Sachin Tendulkar hits a shot against Sohaib Akhtar © Getty Images
Sachin Tendulkar hits a shot against Sohaib Akhtar © Getty Images

 

By Dileep V

 

In the manic obsession to extol three-figure innings, often times we forget the rightful worth of many double-figure gems. In his unparalleled career, Sachin Tendulkar has crafted many such gems that don’t quite get the attention it deserves.

 

We showcase those precious innings here of a Master who is otherwise known for his centuries. I have picked ten sub-100 innings and ranked them in reverse chronological order.

 

10. 62 (38 balls, 11×4; SR 163.15) vs Australia at Visakhapatnam (Apr 3, 2001)

 

Australia had piled on a mammoth 338 on a flatbed of a wicket with centuries from Matthew Hayden and Ricky Ponting. India’s hope hinged on Tendulkar, and he took India off to a flier. He slammed the parsimonious Glenn McGrath for three consecutive boundaries and reached his 50 in just 30 balls. Tendulkar had scored 62 of the 85 runs when he was the second Indian wicket to fall. But the batsmen that followed failed to capitalized on the momentum provided by Tendulkar as India slumped to 162 for eight. Only a swashbuckling innings of 46 by No 10 Harbhajan Singh ensured that India did not lose by a bigger margin than 93 runs.

 

Though this knock of 62 was in a losing cause, Tendulkar’s sheer brutality against a strong Aussie attack that had the likes of McGrath, Brett Lee and Shane Warne and in the face of a chasing a stiff target was compelling enough to merit a top ten listing.

 

9. 94 (81 balls, 16×4, 1×6; SR 116.04) vs England at The Oval (Sep 5, 2007)

 

If the early part of his career was more power based, certainly the latter was purely on timing. Faced with the task of chasing 317, Tendulkar was fearless in his approach. He was in sublime touch, and along with Sourav Ganguly set about the imposing target with zest. The flicks off the legs, the famed off-drives, the inside-out shots and the paddle sweep were unleashed in style as Tendulkar spurted to his fifty with three successive fours to be in total command till he was struck by cramps. Man-of-the-Match Tendulkar missed his century by six runs, but India won the pulsating contest with two balls to spare and squared the seven-match series 3-3.

 

8. 95 (104 balls, 16×4, 1×6; SR 91.34) vs Pakistan at Lahore (Feb 13, 2006)

 

Playing against Pakistan at the Gadaffi Stadium itself is an imposing task, let alone chasing a big total. That India overcame both was largely due to Sachin Tendulkar’s masterly innings, ably aided by Yuvraj Singh and a belter from Mahendra Singh Dhoni. India were two down for 12, chasing a target of 289. Mohammad Asif was making the ball dart either ways with impeccable accuracy and on a helpful pitch. Tendulkar played positively without taking any risks on a difficult wicket in difficult conditions. At the other end, captain Rahul Dravid struggled to put bat to ball. Dravid said later: “I thought it was one of his best. There are so many he has played, but this was really a special one.”

 

Coming from Dravid, it summed up the master’s class act.

 

7. 54 not out (62 balls, 3×4; SR 87.09) vs Pakistan at Sydney (March 4, 1992)

 

The two subcontinent giants had never met in a World Cup game till now. India had yet to taste victory in the three matches they had played while Pakistan had just one win. The clash, thus, had more stakes than mere bragging rights. Pakistan had the most fearsome attack in the tournament – Wasim Akram, Aaqib Javed and Imran Khan. Tendulkar, all of 18 years, faced them all with aplomb. India elected to bat and were 101 for three with almost 30 overs done with. In walked Tendulkar at No 5 and batted till the end and his partnership of 60 in eight overs with Kapil Dev was the catalyst in pushing the total beyond 200. He wasn’t done yet; he bowled his quota of 10 overs for just 37 runs and claimed the all important wicket of Aamir Sohail to be named the Man of the Match. Aamer Sohail was the only other batsman in the game to cross the 50-run mark in a match of high tension and drama.

 

6. 95 (78 balls, 6×4, 5×6; SR 121.79) vs Pakistan at Dhaka (Jan 14, 1998)

 

It was the first of the best-of-three finals of the Silver Jubilee Independence Cup in Dhaka. Pakistan had won India’s Independence Cup a year ago and India were in no mood to lose this one. First he starred with three wickets as Pakistan could muster only 212 in 50 overs. Opening with Sourav Ganguly he tore apart the attack to make look the target meager one as India won with almost 13 overs to spare. The spinning duo of Saqlain Mushtaq and Mushtaq Ahmed were given special treatment as he danced down the pitch and slog-swept them for couple of sixes and become the youngest to get to 6,000 runs in ODIs.

 

Expectedly, Tendulkar won the Man of the Match award.

 

5. 90 (84 balls, 14×4, 1×6; SR 107.14) vs Australia at Mumbai (Feb 27, 1996)

 

The World Cup was back in the subcontinent after almost a decade and Tendulkar greeted it with sizzling form. Against the formidable Aussies and in his home ground in Mumbai, he played one of the best innings in a losing cause. The oft-used phrase in 90’s was “Tendulkar gone; India gone”. This one was one such occasion.

 

As a student, I had the dreaded exams around the corner and I remember rushing from school only to watch Mark Waugh effortlessly reach his century and take Australia to 258. India lost two quick wickets and Tendulkar was steady giving away maidens to McGrath. But suddenly he exploded with three fours in McGrath’s fifth over, and struck seven boundaries and one six within the space of 25 balls. He greeted Shane Warne with a lofted shot over the bowlers head.

 

India looked to be on course for a win, when Mark Waugh coaxed him into coming out of the crease to have him stumped. All of us were stunned and the TV was duly switched off. When Tendulkar got out in the 30th over, he had scored 65% of the team total by then – 90 out of a total of 143. India lost the match by 16 runs, but as long as Tendulkar was there at the crease, it looked like India would pull it off.

 

4. 62 (73 balls, 8×4, 1×6; SR 84.93) vs South Africa at Kolkata (Nov 10, 1991)

 

South Africa returned to international cricket after a gap of 22 years and played their first ODI against India at Kolkata. Not surprisingly, ten of their players were making their ODI debuts. The match attracted a record 91,000 fans. The large crowd and the nerves of playing their first ODI showed on the Proteas, as they could only muster 177. The South Africans fancied their chances as they had Allan Donald, Richard Snell, Brian McMillan and Clive Rice in their ranks. Donald removed three in no time with just 20 on the board. Tendulkar, then 17, took the attack to the opposition, cutting and driving with finesse.

 

Tendulkar, who took the wicket of South Africa’s top scorer Kepler Wessels before coming up with a match-winning 62, got the Man of the Match Award for India.

 

3. 91 (121 balls, 7×4; SR 75.20) vs Australia at Brisbane (Mar 4, 2008)

 

Till this game, Tendulkar had not scored an ODI hundred Down Under. He set the record straight with a rare innings as he sacrificed flamboyance to graft his way. There was but one unusual shot when he slogged a Stuart Clarke short ball over the umpire’s head. It was a well- paced innings with each shot executed with precision – be it the uppercut or singles within the 30-yard circle. India defended a competitive 258 and created history by winning an ODI series for the first time in Australia.

 

Dhoni remarked later: “Performance is one thing, but performing back-to-back is something else. He is the best.”  The captain was extolling Tendulkar’s 91 which followed his knock of 117 in the first final that enabled India beat Australia 2-0 in the best-of-three Commonwealth Bank series finals.

 

2. 82 (49 balls, 15×4, 2×6; SR 167.34) vs New Zealand at Auckland (Mar 27, 1994)

 

The label of Master Blaster has its origins in this innings as he tore apart the Kiwi attack to all parts of the ground. Tendulkar only opened because regular opener Navjot Sidhu had a neck strain. Tendulkar, then the vice-captain of the team, requested captain Mohammad Azharuddin and team manager Ajit Wadekar: “Give me one opportunity and I am very confident of playing some big shots. And if I fail, I’ll never ever come to you again.”

 

It was a blessing in disguise as India chased the 143 set by New Zealand inside 24 overs. I woke up late at five in the morning dreading to have missed half the match only to watch one of the greatest-ever innings in ODI history. The range of shots he unleashed was awesome – trademark punches, pulls, flicks and lofted shots… 82 off 49 balls from a 20-year old! Phew! The kid gave glimpses of the greatness the world was to see in large measures in the years ahead.

 

1. 98 (75 balls,12×4, 1×6; SR 130.66) vs Pakistan at Centurion (Mar 1, 2003)

 

In his own words, he was thinking about the match for over a year and hadn’t slept properly for 12 nights in the lead-up to the most-eagerly awaited match of the World Cup.

 

He had never batted so well in World Cup, especially against an attack comprising of the wily Wasim Akram, the fiery Shoaib Akhtar and the crafty Waqar Younis.

 

Three shots defined Tendulkar genius, all against Shoaib: A wide first ball was dispatched over third man and into the crowds to send the Indians into frenzy. The shot still gives goosebumps to viewers and has since become an iconic shot. The second was a trademark flick and the third, the best of all of them, an on-drive executed with such sublime touch that it didn’t need the follow-through of the bat.

 

Pakistan were truly knocked out. That Shoaib got only one over in that spell speaks volume of the impact Tendulkar had on the Pakistanis. The pain in Tendulkar’s leg didn’t deter him a bit as India raced to 150 in 21 overs. Shoaib came back and produced a peach of a delivery to end Tendulkar’s dominance, but by that time the damage was done and the master had played what is widely hailed as his best-ever in ODIs.

 

Akhtar said after the match: “Sachin is the greatest batsman in the game, and if he comes out with something like that, it’s no surprise.”

 

Tendulkar summed up his sway over the Pakistanis: “Sometimes you feel good from the start, sometimes you struggle, but today there was so much time that balls close to 150 kmph looked like 130kmph!”

 

(Dileep.V is a Scouser fan, Sports freak, Movie buff, Laggard Quizzer and dreams of setting foot on Anfield one da