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March 16, 2005
For a man who was on the threshold of scoring 10000 runs in both forms of the game, Sachin Tendulkar looked remarkably subdued when he first came out to bat. Virender Sehwag had already brutalised the Pakistan attack, and was especially severe on Danish Kaneria, the bowler who posed the most problems for India in the first the first Test. The score was 156 for 1 from just 38.3 overs and the stage was perfectly set for Tendulkar to take full toll. And yet, he could not score off the first 18 balls he faced.
When he did get moving, though, it was a delectable cover-drive, crunched magnificently off the quick legspin of Shahid Afridi. A repeat of that shot came soon after, as if to prove the first was no freak occurrence, and then suddenly the shutters came down again. For a time it appeared that Tendulkar was fighting a tough battle, but not against Pakistan's bowlers, or even the conditions. It was the milestones that beckoned - the 10000th Test run, and the 35th Test hundred - that were creating confusion in his mind about how freely to bat.
Tendulkar insisted it was nothing of the sort. "It's not all about getting to 35 hundreds," he told reporters at the end of the day. "There is more to cricket and life than that. If I keep on thinking about it, it will never happen. I will go out and try as hard as I have been for the last 15 years, and if it happens, it will be a great feeling, for sure. My aim is to go out and score a hundred in each and every innings, but that doesn't happen all the time, does it?"
It certainly doesn't happen every time, and there are days when Tendulkar, for all his abundant gifts, has had to tough it out, buckle down and search for the runs. Today, as he neared the target of 27 needed to get to 10000 runs, the countdown began on the electronic scoreboard, and this set the crowd off, chearing and slow-hand-clapping. Bemused, Tendulkar walked up to Dravid. "There was a lot of noise and Sachin came to me and asked, `What's happening?' He knew basically that he was close to 10000, but not exactly how close," Dravid revealed at the end of the day. "I think he was at 9998 at that stage, and I told him, `2 more to go, but 15,000 is the real target'."
In that sense the Eden Gardens provided a fitting stage for a feat that would set Tendulkar alongside Allan Border, Sunil Gavaskar, Steve Waugh and Brian Lara in the 10000-club. "The Eden is a special spot. I'd have been very happy to have got 10,000 anywhere, but the crowd response here is quite different, so it was good to get it here," Tendulkar said, and displayed refreshing humility at being in that elite bracket. "They are all in a different league altogether, those names, and it's nice to join that club."
But, the greatest run-accumulator the game has seen since Sir Don Bradman did not see passing 10000 as an end in itself. "It's a reflection of the type of cricket I have played all these years," he said - and there was not a person in the room who could disagree. Perhaps there are a few who wish he would show more of his old self, the daring destroyer of attacks. And that may well come when the next milestone falls. For, after getting to 10000 runs, Tendulkar's range of strokes, even in his innings of 52, increased appreciably. The cut was aggressive and dominating once more, the drive booming, and importantly, the restrictive line from the legspinner outside the leg stump was not kicked away. It was paddle-swept so fine that the ball eventually ended up crossing the ropes closer to third man than fine-leg. That was a sign that Tendulkar was back in the hunt for runs, and not merely safeguarding his wicket till a milestone went by.
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