Friday, February 13, 2009

Best ODI Innings

Here's an attempt to pick 10 of Sachin Tendulkar's best centuries he has scored in ODIs. This list is subjective and does not seek to take away any credit from the other hundreds that do not find mention here.

143 in 1998, vs Australia ("Sandstorm innings"), Sharjah: “The best innings he has ever played” is how commentator Ravi Shastri described Sachin’s performance on that eventful, emotionally draining and nerve jangling day at Sharjah. India were playing Australia who after batting first put up a massive 283 runs putting the Indians under pressure. India needed to win the match to qualify for the finals of the Coca Cola Cup or end up 30 runs short of the Australian score in order to get a back door entry into the finals and pip the Kiwis. After losing four quick wickets a struggling VVS Laxman came in to join Sachin and the Indians seemed to be staring defeat in the face, needing more than a run a ball in the remaining 20 odd overs. As if things were not bad enough then a massive sandstorm came in from no where and interrupted the game for about half an hour. The target was readjusted and India needed to get 237 in 46 overs and the asking rate became more steep - India were asked to get 94 runs in 87 balls. But before he resumed his innings Sachin assured Indian team coach Anshuman Gaekwad by saying, “Don’t worry, I’ll be there till the end.” Such was his confidence and determination. He smashed the first ball off Michael Kasprowicz for a six and then almost like a man posessed made 143, taking India into the finals of the Coca-Cola Cup. India lost the match by 20 odd runs but that superb knock helped India have one more crack at the Aussies in the finals on Sachin Tendulkar’s birthday.

134 in 1998,vs Australia (“Happy Birthday Sachin”) Finals of the Coca Cola Trophy, Sharjah: The crowds at the Sharjah, had come with banners wishing Sachin a happy 25th birthday along with their intense desire to see him play another one of those blinders and take India to victory. Sachin didn’t disappoint them. Australia had put up a huge target of 273 and that meant India had quite a chase on their hands. Before the Indian innings began noted Australian commentator Greg Chappell made a telling comment. He said, “Sachin will be feeling just a little bit drained from his previous effort and the weight of the entire Indian population will be on his young shoulders.” He was right but Sachin went about his task with clinical precision and made 134. He unleashed some of his breathtaking strokes and power only after he had ensured that India were well on the road to victory. After depositing Aussie paceman Michael Kasprowicz on to the roof of the Sharjah stadium, noted TV commentator Tony Greig said, “This little man is the nearest thing to Bradman there’s ever been.” Sachin ended up sweeping almost all the awards after India emerged victorious. He also won an Opel Astra for his efforts at Sharjah an award which he dedicated to his wife, on his 25th birthday.

98 in 2003,vs Pakistan, at Centurion: Once again India maintained its winning streak in world cups against Pakistan. Chasing a target of 274 Sachin started blistering all the bowlers, his magnificent shots with superb timing were too perfect to be played by anyone else. He scored 98 of just 75 balls including 12 fours and 1 six of Shoaib Akhtar. Pakistan never recovered after Sachin’s blistering batting and India won the match by 6 wickets. His six of Shoaib Akhtar was adjudged as “best shot of the tournament” and he was once again named “Man of the match”, not to mention that he later received the award of “Man of the series” also. One more fact: 2003 world cup’s best ball bowled by any bowler was given to Grant Flower when he bowled out Sachin for 81 at Harare.

140 in 1999, vs Kenya (”This one’s for you dad”), Bristol: Sachin Tendulkar’s 140* in the match against Kenya said a lot about the temperament that the litle champion possesses. India were under pressure to win the match to stay in contention as they had lost their previous two games to SA and Zimbabwe. Sachin had not taken part in the match against Zimbabwe as he had to return to India because of the rather unfortunate death of his father. However he made it a point to return to England for the World Cup. His hundred against Kenya is still talked about as one of the great knocks of all time simply because of all the pressures (most of them non-cricketing) he was under. Here is what Wisden has recorded: "A passionate, awe inspiring display by Tendulkar kept India in the hunt for the Super Six. He had returned from his father’s funeral the day before and when he came in at 92 for two Bristol heard a roar from the crowd that probably startled the lions in the zoo."

90 in 1996, vs Aus, Mumbai: It was arguably Sachin’s best tournament. In this match under lights at The Wankhede stadium, Sachin tore into the Australian bowlers and McGrath was taken to the cleaners. He was coming down the wicket and hitting them straight over the bowler’s head. With a rapturous home crowd cheering him, Sachin played his best innings of the World Cup of 1996. Australia’s Mark Waugh had set the stage with a graceful century and Sachin came out and bested it. Yes, he got out to a rash shot and to an intelligent piece of bowling (stumped off a wide) but then he gave us an innings to remember for a life-time.

186*in 1999-2000, vs New Zealand, at Hyderabad: The first 3 innings have been examples of Sachin’s aggression in batting; whereas this particular inning (highest score of Sachin in ODIs till date) was sheer class from the classic batsman. During the whole knock of 186* of just 150 balls, he never tried to hit the ball too hard, it was his technique or timing or just pure class that he hit 20 boundaries and 3 sixes without taking much risk. India amassed a total of 376 which has never been chased successfully till then, New Zealand were all out for 202 and India won the match by 174 runs. Apart from Sachin the "Man of the match", there was another silent performer in this match: Rahul Dravid who scored 153 of 153 balls including 15 fours and 2 sixes.

141 in 2003-04,vs Pakistan, at Rawalpindi: People started saying at this time that Sachin has no more aggression in his batting now, his fighting spirit has been diminished. Chasing a target of 330 Sachin scored 141 of 135 balls with 17 boundaries and 1 six. He was caught by Abdul Razzaq of Shoaib Malik at mid wicket boundary while hitting Malik for a six. India’s victory was certain with Sachin standing there in the middle but his dismissal helped Pakistan win the match by a narrow margin of 12 runs. Sachin was named “Man of the match” but “he would have happier had India won the match” was his comment during the presentation

82 in 1994, vs New Zealand, Eden Park Auckland: It was the first time Sachin opened the innings in ODI’s. One fine day during India’s tour to NewZealand, Navjot Sidhu made his biggest contribution to Indian cricket: a stiff neck laid him low and Sachin was asked to open. Then came Sachin at his savage best. 82 off 43 studded with seventeen hits to the boundary:15 fours and 2 sixes. Describing this knock Sachin said “Such innings are possible only once in a life time. It was like a dream.”

118 in 1996, vs Pakistan, Sharjah: Pakistan have always had an edge over their arch rivals at the desert venue and 1996 was no different. India had lost both their games one to Pakistan and the other to South Africa. In a must win game Sachin Tendulkar displayed guts and determination in plenty and smashed a brilliant hundred. He shared a wonderful second wicket partnership of 232 runs along with Navjot Sidhu and helped India to a total of 305. Incidentally, it was the first time that India scored in excess of 300 runs in a one day match.

139 in 2000,vs Australia, Indore: (Sachin creates history by becoming the first batsman in the history of limited overs cricket to score 10,000 runs.) Sachin came into the third one day international at Indore after he had slammed a rapid fire 35 and 32 in his previous two knocks at Bangalore and Pune respectively. He was rather unfairly criticised by some sections of the media who thought he batted irresponsibly. However the moment he walked in to bat at Indore one could see the determination on his face and one could almost anticipate a hundred from the Bombay Bomber. Sachin did not disappoint and he pulverised the Aussie bowlers and hammered his 28th one day hundred. Sachin’s innings of 139 off just 125 deliveries can easily be rated as one of his best one day inns as he was at his innovative best and he often played strokes that were cheeky to say the least. During his inns he also achieved the distinction of becoming the first player to reach the landmark of 10,000 runs in one day internationals. It was indeed a fine treble for Sachin as he reached 10,000 runs, slammed his 28th ton and he also helped India post a comprehensive win to take a 2-1 lead in the 5 match series. He rightly won the man of the match award for his stunning exploits.