Opinion: Relive the Master Blaster's two master knocks against the Aussies 20 years ago

Written By: Pankaj Agrawal
Place: New Delhi, Delhi, India Published: Apr 22, 2018, 05.06 PM(IST)

A file photo of Sachin Tendulkar. Photograph:( Twitter )

In the game of Cricket, few knocks are so big in the magnificence that they become an epic to narrate to the future generations. Let's take a look at few of such heroics - Kapil's 175 in the 1983 World Cup, Laxman's 281 against Australia in 2001 Kolkata Test, Dravid double century in Adelaide Test in 2003.

Our master blaster Sachin Tendulkar played two such back to back knocks, exactly 20 years back in Sharjah against Australia during an ODI triangular series. These were two whirlwind centuries, first on 22nd April 1998 and other on 24th April 1998.

Those two knocks were destructive, alluring, spectator's delight and they comprehensively decimated Australians. They became immortal and till date considered as two of best ever ODI knocks.

It was an ODI triangular series between India, Australia and New Zealand in Sharjah during April 1998. On 22nd April 1998, last league match was played between India and Australia. By then Australia had already qualified for the final. India on other hand had a task in hand to surpass New Zealand on the net run rate in the final match to reach final.

Australia batted first and scored a mammoth 284 runs in 50 overs. India had to score a minimum 254 runs in the second innings to beat New Zealand on run rate. In response, India struggled and lost four wickets by 29th over and the score was 138. VVS Laxman joined Tendulkar after the fall of 4th wicket. At this moment, the match was interrupted by a dust-storm. India's innings was shortened by four overs and India’s target became even more stringent.

But then Tendulkar unleashed himself. Once match resumed after the dust-storm, Tendulkar started smashing each of the Australians bowlers. India qualified for the final. The dominance of Tendulkar's knock can be gauged from the fact that he scored 143 out of the team's total of 250 and Nayan Mongia with 35 was the second highest scorer for India.

Two days later on 24th April 1998, final was played between India and Australia. Australia batted first and scored 272 runs. India started the chase and Tendulkar resumed his onslaught. He scored a swashbuckling 134 and India chased the total with immaculate ease.

Here it is also important to know a bit of few other events proceeding April 1998. Tendulkar replaced Azhar as Indian captain in 1996. He was the heir apparent for years before he got the baton from Azhar in 1996. Sachin's success as captain, however, was rather tepid. India lost the Test series in South Africa and in West Indies.

Tendulkar was sacked from the captaincy towards the end of 1997. Tendulkar was taken aback he was disappointed.

Years later Tendulkar confessed his disappointment unequivocally in his biographical film Sachin: A Billion Dreams. Sachin was hurt, pained and all that was vented out through his bat during 1998. Moreover, he was free from the pressure of captaincy.

Coming back to April 1998 in Sharjah. It was ruthless hitting at Sharjah by Tendulkar. The important thing was that Tendulkar scored those centuries with the strike rate of more than 100 but he wasn’t really slogging. He was hitting 4s and 6s via genuinely brilliant cricketing shots. The memorable thing is that how Tony Grieg was going bonkers in the commentary box every time Tendulkar dispatched ball over the rope.

1998 was actually the best year of Sachin’s career. The whole world was in awe of him during that year and those two knocks were icing on the cake.

There are interesting anecdotes endorsing the cult status during that period.

Great Australian bowler, Dennis Lillee told something very interesting about that carnage at Sharjah. Australian fast bowler Michael Kasprowicz went to the great Lillee for some tips to get Tendulkar out early in the innings. Lillee told him point-blank "Dude, the kind of form Tendulkar is in, you shouldn’t even think of getting him out. All you can afford is to plan to control the deluge of runs a bit".

A few years later in an interview, Indian coach during 1998 Anshuman Gaikwad spoke about Tendulkar in 1998. He said that during the last league match on 22nd April when there was the interruption in the match due to sand-storm Gaikwad disappointing sensing an inevitable ouster of his team from the tournament. Sachin went over to Gaikwad and said, "Don’t worry coach. Let the game resumed. For sure I am going to pull this one for the side".

So Tendulkar has not only scoring runs, he also knew that he was going to score them. That was the level of his self-confidence.

20 years have gone past since that desert-storm called Sachin at Sharjah, but class act of great man enthrals fans like me even today.

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(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)

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