1990 : The 1st Century

Harsha Apr 17th, 2016

OLD TRAFFORD, August 14, 1990

Long after the Old Trafford Test match becomes just another page in Wisden, the memory of a charming, almost embarrassed young man receiving the Man of the Match will linger. Sachin Tendulkar will score many, many, more hundreds for India, but the freshness of this one will never fade.

“I was there,” the spectators will say forever & what a tragedy there were only 1778 of them. Never was it more truly said that the loss was entirely theirs.

They say romantics never win; that they dazzle and depart leaving great tragedies behind them. Sachin Tendulkar proved them wrong with a hundred of such romance, that the heart allowed itself to soak it in; the throat allowed a lump to form and an unknown force picked the sprinkling of spectators and brought them to their feet.

If Sachin (pardon the use of the first name) had inherited his father’s love for literature, he could not have a written a better script. The heart went out to his brother Ajit, fiddling nervously with the radio, no doubt. After the Lord’s Test, he had blamed his presence for Sachin’s failure since the boy had done no wrong till then.  He would have been proud to see his little protégé come of age, and do his country proud so many thousand miles away from that hallowed playing field called Shivaji Park.

Tendulkar walked in at 109 for 4, having just seen Manjrekar and Vengsarkar depart at the same score.  Twenty minutes later, he saw his captain, on whom India have depended so much, edge into the leg trap.

Only once did he waver. When the need was for caution, he opted for adventure but Hemming’s weary hands, that seemed destined to spin England to victory, let him down.

Thereafter, Tendulkar was the master of all he surveyed, his bandaged bat coming straight as a pendulum. When Hemmings bowled, he crouched and almost smelt the ball in a manner that would make his coach, Ramakant Achrekar (whom he later publicly thanked) proud. And when Fraser and Malcolm bowled, he stood upright as if he was ten feet tall.

As India inched along, and the prospect of saving the game appeared real after all, he rose in stature. “Softly, oh softly, we bear her along” Sarojini Naidu’s Palanquin Bearers had said. They would have sung in the same rhythm to see a young man carrying his side with the same feeling and care.

At Napier, the brashness of youth had cost him a hundred. Here too, the youthfulness was there, but only in a physique. Mentally, Tendulkar had matured more than most would in a lifetime, as he first reached his highest Test score and then a hundred.

His team-mates appeared on the balcony and as Tendulkar took his helmet off, one realised once again that the steely eyes had a strictly adolescent look behind them after all. There was no flailing of arms, no punching of fists, just a little smile and a raising of the bat.

 

For it was a hundred that was achieved and celebrated with poise & dignity. What a tragedy that while television can show one picture of youthful achievement, brash, cocky and irreverent in Andre Agassi, it cannot show another that would be a such a fitting model for teenagers.

The batting is clearly strained in the absence of a bowling attack, and is depending too heavily on Manjrekar and Azharuddin. Hopefully Old Trafford should change that for it was when Azhar got out, and the excitement of the England fielders showed it, that one thought the match was beyond redemption.

But come back to life it did. And as the covers were pulled on at Old Trafford, the sun had made a fleeting solitary appearance to bestow his blessings on Tendulkar and his innings became history, only memories remained.

They will take some erasing, those.

Originally published in the book: The Joy of a Lifetime- India’s tour of England 1990 by Harsha Bhogle.

Source: The Joy of a Lifetime- India’s tour of England 1990
Published: August 14, 1990
Pic Source: yahoo.com