Thursday, January 03, 2008

A Century to Remember!

I am fortunate to have witnessed that back-foot stroke off Clark by Sachin that took him to 100 in a really challenging situation. The brilliance of the Little Master prevailed again when it was needed the most and this time he did it in such a style that I just can't describe what I saw on the third day of the Sydney test. A few things should be pondered though.

First, here are the missed opportunities to score a hundred because of getting out in the nineties (in both Tests/ODIs), in the past year or so (thanks to Statsguru):
  1. ODI: June 2007 -- 99 Vs. SA [2592]
  2. ODI: June 2007 -- 93 Vs. SA [2593]
  3. Test Match: July 2007 -- 91 Vs. England [1841]
  4. ODI: August 2007 -- 99 Vs. England [2613]
  5. ODI: September 2007 -- 94 Vs. England [2619]
  6. ODI: November 2007 -- 99 Vs. Pakistan [2644]
  7. ODI: November 2007 -- 97 Vs. Pakistan [2646]
This is important to note because these stats don't make a lot of sense to Sachin like he said after the Gwalior ODI. To quote him (while receiving the Player of the Match award): "If I pay attention to this (not getting to a 100), it will become harder for me!"

This is exactly what he's been doing and that's why this hundred is so important for him and for all of us. After the interview, this is what he had to say (again, thanks to cricinfo):

"It was a relief," says Tendulkar [on reaching his 100]. "I had missed several in the last year. 2007 was good but it would have been better had I completed those 100s. The only time I looked at the scoreboard [today] was when I was on 98.

"In Melbourne when I came into bat the field was attacking and I could play shots. Here I felt if I could pace my innings well, it would help my team. VVS [Laxman] batted fantastically and was nicely supported by Rahul and that set it up for us."

"I always believed that Harbhajan could get some runs," Tendulkar said. "I told him that this was the time to prove himself and his ability. He put his head down and did a fantastic job. I also told him not to stop playing his shots because the field was in for him and spread for me. He batted fabulously.

"The fielders were either half-way or at the fence for me, so there was no point playing a rash shot, when the field came up for the lower order batsmen there were gaps for them to score runs."

His interview tells it all. I almost sobbed as he waived his stretched arms toward the skies. So many subtleties and facets of a genius of a cricketer were shown by the master! The rules as he described, are simple: Stick to basics. Use your head. Cricket is a mind game. That's what's required to take your team from 6/330 to 10/532 against arguably the best bowling attack. It's not the usual. It is not the stereotyped. Every time you go out there, you have to adapt to the situation of the game. I can hardly do anything else while watching the game of cricket. Every move, look, action of the players is so delicate and subtle. Brilliant swing and reverse swing bowling with well-disguised change-of-pace, the gentle roll of the wrists, the spontaneous whisper-cum-shout of a "two" to the non-striker immediately after playing a shot in the no-man's-land, the mid-wicket fielder being moved slightly laterally, the number of overs bowled with the old ball, switching of the bowling ends, approaching lunch/tea/drinks break, use of unorthodox and improvised (but not unintentional) shots -- Oh! I am already on my way of being emotional about how effortless masters are, about their art!

Of course, there will be an all round applause of this brilliant century. II day belonged to VVS and his brilliant stokeplay and III day to the Little Master and his forceful knock. Two masterful innings!

The match is at an interesting juncture. It's tricky for both Australia and India. But given the track record and failure of Dhoni and Yuvraj to stick to basics, I am a bit nervous. It does look like India should be able to draw this one (if not win), but a lot depends on RP Singh, Kumble and Harbhajan.

Oh boy, life is so wonderful!

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