664 and all that!

On February 24, 1988, two budding cricketers from Shardashram English (Dadar) who answered to the names of Sachin Tendulkar (326) and Vinod Kambli (349) performed a feat that would push them into fame through the Guinness Book of World Records and Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack.

Vinod Kambli and Sachin Tendulkar
Vinod Kambli (left) and Sachin Tendulkar return to the pavilion after their 664-run stand for Shardashram against St Xavier’s on February 24, 1988. PIC Courtesy: The Making of a Cricketer by Ajit Tendulkar

Today marks 25 years of their whopping, unbeaten 664-run partnership for the third wicket in the semi-final of the Harris Shield against St Xavier’s (Fort) at the Sassanian Cricket Ground in Azad Maidan.

Tendulkar and Kambli owe then local umpire Marcus Couto a great deal. Cricket enthusiast Couto, who became a first-class umpire, ran from pillar to post to get the feat featured in the record books. He met every statistician in the country apart from researching huge partnerships before meeting the redoubtable Mohandas Menon, an encyclopedia of cricket facts and figures. Today, Menon is a go-to man for some of the biggest names in the commentary box.

Couto recalls: “In 1987, I was involved in the formation of the Association of Cricket Statisticians and Scorers of India (ACSSI). I came to know that Mohandas kept records and could help us. Within two minutes, he told us that this was a record. But to establish that, we needed a proper score sheet which was hard to locate.

Sachin Tendulkar,  Marcus Couto and  Vinod Kambli
Sachin and Vinod Kambli with Marcus Couto (centre). PIC Courtesy: Ricky Couto

We found a sheet where scores were scribbled by the Shardashram team. With the help of some inter-school officials, we compiled a fresh sheet with correct details of the match. “To get the tally right, we had to delete three runs from Sachin’s score. Whenever I meet him he still asks me why I couldn’t remove the three runs from the extras section,” added Couto.

The scorecard was then sent to the publishers of Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack and Guinness. Thus, the feat became world-famous. Tendulkar and Kambli bettered the previous record of 641 runs, created by T Palton and N Rippon for Buffalo River versus Whoroughly in the Australian season of 1913-14. B Manoj Kumar (320) and Md Shaibaz Tumbi (324) of St Peter’s High School Hyderabad playing against St Philips High School in an inter-school 40-over match (Bro John of God Trophy) broke the record with their partnership of 721 runs.

Couto also watched the game. “My younger brother Ricky was 12th man for Shardashram. As usual, I went to drop him at the ground. After the dismissal of openers Atul Ranade (42) and Rupak Mulye (18), Vinod and Sachin were unbeaten at the end of first day’s play. Next day, once the team score crossed the 500-mark, assistant coach Laxman Chavan yelled out from all parts of the ground for Sachin and Vinod to declare. They ignored him and merrily played on. Both of them enjoyed hitting balls which crossed the 75-yard boundary.

Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli
Batting legend Sunil Gavaskar with Sachin Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli at a felicitation function organised by the Sports Journalists Association of Bombay (SJAB) at the Willingdon Catholic Gymkhana in Santa Cruz, Mumbai in 1988. PIC Courtesy: The Making of a Cricketer by Ajit Tendulkar

The umpires told me that they were tired of signalling fours and sixes. At lunch on the second day, the innings was closed at 748-2 on the insistence of coach Ramakant Achrekar,” said Couto, who works at the Cricket Club of India.
It is learnt that Achrekar’s words over the phone to captain Tendulkar were: “Declare right now.”

A felicitation function was organised at Shardashram school. Couto recalled: “Sachin spoke just two words – Thank you and Kambli spoke for five minutes.”
The duo were also felicitated by the Sports Journalists Association of Bombay (SJAB) during their annual awards night at the Willingdon Catholic Gymkhana in Santa Cruz. It was there that they met batting legend Sunil Gavaskar probably for the first time. A journalist present remembered how Kambli read out the full name of the Association by looking at a banner behind him while delivering his mini speech of appreciation.

Vinod Kambli
Vinod Kambli remembers:

That partnership is still fresh in memory. I can recollect every ball and boundary that Sachin and myself hit. Laxman Sir was yelling from all parts of the ground to declare the innings, but we were enjoying being in the middle. It was Sachin’s idea to ignore Laxman Sir. I thank Marcus as our cricketing career took off after that record partnership. If not for his efforts, we wouldn’t have been what we are today. After we completed our triple hundreds, I thought we should score 500 runs each and declare at 1000-plus, but we had to declare before lunch. We were really excited to see our names in the newspapers the next day. On one of my early tours to London, I saw my name in the Guinness Book of World Records. I didn’t have the money then to buy the book. Later, a journalist friend gifted me a copy which I treasured.

Laxman Chavan
Coach Laxman Chavan remembers:
That partnership was not a record, it was a miracle. The craze they have for cricket is unbelievable. Sachin and Vinod were friends on and off the field. But at the same time, there was this keen contest between the two and each would want to outdo the other. We, as coaches, were unable to say who was a better player on a given day.  The amount of cricket that Sachin’s generation played cannot be compared to modern-day cricket. IPL remember, is commercialised cricket. For Sachin, cricket is his life and his retirement will be his worst phase. I am surprised that his attitude towards the game is still the same as it was when he
was a child.

Amol Muzumdar
Next man in Amol Muzumdar remembers: 
After every break I would go and practise some shots, thinking that I will go next to bat. One full day passed by. The second day I was confident that I would get to play. But the way Sachin and Vinod played, I gave up hope of batting and enjoyed their partnership as a spectator. I am blessed to have born in an era where our lives revolved around cricket. There were no distractions.

Sachin’s brother Ajit  remembers: On one occasion during the innings, Sachin heard a great applause and wondered what it was for. The scoreboard was so full of number plates that he couldn’t make out anything much.  Much later Sachin and Vinod were told that the applause was a sarcastic cheer for a bowler who had given 200 runs without getting a wicket. (Courtesy: The Making of a Cricketer by Ajit Tendulkar)

Shardashram teacher Ragini Desai:  I feel proud that I was their sports teacher then. We had no idea that they would make us feel so proud. That stand was really special. 

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