April 2, 2013

Australia in India 2000-01

Tendulkar's revenge

Mahesh Sethuraman
Glen McGrath and Sachin Tendulkar continued their duel into the ODI series  © Getty Images

I am going to continue from where I had left off in the last piece and complete my trilogy (of sorts) on the 2001 series.

In the final Test at Chennai, India got off to a solid start in response to Australia's first innings score of 391. With the score at 211 for 2, Sachin Tendulkar came out to face Glenn McGrath, who was working up appreciable reverse swing with a slightly older ball, and marked his usual leg stump guard. McGrath had just accounted for SS Das with the first ball of the third day, a sharp incoming delivery. Sensing the context of the match, Tendulkar started off cautiously and played out the McGrath spell.

By the time he came back for his next spell, Tendulkar had just about started opening up and played a majestic cover drive off McGrath. Strangely, McGrath was taken out of the attack after a mini, four-over spell immediately after lunch, in which he took the wicket of Ganguly. Once Tendulkar opened up, he was in scintillating touch. There was a glorious square drive off Jason Gillespie, a conventional sweep for six off Colin Miller and many varieties of paddle sweeps (some of them should be called reverse straight drives) against Shane Warne and Miller.

With the series hanging in the balance and Tendulkar, along with Rahul Dravid, dragging the match away from the grasp of Australia, McGrath was brought back into the attack. After having little success with his probing line, McGrath attempted a string of bouncers against Tendulkar, and when he refused to take the bait, McGrath engaged in a bit of a verbal duel, chiding Tendulkar to take him on and go for the hook shot.

This is the mighty Tendulkar, already being hailed as next only to the Don. He is being provoked by the guy who had him worked out in just the previous match. He is in sublime form here, and was already batting on 72. He could have got out and it wouldn't be considered a failure. He could have taken on the most potent bouncer in the game and stamped his legend.

The id was suppressed, and the super-ego prevailed.

As Tendulkar had said before, a contest is not always won by belting a bowler out of the attack. Playing out a probing spell to set you up for a big innings is perhaps a bigger success.

"He knew his odds against the meanest bouncer in the game and understood the cost of a mistake. Yet, he didn't let the incident completely perish from his mind, biding his time until the odds turned in his favour"

He played out the McGrath spell, put on a show against the rest, and reached his hundred with a six over long-on off Miller. Individually against McGrath, he played 42 balls across three spells, with two majestic cover drives, a couple and two singles. Overall, he scored 126 and set up the match and the series for India.

But the subplot didn't quite end there. When stripped of the larger context, and with no series at stake, Tendulkar was at a greater liberty to take on McGrath in Bangalore in the first ODI that followed the Test series.

McGrath, with his unique short strides that aided his exaggerated carry, runs into bowl the first ball of the seventh over, pitches it on just short of a length angling in from outside off. Tendulkar, who had been off to a quiet start till then, picks the length up so early that it is as if he had been waiting for that particular delivery, as if he had a mental map of the length he will take McGrath on, shuffles across a tad and, with nearly no weight transfer, launches it over midwicket for six. Brutal.

Was it great anticipation or gifted vision?

This particular shot may be a great exhibition of Tendulkar's batting prowess, but that's not all. It's also a fine testimony to his mental strength and gambler's instinct. On a bigger stage, with a crucial Test series on the line, Tendulkar resisted the urge to establish his supremacy in the individual battle. He knew his odds against the meanest bouncer in the game, and understood the cost of a mistake in that context. Yet, he didn't let the incident completely perish from his mind. He was biding his time until the odds turned in his favour and, when they did, he stamped his class.

As if that wasn't statement enough, Tendulkar followed it up with a beautiful on-the-rise cover drive off a slightly fuller ball. And when McGrath bowled an even fuller delivery, Tendulkar unfurled the most pristine cover drive off the front foot, which left McGrath trying to mime the shot on his way back.

The mini-duel started with a chide to play the pull shot, and ended with a mime of a cover drive.

When he's not watching / talking / tweeting / reading cricket, Mahesh Sethuraman works in a bank in India to pay his bills. He tweets @cornerd

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Keywords: Nostalgia

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Posted by vsssarma on (April 6, 2013, 3:35 GMT)

McGrath and Sachin played 4 test match series together. Their relative performances in these 4 series are as under:

Batting: Tendulkar 602; McGrath 81

Bowling: Tendulkar 95; McGrath 784

Fielding: Tendulkar 111; McGrath 183

Overall: Tendulkar 698; McGrath 697

They competed with each other aggressively and came out evenly.

Posted by Arrow011 on (April 5, 2013, 5:18 GMT)

@-Praveen Arasada - Rightly replied, people just want to comment for the sake of it. All the sane world hails Sachin as the greatest including Akram & Miandad of pak who have played against him but the odd insane people have their logic of comparing the tortoise Inzamam.

Posted by Arrow011 on (April 5, 2013, 5:14 GMT)

@getsetgopk - Pakistan has always been belted in neutral territory. How do you consistently forget that Pak lost in 1992 World cup against India, Tendulkar as a 19 years old won the match for India when imran, akram, mushtaq were in team, do you remember Jumping javed incident? Tendulkar is a great, only insane people will have different opinions. Pakistan a great cricket nation from 1989-99? Get your facts right, despite this they never won in a World cup match till now from 1975, what greatness with lopsided home umpires?

Posted by getsetgopk on (April 4, 2013, 11:40 GMT)

@pitch_curator: Tendulkar getting old and having slow reactions is understandable but Bhajji getting old and having slow reaction? is not understandable. Both of them have performed well against Auss but thats about it. The team that others use as a yard stick to measure themselves against has always been Pak especially in sub continental conditions but it sounds hollow to cricket fans like myself when people start referring to tendulkar as 'great' when he didn't play against Pakistan from 1989 to 1999, the decade when we had one of the most lethal bowling attacks ever known. 1 billion people saying that someone is great doesn't make him great if you ask me, what makes them great is when they take the field against the very best and perform! We have never walked away from a contest, its always been India playing hide and seek when it comes to cricket. Even in that hide and seek, he averages 42 against Pak, thats as pathetic as it gets for a team whose bowling attack is non existent.

Posted by pitch_curator on (April 4, 2013, 9:31 GMT)

Overall I still think McGrath shades Sachin in head to head. It is a pity that they did not have many duels in the late 90s when both of them were at their peak. McGrath is not an easy guy to go after especially in the initial overs. He has to be probably the most intelligent/thinking fast bowler of all times. Steyn is equally talented and quicker but he gets tonked once in a while in ODIs as he does not seem to think and bowls to a set plan. He has no answers when the ball stops swinging and batsman starts attacking him ODIs and T20s. McGrath was simply awesome.

Posted by ms_blue on (April 4, 2013, 6:29 GMT)

jeeze dat pull of Mcgrath was jst jaw dropping...2 anticipate & pick d length early is gods gift 2 Sir Sachin...

Posted by pitch_curator on (April 4, 2013, 5:46 GMT)

@ aarifboy -- What a ridiculous comment. Fact of the matter is that Sachin and Bhajji have become old and their reactions have gone down. That is the reason for their poor performance in recent times. This neutral umpire thing is a joke. Sachin did not have any Indian umpires accompanying him in overseas tours. Then how did he score so many runs abroad till 2011? Were there Indian umpires in 92, 99 and 2003 when he scored those runs in Australia?

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Mahesh Sethuraman
Mahesh aspired to be India's answer to Michael Holding. That aspiration still lingers, 15 years hence. IPL franchises looking to make a millionaire out of an innocuous bowler as part of their corporate social responsibility may reach him @cornerd. When he's not watching / talking / tweeting / reading cricket, he works in a bank in India to pay his bills.

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