A jubilant Sachin Tendulkar takes a leap in the air after he paddles Graeme Swann in the air to not only bring up his century but also India’s record-breaking win against England on this day in 2008. To see the Master Blaster celebrate in such an animated manner was a rare sight for everyone. For, this was a guy who had been scoring hundreds for fun during a two-decade-old career; this was a guy for whom scoring hundreds was like a walk in the park; this was a guy who hadn’t even celebrated his maiden ton as a 17-year-old with such gusto.
So, what was so special about this knock? Was it the fact that he had scored a hundred in India’s record run-chase of 387 on a fifth-day track in Chennai against one of the better bowling attacks in the world? Was it the fact that he was finally able to banish the horrors of 1999 where he had failed to get his team home despite scoring a masterly 136 against Pakistan at the same venue? Or was it the fact that India had pulled themselves out of the dead despite having been outplayed for a better part of the match by England?
Naah, none of the above were the reasons behind Sachin Tendulkar’s jubilation and his leap in the air. Tendulkar had engineered a plethora of such wins for this beautiful country during his career to get carried away in the manner that he did that evening in Chennai, and this was just another glorious chapter of his career where he performed a whirlwind heist.
Then, what was it? Unfortunately, there were no cricketing reasons behind SRT’s gusto that day. The reason was the dastardly terror attack that has ripped apart his city of birth Mumbai on the night of 26th November. The Chennai Test was the first match that India played post that horrific incident and with the nation still coming to terms with the horrific incident, the sight of India winning the Test match with Tendulkar being its architect-in-chief provided it a much-needed escape, even if it was for a few minutes.
And, the fact that he had been to play a significant role in the win, meant a lot to Sachin.
India were up against it right from the outset in that Test match. The team was still reeling with the aftereffect of what had happened to their nation. And, it clearly showed in their performance. Despite playing at home, the Men in Blue were outplayed for a better part of the Test match. They were knocked over for 241 in response to England’s 316 in the first innings. Tendulkar had failed to convert his start into a big knock and was dismissed for 37 by Andrew Flintoff.
With England declaring their second innings at 9/311, India needed a record 387 runs to win the Test match. The momentum proceeded to shift from the last session of the 4th day thanks to a whirlwind onslaught by Virender Sehwag. Sehwag smashed the English attacks to all corners of Chepauk. He scored a whirlwind 68-ball 83 and along with Gautam Gambhir helped India shave off 117 runs from the target in a mere 22 overs.
Suddenly, the target started looking realistic, even as India lost three quick wickets, reducing its total from 0/117 to 3/183. Enter Sachin Tendulkar. The Master Blaster was at his imperious best against both pace and spin. Anything short and wide, he would rock back on the backfoot and cut it past backward point. Anything short, he would hang back and nonchalantly upper-cut it. Anything pitched up, he would lean in to his trademark cover-drive. Of course, he would paddle the spin duo of Swann and Panesar at regular intervals.
Tendulkar was ably supported by Yuvraj Singh, who himself was at his flamboyant best during his 131-ball 85. The duo racked up an unbeaten 163-run-stand for the 5th wicket, and it was only fitting that Sachin knocked off the winning runs with his trademark paddle sweep as India scripted one of their most memorable victories ever.
And, as David Lloyd rightly put it on air— ‘This one is for Mumbai’. It sure was. Tendulkar’s reaction testified that to the hilt.
Years later, Sachin would hail his knock in Chennai as the most meaningful innings of his career.
“The most meaningful innings that has stayed with me now and will stay with me forever has to be the one that I played against England in Chennai in 2008. We were not in the right frame of mind to play Test cricket or any form of cricket,” Sachin said during an interview in a BMW event in Australia back in 2015.
“To see the entire nation celebrating that victory even for a second meant a lot to all of us. And, I had played a significant role in that. So, that is the the most important innings of my life” he added.