It has been quite a while since I have been thinking about this article. My idol (I worship him more than god!), Sachin Tendulkar, who has scored 83 international hundreds to date, has always been criticised of not being a match winner.
To be more precise, it is said he hasn't delivered when it mattered! This article is not about him being a match winner or not. It's just about the various brilliant innings he has played over twenty years of international cricket.
So I have decided to come up with a list of his best knocks (in my opinion), only in the second innings of a test match. Although he has scored only 10 out of his 41 hundreds in the second innings, there have been heaps of knocks in the first innings which have set it up for India to thrust victory.
Here comes the list in my favourite order.
1. 155 not out vs Australia at Chennai, 1998.
India had given away a lead of 71 in the first innings and time was running out. I was utterly disappointed to see Tendulkar get out fifth ball to Warne in the first innings and it was also the first time I had gone to the stadium to watch a match!
He made it up with a counter attacking knock on a wearing pitch against Shane Warne and co. to set up an improbable victory for India. India eventually won by 179 runs. I certainly cannot forget March 9, 1998!
2. 136 vs Pakistan at Chennai, 1999.
It was the first match the two teams were playing after 1989-90. Incidentally that series had also announced the arrival of Sachin Tendulkar and Waqar Younis. The tension and anticipation were very high.
India managed to get a slender lead of 16 runs which definitely was not significant. Sachin was out for a third ball duck. Afridi's ton set India a target of 271. With a sore back Tendulkar put on a magnificent effort to take India 17 short of victory before a rush of blood saw him get out.
The Indians folded up and lost by 12 runs. Pakistan were given a standing ovation by the crowd which was and is one of the greatest sporting moments. I remember someone writing that any other person would have broken down with that back! The only reason I had to name this innings second was due to the result.
3. 119 not out vs England at Old Trafford, 1990.
It was Tendulkar's first tour of England. He had not scored a hundred till then. India lost the lead and England capitalised on it to set a tough target of 408.
The 17 year old Tendulkar, who had scored 68 in the first innings, marched on to a match saving ton. It is considered a classic innings because of the situation and the inexperience of the young lad. He has scored 40 more hundreds after that!
4. 103 not out vs England at Chennai, 2008
An unforgettable match. This is ranked four in my list as it was not a stand out performance by Tendulkar. Initially Sehwag set it up and Yuvraj joined in the party. Having lost a lead of 75, India was set a target of 387.
Tendulkar, once again, proved his critics wrong with a masterly hundred to make it the third highest run chase then. This was not flashy or dominating but purely calculative. I went to watch four out of the five days in this test match and its one of my favourites.
5. 122 vs England at Edgbaston, 1996
An innings which thoroughly proved why he was the most dominant player in world cricket. In overcast conditions India has never done well. This was not any different as they lost a lead of 99 runs.
Tendulkar got his back to the wall and unleashed an array of shots to get a hundred with a huge six off Min Patel. No other Indian managed to cross 20 in the second innings. As expected India lost the game quite badly.
A close competitor to this spot was his 113 vs New Zealand at Wellington in 1998-99. He made a fine 113 but was well supported by others. It still remains a good one eventhough I couldn't fit it in the list.
I hope I have not missed out any obvious innings. Vote for your best. Cheers.