Sri Lanka v India, Compaq Cup final, Colombo September 14, 2009

The old rush

Sachin Tendulkar's 134 in Sharjah in 1998 set the bar for his centuries in a one-day final, but damned if today's effort doesn't at least nip at its skirts
58

Sachin Tendulkar's 134 in Sharjah in 1998 set the bar for his centuries in one-day finals, but damned if today's effort doesn't at least nip at its skirts. The biggest performers - and few come any bigger than Tendulkar - invariably deliver on the big occasion and today, with India looking to snap a run of five straight completed finals defeats to Sri Lanka, Tendulkar dazzled. When Tendulkar bats like he did today, he is as irresistible as he is artistic, and you can only sit back and enjoy it.

He had got starts in the previous two games, but India's decision to send Dinesh Karthik to open meant Tendulkar was under pressure from ball one. When Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid walked out today, there was a tinge of the 1990s solidity. As it panned out, the innings that followed harked back to the Tendulkar of yore. Dravid, for long India's most technically sound batsman, allowed Tendulkar to play his game. They did their job efficiently, taking the shine off the new ball, wearing down the quick bowlers, denying Ajantha Mendis a wicket, and paving the way for the batsmen to follow.

From the first ball Tendulkar faced, when he stood tall and punched Thilan Thushara wide of mid-off, he oozed confidence. Batting wasn't too difficult in the first ten overs against a tidy bowling attack on a flat track, but he was intent on sticking around. This wasn't the kind of pitch to chase the ball and apart from one delivery that he flashed at and edged for four, Tendulkar was patient. A couple of deliveries beat the outside edge; he bided his time and then pushed Nuwan Kulasekara superbly through the covers for four. It helped that the opening bowlers didn't pitch the ball up enough, and when Kulasekara did, Tendulkar drove past extra cover and clipped past midwicket.

Between overs, Tendulkar twirled his left arm and tapped the track. These were the moments needed to gather his thoughts. Significantly, he drew on all his experience to upset the bowlers, especially when they tried something different. Thilan Thushara veered his line to just outside off stump, and Tendulkar forced the ball through the off side for four. Lasith Malinga bowled a couple of testing deliveries, but when he held back the length marginally, Tendulkar glided back and forced the ball through the covers. Tendulkar judged the line flawlessly and was lissome with his footwork as he turned length deliveries away at precisely the right moment. His cover and square-driving were of the highest quality: the balance was perfect, the weight transfer faultless and the ball seldom hit in the air.

On a surface where other batsmen often failed to work the ball off the square, Tendulkar's fluency was astounding. He struck the ball with grace, either when going back or working it across the line. Deliveries pitched on a length were turned through midwicket and square leg, others back of a length were crisply steered between cover and point.

As the ball got old in the middle overs, Tendulkar and MS Dhoni found the gaps and rotated the strike. Dhoni complemented Tendulkar beautifully, and the two denied Sri Lanka any wriggle room. On 87, Tendulkar waltzed out and drove Mendis over extra cover for four. A punch off Mendis past mid-off took him to 99, and a single pinched through cover took Tendulkar to three figures for the 44th time. A raise of the arms, a wave of the bat to the dressing room, a lingering look at the heavens and a hug from Dhoni followed, and then he marked his guard again.

Dhoni tried to up the tempo in the batting Powerplay and fell for 56. Here Tendulkar's batting shifted down a gear as he batted with cramps, using Dravid as a runner, but he was no less determined. His strike-rate slowed down as he worked the ball around to get Yuvraj Singh on strike, yet the shot selection was impeccable. Seemingly invigorated by not having to run, Tendulkar launched an onslaught against Mendis in the 45th over, when in three successive deliveries he smote a six over extra cover - the high elbow said much about the strength needed to execute the shot - and reverse-swept fours. He fell attempting another, but his work allowed Yuvraj to smack a belligerent half-century that helped India set an unachievable target at this venue under lights, despite Thilina Kandamby's bravado.

The last time India played a final here it appeared they had forgotten how to play like a half-decent team. Today they took a massive step toward, freeing themselves from a spectre that had haunted them for too long. In Tendulkar - who has now scored nine international centuries and seven 90s since May 2007 - India have a batsman showing no signs of slowing down. With the Champions Trophy next week and the World Cup in 2011, this becomes especially relevant.

Jamie Alter is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Shobhit308 on September 16, 2009, 15:59 GMT

    I have grown up watching Sachin play and am one of his biggest fans( though would take the liberty of qualifying myself as a 'rational 'one). For all the million great things he has done, his primary failing has been the fact that he has let himself get bogged down by situations & expectations. Once he became the mainstay of Indian batting - post the initial 3-4 years of his career, he started taking the line 'all on me' a bit too seriously...the absence of any consistent fallback player contributed to the same - this refers to the period between Azharruddin ( who was scratchy in his last few years) and the prominence of Ganguly,Dravid,Laxman. I think this induced 'self-reliance' coupled with his hyper attachment to the cause ( to India's winning) explains some of his failings in crunch situations as well as a not too good record as a captain. The antithesis of Sachin is Sehwag's 'situation-free' approach. No one is perfect but lets admire a gem who has given us so much joy. Cheers

  • NKSUDHIR on September 16, 2009, 14:32 GMT

    Thanks for a brilliant article for a brilliant MASTER BLASTER. There are not enough words to praise Sachin's excellence and class!!! As many of his fans said, we are just lucky to watch Sachin play in this era. Lots of Best Wishes for Sachin for Champoin's Trophy!!! And for some jealous Cricket Watchers: Sachin is a Run Machine, Fun Machine and Winning Machine, All In One!!! Great Going Sachin!!!

  • Sreerang on September 16, 2009, 13:39 GMT

    Ya Jeet, just go back a year & more to Australia - The commonwealth Finals -best of 3 against Australia- India won because of excellent starts by Tendulkar. In the 1st final while chasing, Sachin scored 117 not out and 2nd final batting first he scored 91. But am sure the likes of you are never convinced!

  • maninblue09 on September 16, 2009, 13:20 GMT

    I think one (@ ratedstfu44) should get their fact rechecked before pointing finger at Sachin. For the fact He has 59 MOM in 428 matches against Ponting's 29/317 and Lara's 30/299 and he also has 14 MOS against Ponting's 5 and Lara's 4, nothing to compare .. nothing to prove. Moerever we love him not because he's got all these records, but because of his batting class gives us real pleasure of cricket batting, his actions in the cricket filed have been unquestionable... We are just fortunate to see him in our era.

  • rishabh.raj09 on September 16, 2009, 13:12 GMT

    hello everyone..first of all many congratulations to my idol and the "GOD OF CRICKET" for such a beautiful innings..he is indeed the best batsmen to have played in any era for me by far..and now commenting on some baseless comments frm jeet19800 and ratedstfu44..i am very sorry that they dont knw the game properly and dont follow it..the century which he scored in VB series final against australia was under lights and batting second as well..i hope u do remember..and i am not going too far to look for such an instance..then there is sharjah..2 instances in a row..and as far as pointing's knock is concerned..he scored century in ODI's after 18 months..and sachin has scored 7 centurys in past 18 months..thats just explains the amount of consistency this great player has in both form of games..which i am afraid no one can even try to match..Just dnt be jealous of his achievements and look for abnormalities in his performance..we r proud of such a gr8 batsmen..all hail "MASTER BLASTER"

  • Rohan1 on September 16, 2009, 12:56 GMT

    A very good article on cricinfo right now :"TENDULKARS FINAL ONSLAUGHT"...clearly shows why as Warney said it's "Tendulkar first , daylight second , and then the rest" !!!

  • SatyajitM on September 16, 2009, 9:44 GMT

    That is right ratedstfu44! Sachin plays only for himself. That's why he got only 8 MOM in 38 finals @55.5. Lara the match winner has a grand average of 28 in ODI finals (not sure if he got any MOM in ODI finals). Also, Sachin never played well chasing under pressure (you see WC03 match against Pakistan chasing 274 was a highly low pressure game).

  • SatyajitM on September 16, 2009, 9:08 GMT

    Interesting comment from jeet19800, who "loves Tendulkar as much as as any indian do" :-) But couldn't see much good in the 138 scored by Sachin. So what it was played in a final.Hoever, Ponting's innings was excellent (I don't doubt that myself) which was played under tremendous pressure Australia being 4-0 up and already won the bialateral tournament ;-)

  • SatyajitM on September 16, 2009, 8:59 GMT

    Interesting comment from jeet19800, who "loves Tendulkar as much as as any indian do" :-) But couldn't see much good in the 138 scored by Sachin. So what it was played in a final.Hoever, Ponting's innings was excellent (I don't doubt that myself) which was played under tremendous pressure Australia being 4-0 up and already won the bialateral tournament ;-)

  • kamal-perera on September 16, 2009, 8:52 GMT

    sachin is always a good player and he played superbly in the final match.sri lankan umpire ashoka de silva refused a lbw shout of yuvraj singh when he was in 2 or something near(bowling of ajantha mendis).there wasn't any clear reason to refuse that.that's make a big difference in the match and he has got quick 56 runs.if umpire got the correct decision sri lanka could have won the match.but sri lanka never lost like indians.just from 46 runs.india slip down to no3 spot from no1 spot within 24 hours.it is a good achievement of sri lanka.

  • No featured comments at the moment.