December 13, 2001

Tendulkar: Scoring a hundred is always a good feeling

Sachin Tendulkar
When he stepped back and pulled Matthew Hoggard to the mid-wicket fence for a boundary, Sachin Tendulkar left Sir Gary Sobers behind in the swirling dust of Motera, Ahmedabad. The little master had just completed his 27th Test ton, passing Sobers (26) while drawing level with Allan Border and Steve Waugh. Only Sir Don Bradman (29) and Sunil Gavaskar (34) have more Test tons to their credit.

"Scoring a hundred is always a great feeling. Today it was under slightly different circumstances," began Tendulkar, speaking to pressmen at the end of the day's play.

Come to think of it, the circumstances were not all that different. India had lost early wickets, were under pressure and it was upto Tendulkar to save the day. "We had a lost a few early wickets and they had set a big target for us. 400 plus is always a tough ask. We basically wanted to get as close as possible to the target. In trying to do that I got a hundred," said Tendulkar, with a touch more humility than was absolutely necessary.

England have adopted what they call a 'restrictive' or 'defensive' strategy against the Indian batting great. Setting fields with eight men on the off side and a lone ranger on the on side might be construed as negative by some. Tendulkar however, has no complaints. "That's what Test cricket is all about. Every day and every innings you are not going to get the ball where you want. Sometimes the opposition works on your patience," he began. Having countered the strategy with first patience and then exceptional innovation, Tendulkar went on to add, "At other times you have to take calculated risks and make the opposition bowl to you."

At the end of the day however, it is a familiar scenario. The tenor saxophone of Tendulkar sends out strident notes; the Indian orchestra however, is discordant, flat and certainly not music to the ears. Still 131 runs behind England, India are nowhere near a safe position. "It is a bit of a disappointment that we made only 291. We would have loved to get closer to their total. Unfortunately it didn't happen. We have to pull up our socks and put up a better show," said Tendulkar.

Never one to point fingers at the failings of teammates, Tendulkar singled out the lack of partnerships as the main cause for India's less than convincing showing. "Except for my partnership with Laxman, we didn't have any big partnerships. Partnerships are so important in this game. Even England were 180/5, but they managed to put together a big partnership. That's where we lacked," observed the centurion.

Unusually, it was a spinner that tormented India. Ashley Giles, coming back to Test cricket after a long lay-off, bowled with great discipline for the best part and slipped in a few snorters to scalp 5/67.

Tendulkar had this to say about the left-arm spinner. "Ashley Giles is a very experienced campaigner. He has played a lot of seasons of cricket and is a good bowler - they are all good bowlers. He proved that today."

With three days gone and the wicket playing as true as a nun's word, India are on the mat. England have put themselves in a position from which it will take serious bungling to lose. Tendulkar realises this, and yet does not rule out the possibility of a strong Indian fightback.

"Cricket's a funny old game. You never know what is going to come up next. All we can do is try hard. England have played better than us so far and it is up to us to try and match them. We have to go out there, try harder and hope it clicks for us," said Tendulkar. Things certainly have not clicked for the Indians at Ahmedabad, and with due respect to the batting genius, it is not for want of trying.

Sachin Tendulkar
The Indians, by and large, did not have a gameplan to counter the line and length that English kept up, over after over. The abundant talent of Tendulkar was equal to the task, with Laxman (75) coming close, but no one else seemed comfortable out in the middle. Having started remarkably slowly, reaching just 37 in 114 balls, Tendulkar accelerated after lunch. Was this a planned? "It was not a conscious effort to go after the bowling soon after lunch. Those shots I played were not pre-planned as such. I picked up the line and length early and just backed myself."

The wicket itself is the source of great debate. What England have been able to achieve, with astute captaincy and bowlers delivering exactly what the captain orders, India have not. Once again it is the lack of a plan that comes to the surface. The script in the subcontinent - pile on the runs, put fielders close to the bat, let loose the spinners and let the wicket do the rest, has not been a reality in Motera.

"To be honest it's a good track to bat on. There's a bit of turn, but not much. Naturally it's going to get more difficult to bat on, on the fifth day," observed Tendulkar.

It will be most difficult to bat on, when India's turn comes around once more. The question really is, what total will they be after? That is something only Nasser Hussain and the fourth day's play can answer.