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Tendulkar: A legend is born

Former India captain Chandu Borde managed the last Indian team to tour Pakistan for a full Test series in 1989-90, writes Chandu Borde.

india Updated: Mar 13, 2004 21:01 IST

Former India captain Chandu Borde managed the last Indian team to tour Pakistan for a full Test series in 1989-90. On the tour, he witnessed the Test debut of the 16 year-old Sachin Tendulkar and his transformation from a prodigiously talented youngster to a champion who fought when the chips were down. It was the series when a legend was born.

Even as we boarded the plane to Pakistan for the 1989-90 tour, the near-unanimous view of the cricket pundits was that we would lose 0-4. Pakistan had a fierce fast bowling attack comprising Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Imran himself. They were ably supported by the leg-spinner Abdul Qadir, and Javed Miandad was at his peak. All in all, it was a formidable team we were up against.

Our team was a mixture of experience and youth. The senior players like Srikkanth, Kapil and Shastri were complemented by youngsters like Vivek Razdan, Salil Ankola and the 16 year-old wonderboy Sachin Tendulkar. Contrary to expectations, we drew the first three Tests played at Karachi, Faisalabad and Lahore.

Imran, who had fancied his chances of thrashing us comprehensively, was furious and determined to win the last Test at Sialkot at any cost. The hosts deliberately prepared a bouncy and grassy wicket. Believe it or not, there was so much grass on the pitch that the umpires JW Holder and JH Hampshire asked the groundsman to show them the pitch!

There were no five-star hotels in Sialkot and the team was housed in a three-story building. The rooms were very small and only one player could be accommodated in a room. Sachin's room was on the first floor and mine was on the ground floor, exactly below his. At about 10 p.m. on the night before the game, I heard a sound from Sachin's room and immediately went to check if he was OK. I knocked on the door and Sachin instantly opened it with a bat in hand. He was honest enough to tell me that he had never slept alone and was therefore feeling a little uncomfortable. As he was not getting any sleep, he had been standing in front of the mirror and working on his backlift and follow-through. His dedication to his craft was pretty obvious. I patted him on the shoulder and told him that he could knock on my door if he needed anything. I really don't know whether he managed to sleep that night.

Imran won the toss and as expected, put us in to bat. I am sure that every batsman, young or old, would have dreamt of doing well on that wicket against Pakistan's pace bowlers.

The ball was swinging and rearing off the pitch at alarming pace, but our players fought valiantly and we scored 324 in the first innings. Sachin scored 35. Kapil, Manoj and Vivek Razdan then bowled extremely well and we were able to secure a lead of 74. This dented the pride of the Pakistanis and they came out with a vengeance in the second innings. In no time, our top-order batsmen were in the pavilion and Sachin, then batting at no. 6, made his way to the middle, the hopes of the team resting on his shoulders.

He was not affected by anything, be it the pressure exerted by the fielders who had surrounded him or the pace of the fast bowlers. Suddenly, Waqar Younis bowled a nasty short delivery that hit him square on the nose. His helmet tilted a bit and blood came streaming down. It was a difficult situation for us. While we did not want to expose him to further danger, at the same time, our precarious position would have worsened had he retired hurt. But for Sachin, the second option did not exist. After taking some first-aid, he settled back into his stance and cover-drove the first ball he received for four. This was followed by ferocious square-cuts and sizzling cover-drives. He did not flinch from the short-pitched deliveries and scored a gutsy 57 to save the match for us. Leading the applause at the end of it all were the Pakistani players!

That innings left me in no doubt that India had found a gem who would serve the nation for many years to come. Indeed, the Sialkot Test of the 1989-90 series witnessed the birth of a legend.

First Published: Mar 13, 2004 21:01 IST