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March 29, 2004 22:38 IST
Last Updated: March 29, 2004 23:50 IST
A controversial declaration marred a glorious day in Indian cricket.
If the highlight of the second day's play in the first Test against Pakistan was Virender Sehwag's stupendous triple century, the first by an Indian, the decision to declare the Indian innings with Sachin Tendulkar six short of his fourth double century provided the nadir.
With more than an hour's play left, Tendulkar, on 194, was well set to reach a double century when the declaration came at the fall of Yuvraj Singh's wicket.
Addressing the media after the day's play, a livid Tendulkar said he was disappointed at not being able to achieve the milestone after coming so close.
"I was aware that the declaration was on the cards, but I was taken by surprise at the timing.
"I thought maybe another two-three overs more would have been enough," he said.
It was quite unlike Tendulkar to speak in public about a team decision.
He added that if a side is scoring at four an over in Test cricket it is good enough and argued that the declaration did not have anything to do with scoring slowly.
Asked if he checked with the captain later about the decision, he replied, "I think after the declaration there is no need to talk. You just get on with the game."
There was speculation when Tendulkar did not come out to field after the Indian innings was declared, but the ace batsman, who is one century behind the world record of 34 by former India captain Sunil Gavaskar, cleared the air saying he had tweaked his ankle in the second last over of the Indian innings and decided to play it safe by icing it in the dressing room.
Sourav Ganguly signalled the declaration before stand-in captain Rahul Dravid waved to Tendulkar to return to the pavilion.
Till Tendulkar spoke at the press conference the declaration seemed a team decision and did not carry the potential to unravel any disagreement between the senior members of the side.
With just six runs separating Tendulkar and his fourth double century it made little sense to declare the innings especially with the batsmen scoring at a fast clip.
The runs at that stage hardly mattered. Another couple of overs with a message sent through the 12th man would have saved the team the media trial it will now have to face on a tour that's been successful thus far.
It is true that individual milestones should never matter to a successful team. But what would have another over done?
According to a member of the team, two messages were sent to Tendulkar through Ramesh Powar to up the ante and get to his double-century quickly. It is learnt that the team management wanted the declaration soon after tea, contending that India had enough runs on the board to defend. Thus, after waiting for an hour after tea it was decided to call the batsmen in.
The argument was that while Yuvraj Singh, playing only his second Test, was scoring at a brisk pace, Tendulkar, who had been at the crease for more than four hours, was relatively slow. Tendulkar's partnership with Yuvraj yielded 110 runs, of which Yuvraj scored 59 off 66 balls while Tendulkar was unable to find the fence.
But there was also a counter argument to that. While Yuvraj faced 11 of the 19 overs the duo faced, Tendulkar faced just eight overs and scored 45-odd runs.
Certainly, this controversy is far from finished.