|The shot in the first ball of the fifth over off Caddick|
It was against England in the initial group match of World Cup 2003 in South Africa that Sachin Tendulkar came out all guns blazing. Tendulkar had already scored 152 against Namibia, but then, you know, no offence, it was Namibia.(Although we proclaim it to be the Cricket World Cup, there are barely half a dozen competitive teams out of a playing dozen at any given time of the playing season.) Meanwhile Brain Lara had played a brilliant match-winning blinder (116) against South Africa in the inaugural match.
Anyway, on February 26th, India were batting first.With Sehwag and Tendulkar opening, India were held back at 13/0 in four overs. It was a raw moment when something was bound to give away.
First ball of the fifth over, Andy Caddick comes rushing in to Tendulkar. The ball bounces and rises head high between the middle and leg stump. For a batsman without anticipation that would have been a very awkward delivery. But what happens in the next few seconds is extraordinary. Somehow, Tendulkar seems to have half-anticipated the ball. He sways to off (feet still grounded one behind another in front of leg stump) and pulls the ball strong behind him, right in the middle of the bat. Intentionally as it was directed, the ball sails way in its trajectory above the wicket-keeper and just out of the diving fine leg fielder's reach to the boundary, one bounce, four! Also, Tendulkar loses his balance as he completes the shot and falls to his right in his batting crease. So apart from the prospect of a brilliant catch, Tendulkar also escapes getting hit wicket in what would have been, the most strange fashion. It is a decisive point in the entire World Cup and by the time he is nicked by Flintoff, Tendulkar had made exactly 50 and added tonnes of confidence.Later, Ashish Nehra bowls a mercurial spell to ensure that England never get to the chase.
A 97 vs Sri Lanka and a masterful 98 vs Pakistan follow, he falls early in the final - India chasing a mammoth total against Australia and it takes another eight years for him to realise the ultimate cricketer's dream - The World Cup.
But just the way Sachin Tendulkar pulls, falls and the ball agonizingly escapes the fielder in that first ball of the fifth over on February 26, 2003 sums up Tendulkar - enterprise, endeavour, adventure and a passion for batting that stood out beyond the obvious genius.