Australia v India, 1st Test, MCG, 2nd day December 27, 2011

Tendulkar's promise of a glorious summer

Sachin Tendulkar batted with fluency and control to help India break the trend of batting failures that had blighted their start to overseas tours in recent times
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Just before tea on day two of the Boxing Day Test at the MCG. James Pattinson and Ben Hilfenhaus had bowled with serious pace and menace. Pattinson in particular. Rahul Dravid had struggled, but he had hung on. Virender Sehwag had sizzled, but he had been bowled. Every head at the stadium, all 52,858 of them, plus the others working on the match, turned towards the change rooms. There was a delay of about 30 seconds before they saw Sachin Tendulkar, and gave him a reception to rival Ricky Ponting's.

The second ball Tendulkar faced he inside-edged. Safe. A sigh. Michael Clarke brought on Michael Hussey to bowl the last over before the break. Tendulkar was playing to block out this over, and Hussey's slow-mediums could be dangerous. He has a history with those. He bat-padded, but it didn't carry to a fielder. Another sigh. The MCG was abuzz. Australia could sense they were back into this one. Dravid had not been at his best; he was just clinging on. Tendulkar had made an iffy start. India were still 214 behind.

Many times before this, sides have come back immediately after a Sehwag dismissal. It's just the change of tempo that is huge, which leaves an opening for bowling sides. India needed somebody to take charge of the situation. The tea break arrived at the right time. Twenty minutes later, Clarke went to home boy Peter Siddle. The first ball was a bouncer, over the stumps. Tendulkar arched back, for there was no room. He had to use the wrists to make up for the lack of room. He did. And he guided it over slip.

If this were a cricket documentary, I would tell you the rest of the story - at least a major part of it - through an almost fast-forward video of one shot merging into another: another cut behind square, a drive on a bent knee, an on-the-up drive through extra cover, a punch straight down the ground, a glance off the pads, a slog-sweep placed expertly in front of deep backward square, another upper-cut for four.

It all happened that fast. Yet it wasn't an awe-inspiring Sehwag fast. You could savour this. Usually when batsmen score this fast in a Test - he was 54 off 62 at one stage - the bowler's faces tell a story. Here the story was happening at the batsman's end. There was the class, there was the innovation. There was the high elbow, there was the arched back. There was the glorious sun that wouldn't set till quarter to nine. During that period it seemed he couldn't find fielders even if he tried to.

India had well and truly taken charge. Dravid was allowed the space to struggle, and hasn't he earned it after a fabulous year? Test cricket, though, doesn't go at the same pace all the time. Clarke finally found some control on proceedings through Lyon, David Warner and deeper fields. Tendulkar settled down too. Not in a playing-for-stumps sort of way, but in a long-innings sort of way. The singles were on offer; he kept taking them.

Inevitably the talk of the hundredth hundred reached fever pitch. Not that there hasn't been talk. There has been talk all through the year. There has been talk it plays on his mind. However, if you had been deprived of cricket all year long and if you were dropped in at the MCG today, you wouldn't have guessed the man had scored 99 international hundreds, had been stuck there for nine months, had been out in 90s twice, and came from a country that could think of little else.

Tendulkar here was setting the tone for the summer; if the hundredth was on his mind, it didn't show. India's last four tours have all begun with batting failures; he was trying to make sure this one wasn't going to. He knew Dravid was having an off day, and it's only a few like Dravid who come out of such off days unconquered, but if Tendulkar hadn't scored that fast from the other end Australia could have cornered India.

Tendulkar fell to a superb spell of bowling, when two Victorians, Peter Siddle and Pattinson, chugged in for another spell of testing fast deliveries in front of their home crowd, just before stumps. He left India needing another brief period of recovery if they needed to take full control. That was the imperfection in an otherwise perfect innings. But four years after every Australian ground had bid him farewell, he also made us a promise of another glorious summer.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • narahamanithan on December 30, 2011, 6:07 GMT

    @riteshabbi:Why are you thinking that ,Sachin should score his hundredth hundred.....See it is not a matter for Sachin tendulkar .For Sachin,his thought is always to help his team to go high...He never thought of scoring hundreds of hundred.He is playing well and executing that it to hundreds and sometimes it will be missing...One day that hundred will come on right time at right situation.....

  • riteshabbi on December 28, 2011, 7:33 GMT

    The hundredth hundred be damned!! I do not mind as long as Sachin keeps playing like this!! Wouldn't it be great if he scores hundred fifties?? He looks in sublime touch and it took a peach of a delivery to get rid of him!!

    Carry on Tendulkar and once again the hundredth hundred be damned!!

  • CricFan24 on December 28, 2011, 2:01 GMT

    @Mohammad Hoque. One of the best comments I have ever read on cricinfo. A batsman like Sachin comes along maybe once every 100 years. We are indeed a priveledged lot.

  • dummy4fb on December 28, 2011, 1:07 GMT

    What non sense, glorious summer and all that. All that he's looking for is his 100th ton. This is another disastrous tour for India, another white wash on the cards. Let's see what's the excuse from Dhoni this time

  • dummy4fb on December 28, 2011, 0:19 GMT

    How people say Sachin is not a great batsman. I mean you can't find another Indian who can be compared to Sachin. People say rahul dravid is this, Sehwag is this. Look at their carreer and see who they scored their runs. Sachin Has proven again and again he is the best against any kind of bowling.

  • dummy4fb on December 28, 2011, 0:01 GMT

    Rahul Dravid is one of the greatest batsman in test cricket history. I don't want to say anything about sachin. Whatever i will say it is nothing comparing his talent. All the adjectives of the dictionary is replaced by Sachin. For sachin, the word genius is out of the question. We are privileged that we can still watch his game. I hope Sachin will make 100 century in the test series. I also deeply want Sachin would also play oneday series in Australia. If he would play oneday he would have very good chance to complete 50 century in oneday

  • dummy4fb on December 27, 2011, 23:24 GMT

    Excellent writeup by Sidharth Monga!

    I wish to quote Monga's description of Sachin Tendulkar's batting:" Tendulkar here was setting the tone for the summer; if the hundredth was on his mind, it didn't show. India's last four tours have all begun with batting failures; he was trying to make sure this one wasn't going to. He knew Dravid was having an off day. Iif Tendulkar hadn't scored that fast from the other end Australia could have cornered India."

    Tendulkar fell to a superb spell of bowling, when two Victorians, Peter Siddle and Pattinson, chugged in for another spell of testing fast deliveries in front of their home crowd, just before stumps. He left India needing another brief period of recovery if they needed to take full control. That was the imperfection in an otherwise perfect innings. But four years after every Australian ground had bid him farewell, he also made us a promise of another glorious summer.

  • cricket_vijay on December 27, 2011, 23:01 GMT

    Good article. Why are we saying Dravid was struggling? That is his style. He deliberately makes it look like he was beaten and the bowler keep bowling harder and harder and get tired :) I am waiting for Dravid's book after he retires in another 20 years. I am couple years older than Dravid and Sachin, if these two guys and VVS retires, I am going to retire from watching cricket..

  • satishsasikumar on December 27, 2011, 22:43 GMT

    Personally, I think Sachin is the complete batsman of the modern times and his innings yesterday showed his class..I hope the tons to come from his blade will certainly be a treat to watch (without shaky starts and half chances in between). Indians will realize the worth of Sachin, Rahul and Laxman after they retire. After reading some of the posts, cricket fans from other nationalities realize the worth of what we fortunately have in our team more than some overly critical Indians...

  • happycric on December 27, 2011, 22:35 GMT

    it was another fluent inning by tendulkar, unlike ponting or dravid who scored runs but struggled through out their first inning. i am happy dravid is still batting and i hope India will put a big total to put pressure on aussie. after shewag was out, frankly i thought india's run rate will slow down and match will turn boring as dravid would occupy most of the strike playing dot balls. dravid always impresses with his water tight defence however no matter what format of the game, it is boring to see dot balls. tendulkar's batting was fantastic and he looked out of this world. when a player like dravid had difficulty to take a single run, tendulkar was freely scoring 4s and 6s. that was magical.

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