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Sachin Tendulkar: Droplets of magic at Centurion

Player of Week III

india Updated: Mar 09, 2003 02:05 IST

Batsmen are not remembered only for their shots, you remember them for their mannerisms, their stance, their physical presence and their ability to rise to an occasion.

If you missed the brutal assault by one of the greatest batsman in the game at Supersport Park, you've missed one of the best ever One-Day innings. The game began under the glorious skies on a benign pitch in one of the most electrifying atmosphere that the game has witnessed for some time. Pakistan had set a formidable 273 on the board after a sublime century by Saeed Anwar.

It was very much expected that Sachin Tendulkar would attempt to take an early advantage, but no one had anticipated the daring, stunning and breathtaking quality of strokeplay that followed.

As Tendulkar walked to the crease, he knew he was up against a deadly triumvirate of Shoaib Akhtar, Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram.

Spurred by disgruntled fans turning violent back home after poor show against Holland and Australia and media criticism, the pressure of chasing 274 was immense.

The first sign that Tendulkar was in a mood to take the bull by its horns showed in the first ball he faced. He creamed Akram for a back-footed boundary through the covers. What followed in the next over was noteworthy.

Akhtar in his very first over was treated in a most disdainful manner - something he would have ever dreamt about. Off the fourth ball of the over, Tendulkar stood on his toes and unfurled the cut with a slanted bat. The ball went over the third man fence, well into the stands.

He followed it up with an imperious flick to the square leg boundary. The last ball was driven past mid-on with contemptuous ease and already a mini-battering had left Waqar's camp transfixed. Akhtar's line and length went from metronomic to catastrophic as Indian 50 came in just five overs.

Pakistan had one sniff at getting rid of Tendulkar, but Abdul Razzaq at mid-off only managed to get his fingertips to an airy drive off Akram. Tendulkar, then on 32, needed no second invitation.

In less than 15 overs, the Pak trio was reduced to rubble. Soon after that, Tendulkar had started to limp with the hamstring problem with the team score at 126 for two but continued to battle hard till the 28th over - till he could do without a runner. But during those overs, it hardly limited his sweet timing and footwork and the catalogue of wonderful strokeplay continued.

Sachin's trademark straight drive off Abdur Razzaq, just after reaching his half-century had eloquent testimony of his imperious form and there was no stopping the master.

During those 120-minute stay at the crease, Tendulkar bewitched a capacity crowd and sent his adoring supporters into ecstasy. By the time he got out two shot of a century, caught at backward point to a short ball from Akhtar, the damage had been done. After him, Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh ensured that India retained their stranglehold.

In all, it was a savage demonstration of power and grace that gave Indian team a ticket to Super Sixes with enough backup points for them to already be thinking of a spot in the semi-finals and traversed a journey strewn with thorns to the blooming flowers.

During the 98-run masterpiece, he wrote another chapter in the record books crossing 12,000 runs in One-Day Internationals.

Not to forget Tendulkar's half-century against England that could easily stand alongside any of the grand centuries hit in the first three weeks of the World Cup.

Finally, 13 matches were played in the third week that saw some stunning individual performances with bat and the ball. Ashish Nehra's six-wicket burst at Durban against England came very close to taking the honours but in the end Sachin's consistency in the Cup and bringing Indian team back from the brink made him my player of the week.

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First Published: Mar 08, 2003 21:39 IST