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Just a ‘Tondulkar’ and nothing else

cricket Updated: Jan 09, 2008 12:06 IST
Kadambari Murali
Kadambari Murali
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

There is nothing so reassuring to Indians as the sight of Sachin Tendulkar standing there in the middle, triumphantly unbeaten in the middle of an Indian high. So when Tendulkar reached his 38th hundred, it was time to relax, smile, let yourself sink into a feeling of utter contentment and watch.

The world's best known cricketing name — who has missed several tons in both forms of the game over the six months — then slowly took off his helmet and raised both bat and helmet in either hand, arms held high over his head. He shut his eyes, head thrown back and stretched his arms again in a snappy motion, quite like a conductor does when he reaches the end of a particularly moving performance.

And he stood like that awhile, soaking in the moment, the almost tangible adulation he was getting from an adoring Sydney crowd before Harbhajan Singh, patiently waiting for him to finish his silent performance, got impatient and enveloped him in a bear-hug.

Later, Tendulkar said that if it hadn't been for Harbhajan, this game might have shaped up differently. "I've always believed that Harbhajan can bat," said Tendulkar. "But Harbhajan has believed more than me. So it was time to prove himself by chipping in with some important runs, because this is an ideal situation. He didn't disappoint any one of us. He played an extremely important role in an extremely important partnership."

He also said that he had decided to approach this year as a fresh new beginning. "It was a little different this time. Because in 2007, from Ireland onwards, I had missed a lot of hundreds and I didn't want that to continue. I wanted to move on. In the year 2008, the beginning was very important. The beginning was quite good so I am relieved. It came at the right time so I'm happy."

India in fact, would be very happy with the way Tendulkar played himself and the way he mentored the junior bats, especially Ishant Sharma.

If the day had its drama, it also had its humorous moments, especially when the 6 foot four inch 19-year-old from Delhi was standing, looking reverentially down at Tendulkar while batting with him. Or going up to him and puppy-like, asking what Brett Lee meant when he reportedly referred to him as a "cowboy" after being tonked for successive fours. Tendulkar apparently just laughed and told Sharma to continue doing what he was doing, "playing with heart". For the young paceman, it was high praise.

Sharma, incidentally, was less than a year old when Tendulkar made his debut in 1989, a small fact that, in itself, is a tribute to a player who has lasted so long, and developed so beautifully into the country's most famous icon.

Tendulkar, asked later why he didn't shield the teenager from the strike, said he didn't think shielding him was the best option, strategically.

"For me, there was just one fielder at gully saving one. The rest were all on the boundary line or halfway down. To try something stupid and get out would have been unwise. I thought if runs had come earlier with Harbhajan and RP Singh, the same strategy should be applied. Ishant scored some important 23-24 runs. What eventually matters is the partnership and not who takes the initiative."

True, but however much Tendulkar believed in his teammates, there is no denying that they believe they owe it to him. "He kept telling me to hang in there, to not play a false stroke, to do what I thought I did very well," said Harbhajan of his unexpected 129-run stand with Tendulkar. "He just kept telling me to play from my heart, to think about every shot and focus on things and I did just that," said Harbhajan.

On a final note, India can take heart from one more thing whenever they bat again. Tendulkar's SCG average is well over 300. It is quite phenomenal. But for him, apparently, it is also not a surprise. “Sometimes you walk on the field and it gives you good feelings. This is one of those grounds.”

It definitely is for all the Indians here.