Some nine in Tests and just four cricketers in ODIs could boast of scoring a century on their respective birthdays. The only Indian names that feature in this elite list are the school buddies from Shardashram Vidyamandir – Vinod Kambli and Sachin Tendulkar – both achieving the rare enough feat in the ODI format.
And as we celebrate the 44th birthday of Sachin Tendulkar, let us just pull back the years (or fetch a time machine instead) to some good 19 years back in the desert city of Sharjah to witness the mayhem that a five and a half feet guy with a heavy bat imposed on the mighty Australian bowling line-up comprising of the spin wizard Shane Warne.
Days back, Tendulkar made one of the most defining ODI chases of all time when he slammed an unforgettable 143 that ensured India qualify for the title match against Australia ahead of the latter’s Tasman brother New Zealand although as many who watched the game live would still argue for life that had the Little Master stayed till the end, India would certainly have won their own “Desert Storm”.
On the day of final, Mohammad Azharuddin sent Australia to bat and his decision proved fruitful as his seamers ensured their rivals fell three down inside first six overs. Adam Gilchrist and Michael Bevan took upon the task of resurrection – both scoring an identical 45. Later the skipper Steve Waugh and current national coach Darren Lehmann scored another 70 each to help Australia emerge out of the clouds to reach 272 at the end of 50 overs.
In a similar script like the last match, India once against lost Sourav Ganguly in the ninth over to Damien Fleming – this time the fall coming two balls late in the innings and the partnership adding a run more. The southpaw himself laboured to make 23 off 42 in his 36 minute struggle. Once again, wicket-keeper Nayan Mongia played a useful second fiddle up the order as Tendulkar now took the majority of the strikes himself to keep the scoreboard ticking. The Mumbai-Baroda duo added 89 for the second wicket before Mongia departed at the 25th over. The skipper Azhar came in to join Tendulkar who was going all guns blazing.
The seasoned pair started playing with more freedom as Tendulkar would go on adding plight on the leg-spinner Shane Warne – hitting him out of the parks and along the ground all over – that in his own admission would give the Australian sleepless nights with his Indian nemesis blasting him over the park often coming in his dreams to worst of his nightmares. Warne – who gave away just 39 in his nine to boast of the best economic rate of 4.33 among his colleagues – was spared largely by Tendulkar in the Desert Storm a couple of days back. But on the final, the leggie was hardly given reprieve as he ended giving up 61 without any success from his 10-over quota – the second-most expensive among those who bowled more than three overs.
On his 25th birthday, the man considered by his fans as the supreme authority in the game completed his 15th ODI century and stayed just two short of the then record of 17 by the West Indian opener Desmond Haynes. Tendulkar was successfully hit on his pads before the stumps by Michael Kasprowicz on his individual score of 134 that came off 131 balls. As his fireworks that witnessed 12 fours and three sixes came to an end after running for a duration of a quarter over three hours, India were left 25 shy of the winning post with seven wickets and five and a half overs to spare.
Ajay Jadeja came in at number five with Azhar going firm at the other end – the Indian crowds still could not breathe easy despite their team the clear favourites in the match. Who else other than an Indian cricket fan from the 1990s could know better that their team sans Tendulkar at one end is hardly anything but quicksand that can eat their winning chances up in almost no time! However, the captain and his deputy kept their heads down to inch closer to victory. With 12 more to get, Azhar finally edged one to Gilchrist off Kasprowicz. The skipper faced 64 balls and hit five boundaries for his 58.
Hrishikesh Kanitkar and Jadeja avoided another fall as they made sure India win with nine balls to spare – thus avenging their final loss to Australia back home in another tri-series ten days earlier. Tendulkar was adjudged the MVP for his stellar ton. The birthday boy who scored 435 runs from five matches in that particular week was also awarded the player of the tournament. The 1998 went on to become a watershed moment in the individual batting history of international cricket – Tendulkar becoming the first ever to score over 2500 runs in a calendar year.
Here is the video of that special innings: