2 remarkable men of world cricket
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2 remarkable men of world cricket

For over a decade now, Indians have been ardently watching the Sachin-McGrath battles, writes Atul Sondhi.

cricket Updated: May 06, 2007 21:44 IST

Tendulkar and McGrath, for years have enlivened the drawing rooms of most Indian and Australian homes. The two are considered the ultimate in competitiveness and finesse.

Though in ODIs, especially in the world cups, McGrath usually had the better of Tendulkar, which stifled, India's fighting instincts from the very beginning, and battles in Tests turned out to be quite different.

Those classic encounters between the two saw the balance of power shifting like a pendulum, with both the gladiators having a measure of each other in the end. Probably when McGrath called it 55-45 in his favour in a TV interview, he had the edge in ODIs in his mind, while in Tests, Sachin retuned fire by fire, playing some tremendous innings.

In fact, in the four series where both, among the most dominating players of their era, played, Sachin Tendulkar's reply kept on becoming better and better with each series save the last one when injuries allowed him to play only in two Tests.

Sachin against Australia in series of three or more Tests (with Mcgrath in the side)

Australia (1999-2000)
India (2001)
Australia (2003-2004)
India (2004)

Melbourne's 116

The first Test battle between Sachin and McGrath was fought in the one-off test at Delhi in October 1996, and McGrath had the better of Sachin, albeit in a lost cause. The Indian blaster ended up making just 10 runs in two innings, and was castled by McGrath for a duck in the second.

However, in the first full-fledged series in Australia against McGrath and company in 1999-2000, Tendulkar, burdened with captaincy, did shine briefly scoring 116 and 52 against a formidable attack. What else will you call the foursome of Lee, Warne, McGrath and Fleming?

It was a very calculated assault in the first innings where Tendulkar completely curbed his all out aggressive style and his strike-rate was just 60. But it was natural considering India were replying to a good Australian score of 405 and Tendulkar's score eventually turned out to be nine runs more than the rest of the Indian batsmen combined.

It was his first convincing innings against McGrath and company in his fifth try and that give an indication of the shape of things to come.

Tendulkar sparkles in Mumbai and Chennai

The first innings at Mumbai in 2001 series, when Tendulkar scored 76 as against rest of the batsmen's 93 in a total of 176, showed his ability to stand among ruins against an attack spearheaded by McGrath and Warne, with Gillespie and Fleming as supporting cast.

Again he sparkled with 65 runs in the second innings before a brilliant diving catch by Ricky Ponting off the bowling of Mark Waugh that ended the Indian's resistance.

However, the real superlative effort came in the first innings of the final Test at Chennai. After a remarkable victory at Kolkata, the whole of Indian side was buoyed and it found reflection in Tendulkar's efforts as well.

Das, Ramesh, Dravid and Laxman chipped in with competitive half-centuries but it was Tendulkar's carefully compiled 126 which helped India past Australian first innings total of 391.

In the end, that 110 run first innings lead, thanks to Tendulkar's century, proved too much for the Australians. That was the contribution of the genius to India's series win against McGrath's army.

Sensational at Sydney

The series in Australia in 2003-04 saw a disappointing Tendulkar in the first five innings, totalling just 82. But the little master more than compensated for it by hitting a tremendous double century at Sydney. Who can forget his 353 runs partnership with Laxman, coming in less than seven hours, which almost spoiled Steve Waugh's farewell party.

His unbeaten knock of 241 was one of the best in his career. A knock where he eschewed most of his attacking instincts to take India too the doorsteps of what could have been a most memorable series victory.

Probably, these are the knocks played by Sachin against his bowling, which forced Glenn McGrath to say ''he enjoyed every minute of his battles with Sachin Tendulkar and hopefully ''Sachin enjoyed every now and then too.''

However, the Pigeon will also do well to remember that the edge would have been 55-45 in Sachin's favour if he was not having the company of other top pros like Lee, Gillespie and Warne in some of the battles.

First Published: May 06, 2007 14:23 IST