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Sidharth Monga in Christchurch
March 8, 2009
In the fives overs before Sachin Tendulkar had to retire hurt, he had scored 34 runs. India were in the 45th over of their innings and had Tendulkar batted on there was every chance he would have become the first double-centurion in ODI cricket. He needed 37 more at that point and if physically possible, Tendulkar would have tried his best.
Midway during his knock he started struggling with a sore muscle where he was hit in the abs in the previous game. "When I was around 65 to 70, I started feeling stiffness there," Tendulkar said, "but towards the latter half of my innings I starting getting a twitch and it kept getting worse. I knew that I was effectively damaging it, and that was a stage when I couldn't go on."
He said he was hopeful of getting a double-century towards the end of India's innings, while Brendon McCullum, New Zealand's stand-in captain, said only when Tendulkar walked off did it seem out of reach.
Tendulkar wasn't his usual cheery self when he came for the press conference. After he scores a century in a winning cause he's usually in a much brighter mood. Perhaps the injury was on his mind, perhaps it was just the pain, perhaps it was having to sit in the dressing room as India struggled to defend 392.
As regards the injury, Tendulkar said he would come to know more tomorrow. What brought him cheer was when he was asked if this was the best batting line-up he had been a part of. "I would definitely say so," came the answer. "We have got almost five to six guys who can clear the ropes at will. If we get four or five good overs, we end up scoring 50-plus runs. At no stage we are away from our target. At the back of our minds we knew that with such an explosive line-up, no target is impossible."
Tendulkar showed signs of mortality, and like many others forgot how many centuries he now has in ODIs. He just has so many it's tough to keep a count. But what's next after No. 43? Fifty? "I am enjoying the game," Tendulkar said. "I just want to go out an enjoy my game and not have targets. While doing that if it happens, well and good. The most important factor is to keep enjoying my game, and keep winning games for India."
Tendulkar wouldn't rate this against some of his other hundreds. "When you are making runs it gives you happiness," he said. "I don't believing in giving it ratings."
A last word on the quality of the knock should go the captain who was at the receiving end. "I can hardly remember a shot that didn't come out of the middle," McCullum said. "There were times as well that he played with half a blade and hit in areas that he precisely wanted to. I don't think I have seen too many better innings, in any form of the game."
Plays of the Day from the second ODI between England and India, in Cardiff
Plays of the day from the third ODI between England and India at Trent Bridge
Plays of the day from the tri-series match between Zimbabwe and South Africa
Would he have fared better than the incumbent middle-order batsmen, Root and Ballance?