AMRIT MATHUR Recalls The Day Sachin Tendulkar Got Cramp - And 98 Runs

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Memories of a master: Tendulkar defied cramps to put India on course to one of its most memorable wins against Pakistan By [/home/search.html?s=&authornamef=Amrit+Mathur Amrit Mathur]
Published: 01:07 BST, 12 November 2013 | Updated: 01:07 BST, 12 November 2013
[ ] [ ] [ ] </a> [/indiahome/indianews/article-2501578/Memories-master-Tendulkar-defied-cramps-India-course-memorable-wins-Pakistan.html#comments
comments] Classic: Sachin Tendulkar opens the innings for the World Cup 2003 match between India and Pakistan in South Africa.

India won the match by 6 wickets

THE SCENE: Centurion, Johannesburg, 2003 World Cup match against Pakistan.

Pakistan, batting first, score 273.

Sachin Tendulkar, opening with Sehwag, launches his innings like a batsman at the nets after the coach has announced 'last round'.

Ordinary batsmen play each ball on merit, but today Tendulkar plays according to his will. He hits, others watch (Waqar/Wasim have the best view, privileged to be so close).

The bowlers are stunned by the ferocity and the audacious nature of stroke-play.

Here is a master on the top of his game, ill-treating top bowlers, with completely riveting stuff.

Shoaib Akhtar runs in from a mile but when the ball disappears quickly off Sachin's bat, he takes an hour getting back to the top of his run-up.

Waqar, punished severely, can only stare helplessly. Akram? He cannot believe what is happening.

Up in the presidential box, Ali Bacher rubs his eyes in disbelief.

This is genius, he exclaims. Sourav perishes first ball but Sachin, in a commanding form, is stricken with cramps.

Physio Andrew Leipus gives him a rehydrating drink, stretches the hamstring, but the pain persists.

Sachin falls on 98 off 75, fending a short ball, unable to move quickly, makes a long walk and goes back to the dressing room.

He is limping badly, and while the entire stadium cheers on his outstanding innings, Sachin, sweating profusely, returns to the dressing room.

Drained physically and emotionally, he sits on a stool inside, staring blankly ahead and his eyes watery with emotion.

Not a word is said as a dazed Sachin watches his dismissal being replayed on the TV screen. After a long time, John Wright goes across, pats him on the back, but says nothing.

Someone helps him take off his pads. Sourav claps silently from a distance, acknowledging a great knock and a brave effort. After a few hiccups, India win in the 46th over - and only then the silence in the dressing room breaks.

There are high fives all-round, much clapping and shouting and much jhappies and handshakes.

Sourav wants the entire team out for the presentation ceremony and Sachin, still recovering from cramps, walks with a limp and is greeted with a cheer so loud that it could be heard in Pretoria, a half-an-hour's drive away.

He is moved by the response of fans, but when someone commiserates with him for missing out on a hundred, he says: "The team comes first; winning matters, hundreds will come."

There is khushi and celebration; players hang around at the ground to enjoy the moment.

Sachin calls home, is greeted by wife Anjali, who takes the phone near the window so that he can hear the crackers bursting outside.

"There is more noise than Diwali," she says.

Mastermind Sachin Tendulkar rates his blistering innings as one of the best of his illustrious career.

"This was my day," he explains. "From the beginning, I picked the ball up early."

I ask whether an inner rhythm determines his style of play.

"Batting is instinctive," he replies.

"Sometimes you feel good from the start, sometimes you struggle, but today there was so much time that balls close to 150 kmph looked like 130 kmph!"

Why did he refuse a runner till very late?

"I like to take my runs. I know how hard I have hit the ball - the same message does not go to a runner."

How important was the Pakistan match for him?

"I have been thinking about this for more than a year."

(The writer is a former Indian team manager)