In a magnificent international career that completes 22 years in a few days, Sachin Tendulkar would have rarely refused a run. A selfless runner for his partners, there have rather been instances of him being caught short and run out.
Thus it was unusual to see the master batsman refuse a leg bye as India coasted towards victory in the first Test against the West Indies. After the openers had set the platform for the tricky chase, Tendulkar had taken it upon himself to steer the innings, partnering Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman in turn.
With India’s win on the cards going into Wednesday’s play, the buzz everywhere was on whether Tendulkar would end the anxious wait to achieve his 100th international century. Tendulkar had been intensely focussed on a pitch where the ball kept low.
Dismissed for 91 in the previous Test --- the fourth Test at Oval two months ago --- it finally appeared nothing would stop him from reaching the grand landmark.
Once Tendulkar reached his half-century, VVS Laxman, who had kicked off with a flurry of boundaries, took it easy, sticking to taking the odd single to hand the strike to his partner as there were just enough runs left to reach triple figures.But with 24 runs needed for his century, and India 43 away from victory, was there a hint of anxiety? Tendulkar, extra careful in playing horizontal bat shots, refused an easy leg bye after leggie Devendra Bishoo had strayed on to his pads. In the same over he was out, deceived by the lack of bounce on the pitch as he attempted a low pull-shot to be trapped in front. West Indies skipper Darren Sammy recalled the incident.
“When I saw him turn down the single, I remember going up to Bishoo and saying, ‘Let’s try to bowl at him from around the wicket and try to get him to sweep from the rough.’ He told me, ‘Give me two more balls from over the wicket,’ and he got him out.” Sammy wished Tendulkar gets the milestone in the next series against Australia so that he can cheer for him from his living room in St. Lucia.
However, skipper MS Dhoni was grateful to Tendulkar for securing victory.
“Let him score the century... It is not as if we are under pressure because of it, but maybe you guys (media) are putting extra pressure on him.
“The expectation has always been the size of Everest every time Sachin goes out to bat. If he comes on to the field and doesn’t score a fifty, people think he has not scored. It is something he deals with everyday.
“We just have to be a bit more patient.”