In the late 90s, Sachin Tendulkar was a treat to watch. But if you were in the opposition, it wasn’t always fun. And if you were Australia, it was almost always not fun.
The Mumbai batsmen often toyed with the Aussie bowlers in India, in Australia and or wherever the two teams played.
In 1998, with Tendulkar in a rich vein of form, the Australians were once again at the receiving end of the Indian’s onslaught in Sharjah. They simply didn’t know what hit them.
It was the sixth match in the Coca-Cola Cup, a triangular series between India, Australia and New Zealand. With the Australians already assured of a place in the final, it was a virtual semi-final for India who needed to beat Australia or only lose by a certain margin to face them in the final.
Mark Waugh and Michael Bevan guided their team to 284 for 7 in the 50 overs. India made a slow start to the chase until Tendulkar who had made just 4 runs of 16 deliveries came to the party in the sixth over. He made room, danced down the track to hit Michael Kasprowicz for a six over long-on before pulling him for another maximum over square leg off the very next ball.
That over set the tone for the rest of the innings as Tendulkar raced to his fifty in the 22nd over as India brought up their hundred.
The players were forced off the pitch after a desert storm hit the Sharjah stadium.
“I had never seen a sandstorm in my life. It was like being in a Hollywood movie. I was all set to grab hold of [Adam] Gilchrist, who was next to me. I thought, if I am going to be blown away, I should at least get hold of someone who is 80-90kg! I did not know how to react to it,” Tendulkar later recalled in an interview with ESPNCricinfo.
With 21 overs left, India were four down, needing 156 runs.
Back out after the interruption, India were set a revised target of 276 in 46 overs. To qualify for the final they needed to score 237. Despite losing wickets at the other end after the restart, Tendulkar did not slow down... smashing the Australian bowlers all over the park.
Kasprowicz and Steve Waugh were worst hit by Tendulkar’s desert storm. He brought up his century in the 39th over with India 43 runs away from qualification and 82 runs away from victory.
But Tendulkar had his eyes set on the latter target as he cut loose after crossing the three-figure mark. India breezed to the qualification target in the 43rd over as Tendulkar looked good to take India home entirely until he was caught behind while trying to pull a Damien Fleming delivery.
India’s chase faltered after Tendulkar’s dismissal as Australia won by 26 runs, but his innings of 143 in 131 balls, his highest score at the time was regarded as one of the best innings in one-day international cricket history.
Australia were a top unit in the 1990s and defeating them was no mean feat. But Tendulkar was prepared, he was determined to beat the world’s best and did his homework accordingly with his coaches.
“During that period, the Australians were virtually unbeatable,” Tendulkar told Mumbai Mirror.
“They had some great players but my preparation was very good. Before they came to India, I had prepared myself on the turning tracks. There was a possibility of Shane Warne attacking me, so I worked with L Sivaramakrishnan in Chennai. In Mumbai, I tried to face the bowling of Nilesh Kulkarni, Rajesh Pawar and Sairaj Bahutule. It was proper practice in which my brother Ajit also helped me. All this came handy,” he added.
There was little recovery time for India as they faced Australia in the final again 24 hours later. Tendulkar smashed another hundred to take India to victory but it wasn’t easy for the master blaster.
“I remember the night after scoring the 143 – which took India to the final of the Coca Cola Cup on April 22, 1998 – I reached the hotel at around 2.30 am. By the time I could finish with dinner and all obligations, it was already the next day morning. The next day was the final.
“In those days, we didn’t have the kind of support staff that’s available now. My body was still aching from that previous innings and I remember thanking my luck that we fielded first in the final,” he is quoted as saying by The Times of India.