Long after the Old Trafford Test match becomes just another page in Wisden, the memory of a charming, almost embarrassed young man receiving the Man of the Match award will linger. Sachin Tendulkar will score many more hundreds for India but the freshness of this one will never fade.
“I was there,” the spectators will say forever and what a tragedy there were only 1778 of them. Never was it more truly said that the loss was entirely theirs. They say romantics never win.
That they dazzle and depart leaving great tragedies behind them. Sachin Tendulkar proved them wrong with a hundred of such romance that the heart allowed itself to soak itself in it, the throat allowed a lump to form and an unknown force picked a sprinkling of spectators and brought them to
If Sachin (and pardon the use of the first name) had inherited his father’s love for literature, he couldn’t have written a better script. And one’s heart went out to his brother Ajit, fiddling nervously with the radio, no doubt.
After the Lord’s Test he had blamed his presence for Sachin’s failure since the boy had done no wrong till then. He would have grown three inches taller to see his little protégé come of age and do his country proud so many thousands of miles away from that hallowed land called Shivaji Park.
Tendulkar walked in at 109-4, having just seen Manjrekar and Vengsarkar depart at the same score. Twenty minutes later he saw his captain, on whom India had depended so much, edged into the leg trap.
Only once did he waver. When there was need for caution, he opted for adventure and Hemmings’ weary hands that seemed destined to spin England to victory, let him down.
Thereafter he was the master of all he surveyed, his bandaged bat coming straight as a pendulum. When Hemmings bowled, he crouched and almost smelt the ball in a manner that would make his coach, Ramakant Achrekar (whom he publicly thanked later) proud. And when Fraser and Malcolm bowled, he stood upright like he was 10 feet tall.
As India inched along and the prospect of saving the game appeared real after all, he rose in stature. “Softly, oh softly, we bear her along,” Sarojini Naidu’s Palanquin Bearers had said. They would have sung in the same rhythm to see a young man carrying his side with the same feeling and care.
Did you know?
The magnum champagne bottle which Sachin Tendulkar earned as man of the match for his 119 in the 1990 Manchester Test was preserved for eight years. The bottle was opened on his daughter Sara’s first birthday in 1998