November 19, 2009

Recalling Tendulkar’s debut 20 years ago


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

It was a Wednesday on November 15, 1989. I was still very sad and depressed having lost my closest friend, Ali Rizwan, in a tragic road accident just four days ago. I was not in the ideal frame of mind to cover the Test match but it was my duty to do it for The Frontier Past the leading national newspaper published from Peshawar.

The Indian cricket team had come to Pakistan after five seasons. There was a lot of buzz and excitement leading to the start of the four-Test series at the National Stadium, Karachi.

There were a lot of side stories doing the rounds. Krishnamachari Srikkanth was appointed the Indian captain for the first time after the removal of Dilip Vengsarkar in controversial circumstances. The celebrated all-rounder Kapil Dev was ready to play in his 100th Test match.

Pakistan were to award a Test cap to Waqar Younis, carrying the big reputation of being a lethal fast bowler. He was to complement the likes of Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Abdul Qadir, three of the greatest bowlers in world cricket those days.

But the news catching the imagination more than anything else was the induction of a 16-year-old lad called Sachin Tendulkar in the Indian playing eleven. He had been drafted in the side that was announced in the evening before the start of the Test match. Mohammad Azharuddin was missing in that eleven with Raman Lamba having been included in his place.

The drama began as early as on the first morning when Azharduddin started plucking a few incredible catches as Pakistan were sent into bat by Srikkanth.

Everyone wondered how Azharuddin was there in the field when not mentioned in the original playing eleven. Although officially it was described as a toe injury that kept Lamba out of the game there were speculations that the high-ups of the Indian Board had intervened after learning about the composition of the team.

While the spotlight remained on Azharddin for having picked as many as five catches in Pakistan’s first innings in which Kapil Dev and Manoj Prabhakhar bowled exceedingly well but all eyes were on Tendulkar when India began their reply on the second afternoon.

Tendulkar was expected to bat at number five but probably the loss of early wickets prompted skipper Srikkanth to hold back his teenage sensation for a while. He finally made an appearance at number six position with India reeling at 41 for four.

Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis were firing on all cylinders with Imran Khan setting attacking fields as he had plenty of runs in the bank. The pressure was on India when Azharddin was joined by Tendulkar.

Everyone in the media box and elsewhere in the stadium was awaiting Tendulkar, about whom they had heard a lot of being a schoolboy wonder. People pushed each other to get a better sight of the teenager entering the middle.

Tendulkar controlled his nerves splendidly and the 15 runs he scored did make many of those watching him that day realize that a special talent had arrived on the horizon. Obviously very few of them would have imagined him claiming every conceivable batting record in the years to come.


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