‘He locked himself in physio’s room’: Laxman recalls Sachin Tendulkar’s battle with Shane Warne in 1998 series
When Mark Taylor’s Australia visited India in the March of 1998, the series was headlined by the forthcoming duel between the world’s premier batsman and the finest spinner. India under Mohammed Azharuddin’s captaincy had become an indomitable force at home, having lost a home series way back in 1987 to arch rivals Pakistan. No other team had managed to turn the tables on India in their own backyard. Taylor’s Australia had themselves lost a one off Test in New Delhi in 1996, which was the inception of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. So, the 1998 series was about Shane Warne’s guile and craft against Sachin Tendulkar’s batting genius.
The first Test was played at the Chepauk in Chennai and India were given a solid start by their top three, all of whom scored respective half-centuries. The eyes of India’s cricket loving masses were on Tendulkar as Warne came in to bowl and the unthinkable happened. After hitting a boundary to get things started, Tendulkar fell to Warne for just 4 runs.
His former teammate and cricket commentator VVS Laxman revealed what was the effect of that dismissal on Tendulkar on Star Sports’ show Cricket Connected.
“Sachin was really well prepared for the Test match in Chennai. In the first innings, he was dismissed for 4 runs. He hit a boundary and then tried to play a big shot over mid-on, hitting against the turn and was caught by Mark Taylor. I remember Sachin locked himself in the physio’s room and only came out after almost an hour. When he came out, we could see his eyes were red. I felt he was very emotional because he was unhappy in the manner he was dismissed,” Laxman said.
Australia managed to take a small lead in the first innings, thanks to a handy knock from wicket-keeper Ian Healy. India needed a big response if they had to come back in the match and this time Tendulkar didn’t fail. His attack on Warne was ruthless as he hit the leg spinner to all parts of the ground. Tendulkar played a chanceless knock and stayed unbeaten on 155. Australia succumbed in the fourth innings due to some quality spin bowling from Anil Kumble and Venkatpathy Raju.
“...in the second innings, the way he blasted and hammered Shane Warne, who was bowling into the rough outside the leg stump. Warne was using the depth of the crease and when he used to pitch it up, Sachin used to hit it through the mid-off, mid-on region. He went on to get a hundred. That battle with Shane Warne is the best I have seen,” Laxman added.
India won the Test and the series. But it was Tendulkar’s assault on Warne that people remember till date. Unfortunately for the Australian, the series would set the template for their duels in the years to come as Tendulkar dominated Warne across all formats.