As Sanjay Bangar began his long walk back to the pavilion, there was a hush around the ground … not for what Bangar had achieved, but for what was to come. A solitary hand-clap sounded – then the applause, at first hesitant and almost shy, then building joyously to a crescendo as the great man-made his way down the pavilion steps and the ground. My heart began its familiar staccato 120 beats per minute at a conservative estimate. Tendulkar‘s, however, appeared to be purring along at a steady 70. Did the emotion of the occasion affect him a tad? Perhaps it did… his head was lowered and he steadfastly refused to look up as he walked, drinking in the moment and savouring the adulation of the Oval crowd.
The first four balls from Mathew Hoggard were met with a straight bat. The fifth was slightly off-line and it was nonchalantly glanced for four to fine leg. I remembered that I had omitted to breathe for the past few minutes and remedied the situation, at the same time releasing my vice-like grip on my wife’s wrist. At least, he wouldn’t make a duck… I thanked the lord for sparing him that indignity.
Caddick came on and immediately made one move away of the seam. How very inconsiderate of him! Tendulkar‘s groping bat missed the ball and there were several exclamations and expletives, none louder than mine. My wife wisely disappeared in to the kitchen. The next delivery was wide and Tendulkar smashed it to the boundary for four. “A stinging reply”, said David Llyod. I agreed wholeheartedly… Caddick, the bully, had been firmly put in his place.
The English bowling, which had seemed so innocuous all this while, now started baring its fangs. The same worthies who had served Dravid a diet of half volleys on the leg stump were now bowling venomous lifters and indippers…this was most upsetting. Tendulkar slowly settled in. As Tudor fractionally overpitched, he was driven down the ground with unparalleled majesty. My feverish mind remembered Mark Nicholas saying, “When Tendulkar drives straight, he is at his best”. There was hope.
At lunch, he was 31. I felt like I was 70 … agewise. I drank a cup of something my wife proffered. It may have been tea. My one-year-old son spoke sagely in world affairs and I listened… the prattle was soothing, for I had to begin concentrating again.
After lunch, Tendulkar strode out on purpose. He immediately cut Hoggard for four and that worthy was banished to the boundary line, only for Ashley Giles to start pinging then down three feet outside leg stump. Another glorious straight drive and Tendulkar was now 45. Giles started the next over and pitched short… with infinite relish and even more time, Tendulkar leaned back and hit him through extra cover for four. The next ball was pushed to deep cover and I sighed as he reached 50. The sun was at its meridian and all was well in my (and Tendulkar‘s, it stuck me as an afterthought) world.
Just when I was deciding to sit down for the first time in the past two hours, disaster struck. The hook nosed, sinister Caddick came in innocently enough and then send down a magnificent in swinging yorker. Tendulkar had moved too far across and this devilish ball struck him full on the left foot. Asoka D’silva, one felt, need not have raised his finger with what seemed to be unseemly haste… but there it was. Tendulkar grimaced once and began to walk back. It had been an unpardonable lapse of concentration on my part. If only I had remained standing, in my usual half crouch with my hands clasped tightly together in prayer, he would still be batting. the familiar feeling of my heart dropping in to my stomach followed. What carelessness…that too, in his 100th test! I will never forgive myself for getting him out.
About the Author: Dr. Ajay Kamath is a professor of ophthalmology at Kasturba Medical College, Mangalore. He is a regular contributor to the KMC Mangalore college magazine. This article was first published in ‘Soliloquy’, the KMC Magazine for 2004-05.