Despite India’s modest record, Sachin stays a hit
For many fans, Indian cricket is synonymous with Tendulkar, the presence of Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, MS Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh notwithstanding, reports Anand Vasu.Updated: Mar 01, 2009 23:30 IST
So the world champions were bested at Twenty20 cricket. It has been the perfect start to the series for fans in New Zealand. They get right behind their team, and even though you don't see Daniel Vettori or Ross Taylor on advertising hoardings, they are loved in this rugby-crazy nation. The one thing fans long for since India arrived on February 21, is just when they'd get a chance to watch Sachin Tendulkar?
Wherever you go in the world, the refrain of home fans is the same: Let Sachin get a hundred, but let our team win. Given how infrequently India have travelled to New Zealand, this tour is a first opportunity for many in the younger generation to get a good look at the little maestro.
At Wellington, a young fan turned up at practice and got Tendulkar to autograph his arm, only to show up the next day with that signature inked in as a tattoo. Taxi driver tales are often clichéd or apocryphal, but when Mark Wong, of Chinese origin, told this correspondent that India played poorly outside their country but that "little guy has been playing for 20 years, no?", you knew the extent of Tendulkar's impact.
For many fans, Indian cricket is synonymous with Tendulkar, the presence of Rahul Dravid, V.V.S. Laxman, M.S. Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh notwithstanding. For Tendulkar, the recent past has been about ticking the unchecked boxes as he reached the evening of his career. Last year in Australia, he scored a match-winning hundred and another near-ton to propel India to their first-ever ODI tri-series triumph Down Under. Late December in Chennai, Tendulkar stayed unbeaten on the final day as India chased down an incredible target, thereby putting to rest the accusation that he did not finish games for India.
In a 20-year career, through five trips to New Zealand, Tendulkar has not reached three figures in ODIs. Overall, he's the most prolific Indian, 1460 runs from 38 matches at 41.71. He has four hundreds, but all have come at home.
When the curtain goes up on the ODIs at Napier's McLean Park on Tuesday, Tendulkar will have his best chance to set the record straight.
India, who chose to stay back in Wellington for an extra day on Sunday, had to cancel their practice session because of tender underfoot conditions. But clear skies are predicted after the weekend rain receded. The pitches are expected to be much better for batting than on previous trips here and India's star is on the rise.
Tendulkar has been in the country 10 days without playing a game and the interest of fans is piqued. All that he needs to do is light up the stage that he has uniquely made his own.