Reliving the Double – Guest Column by Dr. Prakul Chandra
To celebrate Sachin Tendulkar’s birthday week, our Guest Columnist Dr. Prakul Chandra relives one of the best memories from Sachin’s long and illustrious career.
It started off like any other day. People got ready and went to work. Complained about the traffic on the way and then as the day progressed, got into heated arguments with strangers on the internet.
But this was not like any other day.
This 55th day of the 2010th year of the Gregorian calendar, in cahoots with the Cricket Gods, had conspired to bring a bit of magic into our otherwise mundane lives. Little did the people queuing in to get into the Captain Roop Singh Stadium know, that they would be at the epicenter of some seismic brilliance in the next few hours.
The first ODI at Jaipur had been a very close affair. The only question on people’s minds was would Gwalior be a nail biter as well?
MS Dhoni wins the toss in Gwalior and elects to bat first. After four dot balls, Sachin Tendulkar dispatches a fuller delivery wide of mid off towards the boundary to get on the board. Wayne Parnell overcompensates for his previous folly and ends up straying on middle and leg. Tendulkar gladly accepts and clips it through mid wicket for another boundary. The juggernaut begins.
Parnell snaps Virender Sehwag early and in walks Dinesh Karthik to steady the ship. Tendulkar, unfazed by the early wicket, keeps the score board ticking and continues adding to his impressive haul of ODI runs.
India is quick off the blocks. They race to 78/1 in 11 overs. Jacques Kallis brings in Roelof van der Merwe to stymie this run flow. A leg side drifter, a token of South African philanthropy, is leg glanced for a 4 by Tendulkar as he sprints to 50 in only 37 balls.
The runs keep flowing from Tendulkar’s bat. He has judged the pace of the wicket quite early. The bad deliveries are treated with authoritative elegance. The good deliveries are disdainfully dismissed to the fence. He plays his shots all around the wicket and is coloring his wagon wheel on his own terms.
By the 28th over, India has coasted to 174/1 with a healthy run rate of 6.3. Tendulkar on 99, is quick to spot a short delivery from JP Duminy, transfers his weight on to his back-foot and punches it towards deep point. He helps himself to a single, sculpting a memorable 46th ODI ton. The crowd grows berserk as he lifts his arms up in his trademark celebratory style.
22 overs still remain.
As a commentator optimistically quips about the possibility of a 200, Tendulkar continues the rampage by smashing Kallis for two boundaries in the next over. The South African arsenal continues to bleed runs and it is the sharp blade of Tendulkar that is scything through their attack. Gaps are found with geometric precision. The timing is impeccable and the extravagant flourishes throw the crowd into raptures.
By the 34th over, India has tightened its death vice on this match. 218 runs, and a single casualty. Parnell provides a break through again for the Proteas by getting rid of Karthik for a well made 79. Yusuf Pathan now joins Tendulkar who is unbeaten on 124. Powerplay is taken and Tendulkar smashes Dale Steyn for two boundaries each in the 35th and 37th over. South Africa has no answers for this continuing onslaught from Tendulkar.
By the end of the Powerplay, Tendulkar has raced to 157 of 122 balls with 23 fours and a 6. There is strong buzz around the ground. People are starting to believe. They have started to pray to the Gods, for a God.
At the start of the 41st over, Pathan’s 23 ball 36 runs cameo comes to an end. India is 300/3 with a healthy fraction of those runs coming from Tendulkar’s willow. Greeted with some enthusiastic cheering, Dhoni struts to the middle.
South Africa’s respite is short lived as van der Merwe is hammered by Tendulkar for a 4 and then a maximum as he goes past Kapil Dev’s heroic 175 at Tunbridge Wells.
8 overs remain and Tendulkar is 21 runs shy off the double hundred. A last ball full toss in the 43rd over is worked behind square for a boundary as he equals his highest ODI score of 186* scored more than decade ago. A single, two balls later, gives him his personal best.
In the 46th over, Tendulkar nudges the ball behind deep square leg for two and gets to 193. Cricket historians and fans are keenly aware that Charles Coventry and Saeed Anwar were both marooned at 194 in their quest for the Holy Grail. The pressure mounts with every passing moment. The time is ripe for superstitions to be invoked. People look up to the heavens as their spoken prayers melt in the air.
As Tendulkar flicks the next ball behind square and dashes back for two, the deafening applause from the crowd welcomes him into previously unchartered territory. This is terra incognita, unmapped territory, waiting to be cartographed.
Tendulkar does not celebrate, does not even raise his bat. Just a quick handshake with Mark Boucher who walks up to him to acknowledge this colossal achievement, then he adjusts his pads, battles through a wave of cramps, and refocuses.
South Africa is tottering on the edge of morale bankruptcy. India is 367/3.
Tendulkar, in no apparent hurry, collects four singles to get to 199. The crowd hyperventilates with morbid uncertainty. Even the brave turn to the faint hearted for mutual comfort. Much to their horror, Dhoni takes a single off the last ball of the 48th over.
As the sun sets on South Africa’s dream of leveling this series, Dhoni tests the patience of a very nervous Gwalior crowd by playing out the entire 49th over from Steyn, smashing 17 runs from it including another last ball single to retain the strike for the 50th over. The South African’s have just had the wind knocked out of their sails. Their hopes capsized in the sea of hopelessness. But this story is not about them and I digress with my enthusiastic overuse of nautical expressions.
Dhoni smacks Charl Langeveldt’s first for a six over wide long off. Only 5 legal deliveries remain. The crowd loves Dhoni and his brand of cricket but they they have a date with history and their cup of patience is about to run over.
Dhoni bludgeons the second ball to deep mid wicket and a brilliant diving effort in the field from Amla restricts him to just a single. Tendulkar is finally back on strike. Never has an Indian crowd applauded an opposing team’s fielding endeavor with so much genuine appreciation. Not in my 20 years of watching the game.
And so it comes down to this moment. This moment in time, that promises a culmination of all our anticipatory angst. This moment, pregnant with possibilities. It could give birth to something beautiful. Or deliver a tragic anticlimax of Shakespearean proportions. Some of us are on the edge of our seats metaphorically and quite literally. Some of us pace back and forth in front of our television sets while some furiously refresh the Cricinfo webpage.
Langeveldt bowls full outside off. Tendulkar steers it towards backward point and sprints down those 22 yards to complete that single. “First man on the planet to reach 200 and it’s the Superman from India.”
There is no extravagant celebration. He just takes his helmet off, raises his bat and glances up at the skies. Dhoni hugs him and steps back. He knows this is Tendulkar’s moment, his time to bask in the warmth of this glorious achievement. His moment to dive into a swirl of euphoria, gratification and quite possibly relief. His time to soak up all the love.
It has taken 2962 ODIs for someone to breach the 200 barrier. Everyone unanimously agrees that the one person who truly deserved to get to this mark first indeed got there first.
The final scorecard reads 200*. Every run scored is a testament to the genius of this man. Every run is a reason for us to smile. Because in scoring a finite number of runs, he gave us infinite joy.
Bio: Prakul Chandra is a doctor living in the U.S.A. He loves Cricket. Period
The author profusely apologizes that his lack of international runs severely restricted his ability to overrule Sachin about what background to use for this picture.