Virat Kohli and his men seem to have ripped the heart out of this Australian bowling line-up at the SCG. Several records have tumbled and the Aussie bowlers ran out of steam. The runs were flowing and the beleaguered hosts were caught completely off-guard. Despite having a bunch of talented youngsters, the current Australian side is nowhere near the legendary side that dominated the world in the early 2000s.
Back in 2003-04, when the Indian side under Sourav Ganguly reached the Australian shores, the Australian side was nothing short of extraordinary. Their playing eleven comprised of some of the most formidable names in the cricketing world.
Looking to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, the Indians reached Sydney for the fourth and final test of the series. The series was leveled at 1-1 after both the sides had won a game apiece after the first game at Brisbane was drawn. The Indians had won an epic battle at the Adelaide Oval in the second test whilst the Australians had drawn level after a resounding win in the Boxing Day Test Match at the MCG.
The Indian juggernaut had now reached Sydney, one of the great cathedrals of the game. Sydney, in all fairness, had not been a happy hunting ground for the Indians in the past, but that day, it was different. The 2nd day of January 2004 marked the beginning of one of the greatest batting displays the world has ever witnessed.
The Indians looked solid. All of their big guns had fired at some point during the series. Ganguly scored an imperious 144 at Brisbane, Dravid and Laxman had staged an Eden Gardens encore at the Adelaide Oval and Sehwag had given a majestic display of batting masterclass at the MCG, but the old wise ‘yodha’ of the team hadn’t fired yet. Sachin, despite getting off to decent starts throughout the series, couldn’t get to the three figures.
There was an even bigger worry. Throughout the series, Sachin had lost his wicket while trying to play his trademark cover drive. A shot that he had mastered ages ago.
Clear skies and a rock-solid batting strip greeted the Indians after they had won the toss and elected to bat first. A confident start made by the Indian openers was followed by a couple of quick wickets. With the scoreboard reading 128 for two, out walked Sachin Tendulkar. It was destined to be his day. The determination in his eyes was clearly visible. He was going through a lean patch and was in no mood to let the opportunity slip away.
A Masterclass sans Natural Instincts
Sachin walked out to bat and immediately put his head down and went about his business. He quickly curbed his natural instincts of going for an expansive drive outside the off-stump. That day, he was in no hurry whatsoever. He was prepared to play the sheet anchor’s role. It was an innings that sucked the life out of the so-called formidable Aussie pace battery. It was an innings that made the jam-packed SCG crowd kneel before the then 30-year-old.
How the Master Went About his Business
The maestro knuckled down during the early stages of the innings in order to get his eye in. He stitched a watchful 66-run-partnership with Rahul Dravid. After the latter was dismissed, the veteran right-hander stitched a monumental 353-run stand with Laxman. The duo batted with monk-like concentration to deflate the Aussies. Laxman fell after scoring an imperious 178, but Tendulkar wasn’t done yet. He kept playing his strokes but not a single cover drive was played by him. He kept on batting like a possessed man and tormented the bowlers. No one could get him out that day. The bowlers had no answers whatsoever. They were oblivious, to say the least.
The Inside Story
During a candid chat with Vikram Sathaye on What the Duck (a chat show), Sachin uncovered the inside story behind his monumental effort. On the eve of the fourth and final test match at the SCG, Sachin took his family out for dinner at one of the Malaysian restaurants. They ordered chicken, noodles, and a few other delicacies as well.
Back on the cricket field, he started his innings confidently after the second wicket had fallen. The man, known for his imperious off-side strokeplay, played like a monk that day. His feet moved well. His hand-eye coordination was great, and his willow was ready to speak volumes. Sachin ended day one on 73 not out. Interestingly, he had scored just 82 runs in the five previous innings in the series. He looked comfortable at the crease, but a cover drive was nowhere to be seen.
Out of superstition, the great man made his way to the same restaurant where he had taken his family a day before. He sat on the same table and ordered the same set of dishes.
The 2nd day of play at the SCG saw the master going past his highest individual score. A bunch of tired Aussie fieldsmen was seen staring their way into the oblivion as Sachin notched-up an incredible double century. He went about his business much like a hungry leopard preys on a bunch of tired kangaroos. It was an innings that showcased an incredibly firm resolve and restraint. Not a single ball could dare to go past the bat’s edge that day.
He returned to the restaurant that evening and ordered the same set of dishes.
The next morning saw Sachin Tendulkar returning to the pavilion after scoring an unbeaten 241. The Indians declared on 705/7, their highest score on Australian soil till date. The food served at the restaurant must have contained magic. The Aussies simply ran out of answers. They couldn’t find a way past Sachin’s bat throughout the innings.
Today, 15 years after the masterful effort, Sachin’s numbers can be seen ornamenting the record books and this story, like many other stories, has become a part of the cricketing folklore.