By Nilankur Das

Indian cricket has had its fair share of interesting stories to narrate over the years. A look at some of the famous anecdotes from the third era…

When Tendulkar played for Pakistan

Sachin Tendulkar did make his international debut against Pakistan in 1989 as a 16-year-old. But months before his 14th birthday, the Master Blaster had actually played for Pakistan for a few overs during as exhibition 40-over match at the Brabourne Stasium. Some of the Pakistan players had gone to the hotel to rest when they were asked to field. Skipper Imran Khan requested the Indian team’s skipper Hemant Kenkre to lend him a few fielders when Tendulkar stepped into the ground for Pakistan as a stopgap fielder. Tendulkar, in fact, had served as a ball boy during the 1987 World Cup match between India and Zimbabwe at the Wankhede Stadium

Kumble’s first big strike

In 1993, England toured India with a pretty strong unit. Graham Gooch, Mike Gatting, Alec Stewart and the young Graeme Hick were the big names in the team but their planning of putting the sweep shot to good use ran into a force called Anil Kumble. The leg-spinner with a fast bowler’s action and attitude was simply too quick for them to employ the sweep shot and they weren’t quite sure of how to play him either. He ended up with 21 wickets in the series at an average of just 19.80. Venkatapathy Raju provided great support and snared 16 wickets while Rajesh Chauhan picked up 9 wickets. The three Indian spinners topped the bowling charts as India completed a 3-0 whitewash in the series.

Noel who?

“Who is Noel David?” Apparently India skipper Sachin Tendulkar did not know of the off-spinning all-rounder from Hyderabad when he was first picked to join the India squad midway into the 1996-97 tour of the West Indies as a replacement for an injured Javagal Srinath. The Indian think-tank had asked for a spinner as replacement and in a faxed message to the board secretary Jaywant Lele, Tendulkar had specifically asked for one of either Baroda’s Tushar Arothe or Hyderabad’s Kanwaljit Singh. But the selection committee led by Ramakant Desai sent relatively lesser-known Noel David instead. In his very short, four ODI, international career David bagged a 3-21 on his debut against the West Indies but impressed more with very sharp fielding.

Noel David played four ODIs for India.

Azharuddin’s mad knock at Eden

Azhar was generally a pretty mild character but there were times when he would simply take off. The second Test of the 1996 series against South Africa was one of those times. Batting first, South Africa had scored 428 runs thanks to centuries by openers Andrew Hudson (146) and Gary Kirsten (102). In reply, India found themselves in early after being reduced to 77/3 and things got worse when Azharuddin was forced to retire hurt on 6* from 87/3 to 161/7. When the right-hander came out to bat again, he was in a very different kind of mood and decided to simply go after everything.

He played shots all around the wicket, sparing no South African bowler but being especially brutal on Klusener -- who was hit for the five consecutive fours in the 61st over of the innings. The century came off just 74 balls and by the time he was dismissed (109 off 77 balls, with 18 fours and 1 six) India had reached a respectable 322. Kumble’s superb knock of 88 stands largely forgotten thanks to the sheer madness of Azhar’s brutal knock.

Ganguly’s allround show

In an attempt to bring India and Pakistan closer together, a 5-match bilateral series called the Sahara Friendship Cup was organised at a neutral venue in Canada. The first series played in the year 1997 was won by India by a convincing margin of 4-1 all thanks to a superb show by Sourav Ganguly. By then everyone knew that the left-hander could bat but in Canada he showed that given the right conditions, he could do a lot of damage with the ball too. His dibbly-dobblers, landed in the right channel, helped him take 15 wickets in the series at an average of 10.66 and he also scored 222 runs at an average of 55.50 to almost single-handedly demolish Pakistan. He was adjudged the man of the match in four out of the five matches.

When Ganguly and Dravid went big in Taunton

In 1999, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid shared a 318-run stand against Sri Lanka in Taunton. It is the second-highest partnership in the men’s World Cup but the abiding memory of that match wasn’t just the runs scored. India lost Sadagoppan Ramesh (5) early but then Ganguly and Dravid got together to put on a partnership of epic proportions. The ease with which they hammered the Sri Lankan attack was testament to their class. Ganguly scored 183 -- to go past Kapil Dev’s 175 -- and became the highest individual scorer for India in ODIs. His knock included 17 fours and 7 sixes. Dravid, during his knock of 145 (17 fours and 1 six), showed that he too could hold his own in the format. India scored 373/6 in their allotted fifty overs and then bowled Sri Lanka out for 216.

1989 - 2000