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It was just another day in office!

With 18 years of cricket and heroics under his bat, Sachin is quite calm about his latest feat, reports Rohit Mahajan.

cricket Updated: Jul 01, 2007 03:26 IST
Rohit Mahajan

Sachin Tendulkar was on fire on Friday and the South Africans were in the line of that fire. Especially when they continued to err in length — or was it by design? It probably was: the pitch offered bounce and movement to begin with, the only hope South Africa had lay in getting the top off the Indian batting order early.

Hence the belligerence, theatrical glares, facial contortions and short-pitched deliveries. Tendulkar only grinned and smashed them all over.

But Tendulkar was serenity itself, though, when he did swing his bat around, even the likes of Ntini, Nel and Langeveldt must have quailed in their studs.

Tendulkar knew what the game was about — South Africa had no one on the square-leg boundary, Ntini was banging the ball in short. A mis-timed pull or hook and the man at deep fine-leg would have come into play.

For Tendulkar, there was only one way to deal with this sort of stuff.

"Looking at the conditions, I though that counterattacking was the best option," he later said. "We were not playing predetermined shots, we were just picking the length of the ball… The length of the bowling was different and that gave me an opportunity to play the hook."

That it did, sort of. With 18 years of international cricket behind him, Tendulkar has indeed become a master of understatement. Thus, he insisted that reaching the mark of 15,000 runs in one-day international cricket was just "one of those things".

"After playing for 18 years, I feel it's just one of those things," Tendulkar said. "It is satisfying, a wonderful moment, it coincided with the win."

"It obviously is a wonderful feeling, especially as we ended on a winning note, that’s what really matters the most," he said. "This match was extremely important for us, to keep alive in the series."

The Indians have been keeping alive, though barely — the Irish summer has proved rather hostile and what was being looked at as a peaceful sojourn into small town cricket has turned into a bone-chilling experience. Tendulkar said that he had never played in worse conditions — ever, through all these years. He added though, that this experience would help the team prepare for England.

"You won't get conditions worse than these. It's absolutely freezing and the conditions are tough," Tendulkar said. "But it's an experience, unlike anything I've ever encountered."

Though it was his hook that took one's breath away, the strokes of genius were not bound by region — Tendulkar was indiscriminate in his choice of places to land the cuts that bled South Africa. He got more runs on the off-side than on — the drives were rocketing through the covers, he used his feet to meet Tshabalala halfway and send the ball over the ropes more than once.

Tshabalala went for 42 off eight, not bad at all for a rookie in his second ODI — and he did get Tendulkar in the end and pushed the door ajar for his team.

Tendulkar fell in the 90s again, but he had a laugh over it later. "If I could get to the 90s every time, I would not mind it!" he said. "Yes, I would have loved to be there right till the end, but we won and that matters most."

Tendulkar's is a difficult lot — if he falls early, he is pilloried and if gets the runs but the team is beaten, it's he again who is blamed. But it's only the greats that invite chatter, and Tendulkar refuses to let his mind register the din the critics make.

"I don't need to say anything," he said, though he did add a few words that define his philosophy. "People are going to have opinions, it's probably their job. I have a bigger job — when I hold a cricket bat in my hands, it's a far tougher and bigger job. That's what I want to concentrate on."

Weather

The weather is likely to be bad --- the forecast here has been pretty accurate and rain is predicted for Sunday.

The wicket

The pitch is hard, has a bit of brown grass. It rained on Saturday morning without pause, and in a brief respite from it, the groundsman cropped a bit of the grass.

the final ODI Live on TV On Neo Sports and DD from 3.15 pm