March 29, 2004, is an unforgettable day for Indian cricket fans in more ways than one. It was on this day that Virender Sehwag became the first Indian to score a triple-century in Test cricket when he took the Pakistani attack to the cleaners in Multan.
However, there’s another reason why that date is difficult to forget. The day that Sehwag made history was also the day when the then India captain Rahul Dravid famously declared the team’s innings even as Sachin Tendulkar was batting on 194. That decision divides fans to date and had become a major talking point back then.
First, though, let’s remember the good part. In 2004, India toured Pakistan for the first time in 15 years. Batting first in the opening Test in Multan, the visitors declared with a mammoth score of 675/5 largely due to Sehwag’s brilliance. The right-handed opener slammed 228 runs on the opening day of the match itself and eventually got his triple-century the following day with a six off Saqlain Mushtaq. It was the first instance of a batsman getting to his triple-ton in Test cricket with a maximum.
Sehwag made 309 runs off 375 deliveries with 39 fours and six sixes. His marauding knock, which came at a stunning strike-rate of 82.40 and helped India win by an innings and 52 runs, earned him the moniker ‘Sultan of Multan’. The previous top score for India in Test cricket was VVS Laxman’s epic 281 against Australia at the Eden Gardens in 2001.
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Interestingly, on the same date – March 29 – four years later, Sehwag hit another triple-century. This time, it was the South African attack that was torn apart at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai. Sehwag scored 319 runs in that innings, which is the highest score to date by an Indian in Test cricket.
Dravid was India’s captain for that Multan Test since regular skipper Sourav Ganguly was out injured. The visitors were cruising on day two of the match and at the tea interval, it was decided by Dravid and coach John Wright that the innings would be declared when there are 15 overs left in the day.
Tendulkar was batting with Yuvraj Singh at that time and had been told to try and get to his double-century in time for the declaration. However, Dravid ended up declaring India’s innings as soon as Singh got out and with 16 overs left in the day.
Tendulkar, stranded on 194, was not a happy man as he felt he should have got another over, as was decided earlier, to get to his milestone. In his autobiography that was published much later, he even wrote that the team management should have considered the fact that he didn’t get the strike in the last over before India declared.
Dravid’s side of the argument was that Tendulkar had been given sufficient time to get to his double-ton and that it was crucial for India to declare at that time and make a statement of intent.
Such a difference of opinion in the middle of a match, that too between two greats of Indian cricket, was not something fans were accustomed to seeing and this incident gained a lot of attention even after the match was over. However, to Tendulkar and Dravid’s credit, there is no animosity between the two players and they share a respectful relationship to date.
“I assured Rahul that the incident would have no bearing on my involvement on the field, but off the field, I would prefer to be left alone for a while to come to terms with what had happened,” Tendulkar wrote in his autobiography Playing It My Way. “Despite this incident, I am glad to say Rahul and I remained good friends and even on the field, our camaraderie remained intact until the end of our careers. We continued to have some good partnerships and neither our cricket nor our friendship was affected.”
Watch highlights of the 2004 Multan Test between India and Pakistan here: