If there is a true national hero, then he is Sachin Tendulkar. Shahrukh and Aamir may not be as popular down South. Up north no one has heard of Kollywood but everyone worships Sachin. In fact Sachin’s knocks could up for discussion anywhere and every cross-section of Indian Society would know about it which is remarkable really in a society as diverse and varied as India’s.
The double ton by Sachin was the perfect knock. There was no false shot, no chance offered to South Africa whatsoever. He didn’t mistime a single drive, didn’t play and miss a single ball. He was in complete command right from the get go. It never looked like he was taking any risks yet he got to his 100 of 90 balls, 150 of 118 and finally the double of 147. He would have got there soon had he not slowed down at the end (after all he was on 190 of 137). He also hit 25 boundaries which would just goes to show how well he was placing the ball. He also did his fair share of running 56 singles and 13 twos.
This was a knock where Sachin could read every bowler like a book. Not a bad ball went unpunished and many good ones were punished for no fault of their own. Dale Steyn had bowled a decent over by bowling yorkers outside off stump. The one ball he strayed on the leg stump, Sachin put away for a boundary and then Sachin walked across the stumps and flicked Dale Steyn for another boundary. A shot that is sure to be replayed over and over. Duminy was treated mercilessly as he ought to be and didn’t know what hit him when he was smashed over his head for a six and four. Van Der Merwe was meted similar treatment including a stunning six where Sachin made room and smashed him down the ground. There was a break of about 10 minutes due to Albie Morkel being hit by an object, the moment the match resumed, Sachin square drove the ball for four as if the break had never occurred.
Dhoni was clobbering sixes, but all everyone was bothered about was the double. Dhoni had taken a single of the last ball of the 49th over and this might have turned out to be the most expensive single that he ever took. This would have been the rare occasion where a batsmen might have been criticized for striking the ball out of the ground. Thankfully for us all Hashim Amla managed to save a certain boundary getting the little master back on strike and of course the little master dutifully obliged.
During the knock Saeed Anwar was upstaged, he outdid himself and Viv Richards before him. One would have to say though that this knock was better than that of Saeed Anwar called for a runner extremely early and therefore would not be as tired. Also with no offence to the Indian bowling attack at the time, Sachin’s knock was against one of the finest bowling attacks in operation. It is a tribute to Sachin’s fitness that he ran all his runs right till the end. Even after cramping up he didn’t let go of a scoring opportunity (until of course the last ball which he allowed Dhoni to face) and after staying out on the field for the full 50 overs he still came out to field.
Strictly speaking, the knock was amongst the least flamboyant that you will see for everything was done with absolute ease. There never seemed to be any danger whatsoever. It was precise, clinical and creative all at the same time. If you haven’t seen the knock, see it. No amount of writing can do justice to the precision with Sachin wielded the bat on the historic day of 24th February 2010.
It’s amazing that Sachin is 36 now. Incredibly this is is his 21st year of playing international cricket, and yet he plays with the enthusiasm of a much younger man. He seems as fit as ever. In fact he now seems a much more dangerous batsman than in the late 90s for back then he still had to take risks to score runs. He is cleverer now and has an uncanny sense of where the next delivery is going to be bowled. His timing and footwork are at their impeccable best. Its also amazing to ponder upon the fact that people were asking him to retire after India’s horrid run during the 2007 world cup.
I suspect that more double centuries will follow in ODIs(It might take years though). It takes one to show that it’s possible. Once the four minute mile was thought to be impossible, then it was broken and once it was broken it was eclipsed again and again, but there is nothing quite like the first time.