Sydney Synonymous With Sachin Tendulkar
Given Sachin Tendulkar's record at the SCG, and the way he is shaping, the Australians have their task cut out over the next few days in the second Test, says Haresh Pandya.
India's next Test against Australia begins in Sydney on Tuesday. Having suffered humiliation in the first Test at Melbourne, there is so much at stake for Mahendra Singh Dhoni and company. Nothing less than a win will do, not just to come back in the series, but also salvage some pride.
Although we have won only a solitary Test at Sydney -- by an innings and two runs in January 1978 -- in seven outings, one encouraging factor in India's favour is that it is Sachin Tendulkar's favourite hunting venue outside India. In four Tests at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG), the maestro has scored 664 runs at a whopping average of 221. He has hit two centuries and a double hundred and remained unconquered in four of his seven innings.
Image: Sachin Tendulkar
Tendulkar made his mark in 1992 at the venue
The first time Tendulkar played a Test at the SCG was in January 1992, when he was a teen sensation. Allan Border was in charge of a strong Australian side and neither Team India nor Tendulkar fared well in the first two Tests. But he made amends at the SCG and scored a magnificent 148 not out (298 minutes, 213 balls, 14 fours) batting at No. 6 after the hosts made 313 in their first innings on being invited to bat by Mohammad Azharuddin.For one so young and inexperienced, and up against the likes of Craig McDermott, Merv Hughes and Bruce Reid (Shane Warne, who made his debut in that Test, was a nobody then) in their own dens, Tendulkar demonstrated admirable maturity and mental toughness. Importantly, he did not curb his natural game and executed a wide range of shots -- square-cuts, square-drives, cover-drives, on-drives, flicks off the toes, pulls and even hooks when the mood seized him -- all round the wicket.
He punished McDermott, Hughes
Some of them had the diehard Aussies -- in the field, pavilion, press enclosure, commentary box and stands -- gasping. Tendulkar's batting was in sharp contrast to opener Ravi Shastri's laborious 206 in 572 minutes and 477 balls
But Tendulkar did not allow Shastri's stonewalling ways to affect his game, even during their 196-run partnership for the fifth wicket, and kept punishing McDermott, Hughes and Warne with a touch of nonchalance which was once part of Viv Richards's persona.
One octogenarian watching Tendulkar with rapt attention and great admiration on television from the comfort of his abode in Adelaide was Don Bradman.
Tendulkar ideal for Test cricket: Bradman
As if he had not charmed the immortal Aussie enough, Tendulkar hit yet another hundred (114 with 16 fours in 228 minutes off 161 balls out of India's 272) in the fifth Test on a green top in Perth. A "very impressed" Bradman told me in a personal hand-written letter that he found Tendulkar's technique and temperament "ideal" for Test cricket and predicted a "bright future" for him.
It was not until 1999-2000 that Tendulkar next toured Down Under. It was not a particularly memorable jaunt for him, both as a batsman and as a captain. Though he scored 116 and 52 in the second Test in Melbourne, he was expected to contribute more with the bat in keeping with his growing reputation, especially in the third and final Test in Sydney, where he made only 45 and 4. He fell to Glenn McGrath in the first innings and was consumed by Damien Fleming in the second.
As it turned out, it was the only time that Tendulkar failed to live up to his standing at the SCG. In his next two Tests at the historic venue, in 2003-04 and 2007-08 respectively, he was simply, well, 'Bradmanesque' as he made 241 not out (613 minutes, 436 balls, 33 fours), 60 not out, 154 not out (404 minutes, 243 balls, 14 furs, 1 six) and 12 (bowled by Stuart Clark). Although there was neither McGrath nor Warne in both those Tests, the Aussie attack, spearheaded by Brett Lee, was still quite formidable.
Lucky Sydney beckons Sachin
It is to Tendulkar, again and inevitably, that Team India is looking to in Sydney; more so after the disaster in Melbourne. And he is in good form, too. He batted like the vintage Tendulkar at Melbourne, top-scoring in both the innings (73 & 32), winning rich encomia from many Australian cricketers and critics. As long as he was at the wicket, and the way he was playing, Australians were visibly quite tense on the field.
A heroic, even historic, century was within his rich in the first essay. But he missed it by a whisker and with it a long overdue tour de force as well. The Aussies must thank their stars. But they may not be so lucky in Sydney. Given Tendulkar's record at the SCG and the way he is shaping up, anything can happen. Surely, we are in for a few interesting days.
Image: Sachin Tendulkar