February 25, 2010

'Finish it, finish it'

Virender Sehwag, a man many believed would get to 200 before the master did, relives the innings of a lifetime

I am the superstitious kind: I never praise a shot because I fear the moment I do so, the batsman gets out. Till Sachin was on 190 in Gwalior, I was rooted in my seat in the dressing room. But when he got to 190, I couldn't contain myself. I came out and started cheering every stroke till he got to 200.

When he got to 180, I knew he was going to get it, but when he was in the 190s I was concerned. If I was in his place, I would have tried to finish it quickly, because the longer I take, the greater the possibility of me getting out. I would try to wrap it up in three or four balls.

Also, he was looking really tired: he had been clutching his right side and showing signs of cramping. So when I stepped out of my seat, I was just saying, "Finish it, finish it."

But Sachin is never in a hurry. He is a different kind of batsman - one who can rotate the strike with ease and understands there is no need to take any chances. Whenever I have been on the brink of landmarks (Melbourne in 2003, Multan 2004) he has instructed me to do this and do that. But those are things only he can do.

You might say, this is 200 - a figure no batsman in the history of the game has crossed - but then we are talking about Tendulkar. He looked calm and confident even when he was at the non-striker's end in those final moments. I knew he just needed one ball, and I also knew he would get the opportunity.

He had started the innings in a confident mood. As soon as he hit his first boundary, off the third ball of the second over, he walked up to me and said the pitch was full of runs and we only needed to time the ball. He told me not to think of boundaries or going after the bowler. He was right: throughout he picked the gaps and played the ball as he saw it. He was not thinking too much and that helped.

Ten years down the line if I am asked to pick a shot or two from his innings I would love to pick many. But the ones that were special to me were the cover drives off the back foot past extra cover, and the punch, once again on the back foot, past point, off Wayne Parnell. Another incredible shot was the straight six over Roelof van der Merwe's head. The left-arm spinner is a difficult one to get away, but Sachin was able to make the room and the energy to hit it clean over the sight screen.

It is not an easy summit for a batsman to conquer because he needs to possess a variety of attributes. In the past I mentioned on four or five occasions that Sachin had the capability to score a double-hundred in ODIs. I was confident only he could achieve such a feat only because of his experience and the kind of form he is in at the moment.

"I have seen him over the last decade and he is still improving with every match. I think he is in better form now than he was in 1998"

Importantly, he had the hunger and the patience to last for the entire 50 overs. You need to bat out the entire innings to score a double. And it is not so easy because it is not just about hitting boundaries; it is also rotating the strike. I knew if he had 150 balls, he could do it, and he did it in 147 deliveries.

I do not want to dwell here on my own batting, but in the past certain people have said I could have scored 200 in one-day cricket, because of my performances in Tests, where I have got near to a hundred before lunch. But I have had the tendency to take too many risks once I reach the 120 or 130-run mark in ODIs. That is difference between me and Sachin.

We have had chats about him scoring 200. He thought it was difficult, but I told him only he could do it. Last year in New Zealand, when he retired on 163 I told him he had missed the opportunity, but he said "Agar meri kismat mein hoga toh woh mil jayega [It will eventually happen if I am destined to do it]." He said the same when he got 175 against Australia last year. On Wednesday he said "Woh likha tha, toh mil gaya [I got what was destined]".

Back in 1998 everyone felt Sachin was in prime form. I was not in the Indian team then. But I have seen him over the last decade and he is still improving with every match, he is practising more than anybody else in the nets, working hard on his fitness. I think he is in better form now than he was in 1998.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Neil247 on February 28, 2010, 16:35 GMT

    I don't get it. This article is about the Greatest batsman that ever walked the earth. If some ppl (the tiny minority) don't like Tendulkar for whatever warped private reasons -that's fine - Simply buzz off from here and switch off the TV when he's playing.Simple!...But no- these ppl won't do it- they will watch and keep pouring out their deep psycological problems coz deep down they know they are watching a once in a century player.

  • Rohan1 on February 28, 2010, 8:44 GMT

    Someone rightly said that there is a few nutcases in here who know absolutely nothing about cricket, but seem to be ISI sponsored!! Ha,Ha - how true!

  • CricFan24 on February 28, 2010, 8:36 GMT

    ...And why are all you ppl even bothering about as a few clowns. As they say it takes talent to recognise genius. So as Lara said so memorably "Sachin is a Genius ,I'm a mere mortal" and "You know genius when you see it ,and let me tell you Sachin is pure genius"....So it is vastly apparent that certain ppl in here don't have the slightest clue about cricket/batting- so why waste your time and energy on them? We are here to celebrate the genius of the greatest batsman of all time- Sachin Tendulkar (if for whatever reason ppl dont like that (most of them are from one particular country)- fine. let them harp on -who cares?)

  • CricFan24 on February 28, 2010, 8:36 GMT

    The 1st comment in the "numbers game" blog says it all : "Posted by prashant1 on (February 26 2010, 03:49 AM GMT).". Tendulkar had a bust up 2003 (except for the WC the whole of which he played with a broken hand)…and 05/06 when due to seemingly endless injuries he almost retired. It is literally just these 3 yrs when he stumbled and fell and when all and sundry filled their boots- that make a superficial look at "overall" stats "appear" that lara,ponting,dravid and the like are even remotely his equals. They are not- never have been,never will be.

  • first_slip on February 28, 2010, 7:43 GMT

    Oh My word..suchin is such a genius.. fantastic feat... god bless him...

  • Pratik_vodka on February 28, 2010, 6:17 GMT

    What else can we say too .. other than the fact that 'One should have commited all sins in those 3 hours coz even God was watching Sachin' ... unbelivable i dont only not compare him to other cricketing greats but with other known gretas of other feilds. Sachin a man who he might be the best or not as a batsmen i dont care but a man in this day of sorrow and sadness that surrounds us everyday this guy alone can bring a Smile and make you forget em all for even a few minutes and to millions is a trait no one else can match. Thank you Sachin ... it truely is a pleasure !

  • dummy4fb on February 27, 2010, 19:54 GMT

    The best way to describe Sachin is "the one who gives 100% in whatever he does". I grew up seeing greats like Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev et al, who played the game with full vigour and passion. However, it is sad to see the commitment levels & loyalty have been dwindling over the years owing to the prevailing commercial distractions. However there are exceptions and Sachin is definitely one who does his best every time he goes out to play. Also Sehwag falls in the same category as sachins. I must say Dhoni was fortunate to witness Sachin achieving this feat from close quarters and such performances only catapults Indian cricket psyche to next levels. It was heartening to see the great Sunil Manohar Gavaskar expressing his great joy on Sachin's achievement by saying " I would like to bow my head and touch his feet". How many men of such success stature as Gavaskar's can say such a thing?. I doubt if there are any. Great men stay so always !!!

  • SameerSharma on February 27, 2010, 19:22 GMT

    haha..someone(drcardio1980) said Tendulkar is an averager play overseas, does that mean the other playes are below average then..??If he can score centuries on placid wickets of subcontinent..why can't others??...most of his ceturies has come against Australia n that too when G. Magrath was playin..wasin hardly used to come for ballin while Tendulkar on crease...u need to know the history of cricket dude....n the records r not useless...why didn't the other player achieve it..i guess they had the equal oppurtunity....of'course u can't compare him to the other players..because he's the only player tasting success in all the formats of the game...comparin him wit others wud be like disgracin him..so pls dun compare n u start learnin to accept the facts...

  • Kanag on February 27, 2010, 14:37 GMT

    To : drcardio1980 Please visit the link http://stats.cricinfo.com/ci/engine/player/35320.html?class=1;template=results;type=allround

    Hope u know what Don bradman told about Sachin and also The Don invited Sachin for dinner. Viv also told sometimes back that "he can pay anything to watch Sachin batting". Also note that in Bradman's XI only sobers got place not Lara,Viv Richards, Mcgrath and Wasim Akram. Sachin is a true Legend.

  • PremSehrawat on February 27, 2010, 13:29 GMT

    I agree with Vamsi Chakravarthi regarding Sachin. One more thing to add to it is, all other great batsman like don Bradman etc scored runs on their pitches. They started playing on fast pitches and hence tend to score more there, so as Sachin or other sub continent batsman.How many examples can you give about these other greats scored in our conditions? As my friend "anfour" comparing Sachin and Kapil Dev, being neutral I just want to say that both are great players in their sense. Kapil Dev was one of the best ALL ROUNDER of its time but Sachin isthe best BATSMAN of his time. I think his comparison is not valid.

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