Waqar is credited with transforming Tendulkar from a boy wonder to a man in the course of one delivery: the bouncer which left the maestro bleeding in the Sialkot Test. Tendulkar recovered well to dispatch his counterpart for a boundary off the very next ball, and as years have passed by, this episode has become one of cricket’s favourite stories.
“When I first saw Sachin, we thought they had brought along a child. I don’t think he was in as much pain as it is made out to be after being hit,” said Waqar. “He did not fall. He stood by, shook his head, and was ready to play the next ball,” he added.
Akhtar recalled two face-offs between him and Tendulkar. “When I came to India in 1999, I did not know the sort of adulation Sachin enjoyed in India. I had heard about it, but came to know its extent only in Kolkata when I clean bowled him.
I told myself, whatever happens, I will attempt a fast paced yorker, and luckily it worked. I yelled and celebrated the wicket with outstretched hands while the crowd was stunned. There was no reaction from them. It’s only then that I understood the meaning of Tendulkar for them.”
The other meeting he recalled was the India-Pakistan clash in South Africa during the 2003 World Cup. “What can I say? I just did not know where to bowl. He was hitting every delivery, and it seemed he had come out only to hit us. No delivery was safe and people to this day ask me about the six that he hit over third man. It was a humbling experience for me.”