1999. Chennai. Sachin Tendulkar. 136.
If the above combination of words has already unleashed a sinking sensation in your stomach, then perhaps you might want to look away right now.
India and Pakistan had not played a Test match against each other in nine years. But when they did clash horns from 28 to 31 January, 1999 in Chennai, it was a riveting Test match characterised by some special performances from both sides before an extraordinary Indian choke handed Pakistan a famous win.
Captained by Mohammad Azharuddin, India had taken the first innings lead, scoring 254 in response to Pakistan’s 238. But a fabulous 141 from the ever-young Shahid Afridi put Pakistan firmly back in the match as they scored 281, setting India 271 to win.
Remember, this was the late 1990s when Indian cricketing hopes always rested on the shoulders of one man from Mumbai. And what happened next made for familiar, yet sickening viewing. In an innings where only three batsmen reached double figures, it was left, as always, to a certain Sachin Tendulkar to take India to victory.
And he almost did so. A valiant Tendulkar, battling a bad back, scored a brilliant 136, taking India to 254/6 only 17 runs off victory. But when the wily Saqlain Mushtaq had him holing out to Wasim Akram, India imploded spectacularly. The tail only put on only four more runs as India collapsed to 258 all out, handing their arch-rivals a 12 run victory (and adding one more data point to the fashionable theory, years later, that Tendulkar only did well in Indian losses).
Amidst the gloom though, the Chennai crowd were incredibly gracious in defeat. They gave the Pakistani team a standing ovation as Wasim Akram led his troops on a victory lap. India might have choked but Chennai had just demonstrated their appreciation for an incredible cricket match.