A favourite Sachin moment

Tendulkar's googly to Moin, and what made it special

Dinker Vashisht
The most famous ball bowled by Sachin Tendulkar?  •  Jewel Samad/AFP

The most famous ball bowled by Sachin Tendulkar?  •  Jewel Samad/AFP

As the whispers of "Is Virat better than Sachin?" started turning into a resonant chorus, MS Dhoni handed over the ball to Virat Kohli in the semi-final of the World T20. Kohli secured a wicket on the first ball. "Is there anything he cannot do?," screamed an animated commentator. Yes sir, he can't pull off a heist in the final over.
Now, while the Venn diagrams of Sachin Tendulkar fans and Virat Kohli fans are not mutually exclusive, the fans in both the sets were reminded of Tendulkar's genius with ball. The most popular memory that flashed past was his impossibly heroic over in the Hero Cup semi-final in 1992. But this fan was reminded of a piece of Tendulkar's genius with the ball that came in Test cricket in 2004.
To a lot of people of my generation (whom marketers unimaginatively refer as Generation Y), this moment of Tendulkar bowling Moin Khan through his legs on the last ball of day three of the Multan Test carried a far deeper meaning. In a lot of ways it was our "ball of century", and for this fan in particular, that googly remains his "favourite Sachin memory".
For the better part of our early cricket-watching days, Pakistan had this stifling domination over India. The most traumatic for our generation was this series of matches between September 1998 to 2000, where Pakistan won 14 out of 18 ODIs. Quite often in these victories, a big role was played by a pack of lower-order gusty Pakistani cricketers who had an abundance of audacity. An Indian fan's trite description for this factor was "killer instinct". How much we "yearned for it" and how much "we lacked it". The leader of this pack, which included the likes of Abdur Razzaq, Azhar Mahmood and Wasim Akram, was Moin Khan, whose quickfire 30s and 40s in the slog overs often took the Pakistani total beyond the chasing capacity of Indian batsmen - if only we had Virat back then! Moin would then rub salt in the wound with his incessant chatter from behind the stumps, nagging at our batsmen, as if the Pakistan bowling line-up wasn't sufficiently threatening.
Things started looking up when Sourav Ganguly led India's renaissance from 2000 onwards. If the Centurion encounter in the 2003 World Cup, where Tendulkar arguably played his greatest ODI innings, was the first sign that India wasn't wary of Pakistan anymore, India's 2004 tour of Pakistan started a trend of India dominating Pakistan.
Despite its brevity, the YouTube clip of this ball conveys a lot. I haven't seen Tendulkar more animated in his 25-year-old career. Whooping, jumping, cheering and high-fiving like a teenager who just received a call from his crush. The chorus of exultation and laughter in the background is of Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Zaheer Khan, Yuvraj Singh, VVS Laxman - the triple centurion, the Wall, Zak the ripper, the Prince who hit six sixes and the Mozart of batting - Tendulkar's new team-mates whose performances ensured that Sachin could play with a freedom he never enjoyed before.
The commentator during that moment, Sanjay Manjrekar, Sachin's team-mate from the 1990s, mentions how Moin Khan "looked nervous". India now had players who could make Pakistanis nervous! Moin may have looked nervous but Tendulkar looked supremely happy. This was an image, which was a far cry from the Tendulkar of the 1990s, when he looked perpetually in stress. In contrast to the Tendulkar of the nineties, the Tendulkar of the noughties smiled, laughed, leaped and celebrated more often. His team-mates were now winning matches but inconspicuously he was still playing a critical role in his team's success. In the famous Test victories in Kolkata (2001) and Adelaide (2004), it was Tendulkar the bowler who took key wickets at the perfect time. In the same tour of Pakistan, Tendulkar clinched a sensational catch of Inzamam, which turned match in India's favour, in the decider of the one-day series that preceded the Test match series.
The ball was the last act of a day, when sections of broadcast media had made stand-in captain Dravid's decision to declare with Tendulkar 194 not out the previous day a major talking point. Tendulkar's spontaneous joyous dance, temporarily nipped some people's habit of smelling rats.
One of the innate appeals of sport is its uncanny ability to become a metaphor for life. It is difficult to recollect the words verbatim, but describing Diego Maradona's 'Hand of God' goal against England from the viewpoint of Argentine population ravaged by economic recession and Falklands war, a journalist wrote that for a common Argentine, it was akin to a boy stealing apple from the marketplace for his hungry mother back home.
To an India growing up in 1990s, Sachin Tendulkar epitomised that we too could excel and become the best in the world in our chosen fields. Tendulkar's achievements and conduct never didn't have a shadow of suspicion unlike Maradona's, but it is revealing that when people talk about their favourite SRT moments, they often include his superlative efforts in losing causes - Desert Storm part-I in 1998, the Perth classic in 1992, the Cape Town tango with Mohammad Azharuddin in 1996, the Melbourne classic in 1999 and so on.
The most heartbreaking of these lone ranger efforts was his backbreaking innings of 136 against Pakistan in 1999, when he got India to brink of victory but the team lost, capitulating in a manner that had become painfully frequent in those days. Declared Man of the Match, Tendulkar didn't appear to collect the award. As per subsequent interviews, he wept that day. The whole of India wept with him and for him that day. Five years later, when he exulted at Multan, all of India felt his elation. He would not have to break his back again, carrying the burden of the team. His team-mates would share his load and India would go on to win some of its greatest victories in the years to follow. That is why it is my favourite Sachin moment.
What's your favourite Sachin moment? Send your entries to us here, with "Sachin moment" in the subject line.

Having studied commerce and law in his 20s, Dinker Vashisht pandered to his radical streak by becoming a journalist. As his 30s approached, the radical streak disappeared and he found himself in a B-school. Five years post his MBA and in the safety of a corporate job, the radical streak manifests itself occasionally.