'One of my best' - Tendulkar
The game plan worked to perfection for Sachin Tendulkar
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The glow on Sachin Tendulkar's face was worth going miles to see. It was a few minutes after he had come off the batting crease and he was being interviewed on the field by the ESPN-Star team from the studio. Compliments were pouring in from Wasim Akram and Geoff Boycott, and Tendulkar could not stop smiling while responding with Thank Yous. It was a smile you could recognise easily and identify with. It came from his soul, the horrors had been banished. "I am very satisfied," he said.
"I just decided to keep things simple," Tendulkar said when asked at the press conference later if had decided on a game plan. The feature of his innings was a scrupulous denial of scoring options between the arc of mid-off and point. He refused to be baited by balls bowled outside his off stump, biding his time as VVS Laxman uncorked his magic, working the percentages and taking full toll of anything pitched on his legs.
"I had got out a couple of times to balls bowled outside the off stump," he said, "so I decided not to play that stroke (the cover-drive). They were bowling consistently outside the off stump, and I decided to leave all those balls. Then they had to bowl to me and I used the pace of the ball.
"I would put this innings right at the top of my hundreds. I had a plan and I am happy I could execute it well. I am happy that I was able to maintain the discipline throughout the innings. Things had gone wrong a couple of times with my shot selection, and I knew I had to cut out a few strokes."
Though he was anxious to get among big runs, Tendulkar said he hadn't felt out of form during the series. "It's not that I was not batting well, it was just that I was getting out to that one ball. Other times, you would just get beaten, but I was nicking them."
Tendulkar said that he had discussed his batting with the senior players and John Wright and they had all assured him there had been nothing wrong with the way he was batting. "I had a chat with Laxman too. It's good to get a view from the non-striker because even though you might feel that you are batting well, your partner might have noticed some things you haven't."
The last year, he conceded, hadn't been a good one. Did he despair to see his challengers, Hayden, Ponting, Lara, scoring so many runs while he wasn't? "I don't need to think about what the others are doing," he replied, "I have to see how I can contribute to the team cause. I am happy to have been able to do that here."