March 27, 1994, will forever be a special day for Sachin Tendulkar and Indian cricket fans. It was the day the batting great opened the innings in a One-Day International for the first time in his career.
Tendulkar holds some of the biggest batting records in ODI cricket. The records for the most matches (463), runs (18,426), hundreds (49), half-centuries (96) – they all belong to him. However, as unbelievable as it seems, the right-hander took a fair bit of time to get going in his ODI career. And in hindsight, one can say for sure that there was a big reason for that.
Tendulkar made his ODI debut in 1989, but his first century in the 50-over format came only in his 79th game which was in 1994. The trick that turned his fortunes around was a promotion in the batting order.
On March 27, 1994, India were playing against New Zealand at Eden Park in Auckland. It was Tendulkar’s 70th ODI and up until then, he had been managing to get just the odd fifty because he was batting way down the order. In that game, India captain Mohammad Azharuddin decided to make Tendulkar open the batting since regular opener Navjot Singh Sidhu was ruled out with a stiff neck.
That move proved to be a masterstroke – a move that would go on to make an indelible impact on international cricket.
After India bowled out the hosts for just 142, Tendulkar came out all guns blazing to smash 82 off just 49 and help India win by seven wickets. He hit 15 fours and two sixes in his innings and his mastery against the new ball was there for all to see. In that knock, he batted at a strike-rate of 167.34. This, at a time when a scoring-rate of 100 was considered top-notch for batsmen.
“I went up to Azhar and our manager Ajit Wadekar, a former Indian captain and a leading batsman of his time, and pleaded with them to give me an opportunity at the top of the order,” Tendulkar wrote in his autobiography Playing It My Way.
He added: “Why did I think I should open? Well, I had the ability to attack bowlers and play shots from the word go, and in the one-day game, the key was to take advantage of the field restrictions in the first 15 overs. I was sure that I just needed a chance to prove myself.”
Here are highlights of that iconic 82-run knock by Tendulkar: