Too often it has been said that Sachin Tendulkar
centuries don't win games for India. That he cannot
see a game through to a victorious end. That he falls
just when the going gets tough, and that India then
predictably meander to a loss.
Can Rawalpindi 2004 be counted as just another such
game? It had all the makings of one - a steep target,
a floodlit, frenetic atmosphere, potentially dangerous
bowling, and unsupportive fellow batsmen. Out of
India's final total of 317, Tendulkar made 141,
shepherding the chase from Over 1 to Over 38.4, when
he was fatally done in by Shoaib Malik.
When Tendulkar was dismissed, India were 245 for four,
a strong enough position for the final assault in the
slog overs. In hot, floodlit conditions, Tendulkar's
141 cannot be considered any mean feat. It came off
135 balls and contained 17 fours - a mixture of the
sparkling and the serendipitious - and one powerful
six. Few foundations could have been as impressive.
Tendulkar's own recent form made the knock even more
special. Even as Virender Sehwag at the other end set
about the bowling with breezy nonchalance, Tendulkar
seemed determined to rotate the strike, get his feet
moving and his eye in. Pakistan's bowlers, even then,
could have sensed a foreboding of a big innings.
Soon, the runs started to flow in typical Tendulkarine
vein. In a 69-run stand with Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly
made just 15. In the 15 overs between Ganguly's
dismissal and Tendulkar's, India jogged comfortably
along at seven runs an hour, most of those Tendulkar's
doing. Without losing his head, he had hit up just
less than half of India's needed runs, and given them
12 overs to play around with to boot.
But no man is an island. India's remaining batsmen, on
this particular evening, were clearly unequal to the
task of reconciling pressure and talent. Judicious
strokes flew out of the window; panic set in.
Pakistan, sniffing blood, moved in for the kill, and
once Mohammad Sami had castled Rahul Dravid, the
match, to all intents and purposes, was in Pakistan's
Between Sehwag, Ganguly, VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid,
four of India's top five batsmen made 81 runs between
them. In a chase of 330, that was simply not enough.
Tendulkar's 141, on the other hand, should have been
more than enough; that it wasn't can certainly not be
pinned on him.
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