2008 : A genius takes his 39th stepHarsha Apr 17th, 2016
On a day on which the newest kid on the block produced astronomical levels of bidding, the seniormost player in the game today produced the perfect Test match century. In doing so he reminded us why every form of the game is special and needs to be nurtured. Tendulkar’s century wasn’t the most breathtaking, the most strokeful or crafted in the most dire situation. Yet it was special because it was built like a fine mason would the perfect structure. It was an innings that lovers of Test match cricket would savour like, I am told, connoisseurs of single malt would their drink.
After a while, Tendulkar said, every ball went where he wanted it to. It is a feeling of power and control and visits only those with an exceptional presence. And in a striking co-incidence it brought to mind a clip from Bradman that I heard at the Annual Oration in Perth. When asked about a specific innings Bradman paused and let loose a chuckle. “Every ball in that innings,” he said, and you could feel the delight in his voice as he said it, “went precisely where I wanted it to.” Is that what turns on the masters? That supreme, exalted height from which the world appears as they wish it to? Is that how Borg felt at the baseline? Woods on the final nine? Jordan as he released the basketball knowing it would find its target before the clock stopped?
And so, after all that happened in Sydney, after the us and them, the accusations and the aggression, after new definitions of fair play and the spirit of the game had appeared, it is moments like these that I will remember this series by. Australia and Tendulkar have struck a relationship that time cannot diminish. He gets up from his chair and, to a man, ah well, to a person, Australia stands. If he scores a hundred they stand but if he gets out cheaply and returns to the pavilion they stand too. This acknowledgement of greatness with no seeming concern for nationality has been one of the most moving sporting experiences of my life. Australians like sport, they want their team to win, but with Tendulkar, as with Lara, they have kept the essence of sport alive. And Tendulkar said today that he was moved too. Anyone would be. To be accepted in distant lands, with love and warmth, is a feeling that has no equal.
For all the apparent machismo and the aggro, Australia likes its heroes to be simple, unassuming men. For the Australia you see through newspapers and television isn’t the only Australia. “Humble” is a word that keeps appearing all the time. They like Tendulkar and Laxman and Dravid and Kumble because they are competitors and they are humble and make no mistake, this has been an extremely popular Indian side here. Cricket may have driven two nations apart for a while but cricket will, and indeed has, brought them together.
And so Tendulkar has now taken the thirty ninth step, not quite in Hitchcockian style but more in the manner of a modern sweeping epic. He now has eighty international hundreds and that is a number to be gasped at. Not just looked at, not just admired, but gasped at! Briefly, the nineties threatened to derail the century making spree but that hurdle too was passed; first in the mind and then, inevitably, on the ground. When you play as long as Tendulkar has, you experience everything. The perfection of this innings as much as the frustration of some others and the sheer audacity of many more.
Here in Adelaide, where he first batted at number four in a Test innings, he averaged a miserly twenty. That has been rectified, not by a vengeance filled story, but by accepting the conditions and the quality of the bowling; by seeing out the odd storm, by respecting Lee when he bowled superbly and by taking on lesser bowling as soon as the opportunity arose. When the time wasn’t right for merry strokemaking, he paused, for like the markets times can change in sport as well. When the storm passed, he make a quick killing and in doing so showed that his feet can still take him down the wicket like they did when even the great Warne was faced with a dilemma on where to bowl.
Yes, it’s been good, the cricket. Tendulkar has moved us but so has the respect he has been shown. May it always be that way in sport.
Published: January 25, 2008
Pic Source: Sachintest100sblogspot