It was the year 1998. Everything that he touched turned to gold. I am talking about Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. The present day cricket fans might go gaga over Dhoni and Kohli. But being a follower of the game since the 1987 world cup, I am proud to say that I am a diehard fan of Sachin.
People often talk about how he braved the Gulf storm against the Aussies, his century against a Olanga led attack, his straight drives against Bret Lee and the manner in which he mauled almost every bowler acrosss the world.
I am going to write about a match in which he won the match for India with the ball and not the bat. The mighty Australians were touring India in 1998 for a Triangular series. The poor Zimbabweans were the third team.
It was the first of April. India was playing a one day international against the Australians in Kochi. That very same month, he was going to brave the desert storm and take the Aussies for a ride. That calls for a separate post and let me not digress here.
Azharuddin won the toss and elected to bat first against the Steve Waugh led mighty Australian team. The openers Siddhu and Sachin got out for paltry scores and within the first 4 hours, India was reduced to 19 for 2. During those days, when ever Sachin got out, we would switch off the TV. But something told me to continue watching. The infamous trio of Azhar, Jadeja and Kambli blasted the ball to all corners of the ground and scored 82,105 and 32 respectively. It was a treat to watch Azhar's flicks, Jadeja's innovative batting and Kambli's footwork. Not a single six was scored; but with some fireworks from Kanitkar (the new hero in the team) the team crossed the 300 run mark which was a huge score at that time.
When Australia started chasing, Gilchrist blazed on all cylinders and they put on a century run partnership in just 10 overs. Srinath removed Mark Waugh and the debutant Agarkar removed Gilchrist.
He would go on to break Dennis Lillee's world record for the fastest 50 wickets in ODIs, achieving the feat from only 23 matches. He held the record from 1998 until 2009, when Ajantha Mendis achieved the feat from just 19 matches.
Coming back to the match, Australians still cruised on, thanks to a stellar partnership between Mark Waugh and Bevan (the greatest finisher of all time in ODIs) and crossed the 200 run mark in the 30t h over. They just had to score 100 runs in the last 20 overs. All doors were seemingly shut for India, when Azhar threw the ball at Sachin and asked him to bowl. What followed was nothing but magic in Kochi. Sachin started spinning the ball by a mile and the Australians had no answer to the magic arm of Sachin.
When Australia was cruising at 203 for 3 in 31 overs, Sachin removed Steve Waugh who was then the the best player of spin in the world. Watch how he fooled Waugh and caught him off his own bowling. (The video might take a few seconds to buffer. But it will play)
The ball started spinning like a top. He got Lehman for a LBW with a wrong one. Sachin was spinning the ball ways. The downfall has already started. The score read 223/5. Watch this video to see how Sachin bowled an offbreak to deceive Lehman.
Then Sachin was up against the greatest finisher in ODI cricket - Michael Bevan. Bevan had single handedly take Australia home on many ocassions like this. In this match also, he had scored a well timed 65 and was confident of taking the Kangaroos home. When he charged Sachin down the track to loft him for a six of the last ball of the 40th over, Tendulkar bowled well wide of his leg stump and Mongia did the rest. The greatest finisher was finished. Sachin, not only took wickets, but also stopped the run flow. The slide continued with the score reading 239/6. Watch this video where Sachin removes Bevan.
Tom Moody was removed of the very next ball bowled (The first ball of the 42nd over). He tried charging down the wicket too. But he did it against the wrong guy and got stumped. The score was 253/7 and Sachin was on a hat-trick. Check the Tom Moody dismissal here.
Warne was the man who came into bat and he managed to escape from Sachin off the hat-trick ball. Yet Sachin gave Warne a taste of his own medicine. Warne could not read Sachin at all. It was a sorry sight to see Warne struggling against a spell of spin by the little master.
The little master went on to get another five wicket haul in his career, thus getting more five wicket hauls that Warne himself in ODIs. I still remember that day when Sachin rocked the Aussies with his spin magic. He has implanted wonderful memories like this with me that I can always cherish for a lifetime.