Monday, November 14, 2011

Let sachin make his 100 in his own way

Does anyone know how Sachin Tendulkar’s name appeared for the first time in a newspaper? I did not till the master himself told me the story at his Taj Bengal room during the Eden Test match. Here goes what happened:

The first time Sachin Tendulkar’s name appeared in the papers was courtesy the scorer in a local match in Mumbai. The rule was a player’s name will appear provided he scored 30. Tendulkar was not out on 24 but there were many extras in his teams’ innings including wides, leg byes and no balls. The scorer decided to credit six extras to Tendulkar’s personal tally increasing his score to 30 without changing the overall score. His conscience was clear- he hadn’t tampered with the overall score. How does it matter if there were six extras less and six runs credited to Tendulkar’s score? Next morning, Sachin’s name appeared for the first time in a Mumbai paper.

Had those fateful six runs been credited to his score at the Wankhede he would have reached his 100th international ton. India would be celebrating and 117 crore people would have had their dream fulfilled. It wasn’t to be for ‘what do they know of cricket who only cricket know?’
Everton Weekes, the legendary West Indian, once told me, “Had I not got out for 90 in the sixth innings against India in 1948-49 after getting five consecutive hundreds, people would not have romanticised the feat. A sixth hundred would have meant I had six centuries on the trot. A 90 meant people would always say: ‘Weekes couldn’t get 10 more runs!’” The ‘could have been’ stories are as much part of cricket lore as its records, statistics and standout performances. The Wankhede 94 has now been added to this list.
It all seemed to go according to script. A rejuvenated Sachin not out on 67 made known his intent in the first over itself against Ravi Rampaul. A beautiful flick for four and he had reached the 70s. Then came a trademark off drive followed by the shot of the innings, a six over third man of Fidel Edwards. It was better than the six hit of the same bowler on Day 3. He had literally raced to the 90s. Just as it seemed it was going to happen did disaster strike. A flash outside off stump and Darren Sammy doing the rest at second slip. Ravi Rampaul’s exaggerated celebration said it all. The West Indians had spoilt an Indian party, not just of the team or that of the master but of a billion plus waiting to erupt in celebration.
As he began the long walk back to the pavilion in his home ground, so did the applause. The 15,000- present on the day, having taken a few seconds to come to terms with the shock, were on their feet again. It was hard to believe that this was a trudge back to the pavilion in agony. It was a classic case of so near yet so far. Forgotten was the fact that he had failed to get the hundred and that India could still follow on. That heartfelt, yet forlorn, ovation from his home crowd was in fact homage to an extraordinary career, not for an innings that hadn’t granted them a last wish.
The hundred will come. Sooner than later. But what his getting out for 94 tells us is even the greatest ultimately fall prey to the whims of the game. That’s why we love it so much. The unpredictability, the impossibility of trying to predict what will happen next. He got out for 91 at the Oval. Wankhede was 3 better. The game can be really cruel at times and who better than Sachin to tell you so. He has got it all. Yet he missed out on a lot at the Wankhede. His home ground could not become part of history despite him wanting to script it for them.
We have waited for 8 long months for the 100th 100. Perhaps, we have to wait a bit more. When we think what Sachin has done for the game for a long 23 years, the wait isn’t a long one. It is our time to back our icon, the man who has given us more joy than anyone else for over two decades.

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