded Panama and the US-funded National Opposition Union defeated Ortega in the election, thereby rendering Cuba to helplessness and leading to the economic crisis-driven ‘Special Period’ (they had suffered from a 34% dip in GDP following the dissolution from USSR) of the 1990s.

9. Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister of India

A tenure of mixed results highlighted by anti-Sikh riots, the Bofors Scandal on one hand and significantly reduced License Raj and rapidly expanded telecommunications system in India, Rajiv Gandhi was at the helm; it would be a few days before Janata Dal’s VP Singh would take over.

Additionally, Manmohan’s Singh’s economic policies had not yet been announced…

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Shahrukh Khan (left) was just a television actor while AR Rahman (right) had not yet entered the world of movies.

10. The world of culture looked entirely different…

– Satyajit Ray was alive and his final three movies (Ganashatru, Shakha-Prashakha, and Agantuk) were yet to be released in India. The Honorary Oscar for Lifetime Achievement would also take some time to come.

– JK Rowling had not taken the train ride during which Harry Potter was conceived in her brain.

Jurassic Park had not yet been written.

– Pixar Animation Studios had produced only five short films.Toy Story was some time away.

The Godfather Trilogy had not yet been completed.

– Al Pacino had not won an Academy Award.

The Simpsons was a series of animated shorts; it made its debut on December 17, 1989. The longest-running American sitcom went on to be awarded a star in Hollywood Walk of Fame, and received 27 Primetime Emmy Awards, 30 Annie Awards, and a Peabody Award.

Friends was still a concept of the future.

Shahrukh Khan was a television actor, playing roles in Fauji and Circus.

– BR Chopra’s Mahabharat was aired on Doordarshan.

AR Rahman had not made his movie debut.

In 1989, Tiger Woods (left), arguably the greatest golfer ever, was a US Junior Amateur golf champion, while seven-time Formula One World Champion Michael Schumacher (right)was a Formula Three racer © Getty Images
In 1989, Tiger Woods (left), arguably the greatest golfer ever, was a US Junior Amateur golf champion, while seven-time Formula One World Champion Michael Schumacher (right)was a Formula Three racer © Getty Images

11. As did the world of sport and games…

Lionel Messi was two-and-a-half years old; Michael Phelps was four; while Roger Federer was a ‘veteran’ of eight.

– Pete Sampras was on the way to crashing out of four consecutive tournaments in the first round (he finished 1989 with a World Ranking of 81).

– Martina Navratilova was an active player: her record-breaking ninth Wimbledon title had not yet happened.

– Diego Maradona’s Argentina was the World Champion in football.

– Sergei Bubka had not gone past the six-metre mark.

Tiger Woods was a US Junior Amateur golf champion.

–  Mike Tyson was a world champion boxer without any penchant for Evander Holyfield’s, or anyone’s, ears.

Michael Schumacher was a Formula Three racer.

Prince of Persia was only an Apple release.

(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)