Ten­dulkar emerged into the Manch­ester murk an un­known and de­parted a star

Richard Ed­wards re­calls when the world had to sit up and take no­tice of a 17-year-old who be­came known as the Lit­tle Mas­ter

The Cricket Paper - - ACTION REPLAY -

As far as ar­rival an­nounce­ments went this was deaf­en­ing. In­dia were star­ing de­feat firmly in the face when a diminu­tive 17-year-old strode to the crease against a ram­pant Eng­land at­tack scent­ing fur­ther In­dian blood af­ter a first Test hu­mil­i­a­tion of the tourists at Lord’s in the sum­mer of 1990.

By the time this Mum­bai-born prodigy had ex­ited his stage, un­bowed and grinning broadly, 225 min­utes later, there was an ac­cep­tance from those lucky enough to have wit­nessed the in­nings that Sachin Ten­dulkar was go­ing to be around for some time to come. His life was never go­ing to be quite the same again.

Ten­dulkar would amass 15,921 runs in a ca­reer span­ning 14 years and 200 Tests but that first hun­dred on a typ­i­cally over­cast af­ter­noon in Manch­ester would be the defin­ing mo­ment.

He had al­ready given no­tice of his ex­tra­or­di­nary tal­ent in the first in­nings of that match as a sup­port act to the im­pe­ri­ous Mo­ham­mad Azharud­din who took Eng­land’s at­tack apart in a sen­sa­tional in­nings of 179.

The pair would be re­united at the crease on that fi­nal af­ter­noon, but by the time Ten­dulkar emerged from the gloom of the Old Traf­ford pavil­ion to join his cap­tain both could have been for­given for think­ing the game was up. Chas­ing a nom­i­nal tar­get of 408, In­dia were al­ready four wick­ets down, and when Azharud­din de­parted soon af­ter, dis­missed by Ed­die Hem­mings – some 25 years Ten­dulkar’s se­nior – Eng­land were clos­ing in on a 2-0 se­ries lead.

Surely, sea­soned watch­ers rea­soned, Eng­land’s vic­tory pro­ces­sion wasn’t go­ing to be derailed by a 17-year-old av­er­ag­ing a then far from ex­tra­or­di­nary 33 af­ter his first eight Tests.

The Lit­tle Mas­ter had al­ready cre­ated some­thing of a buzz that sum­mer, smash­ing a cen­tury against Derbyshire at Ch­ester­field in a warm-up for the Tex­aco Tro­phy se­ries in mid-July.

“A bravura per­for­mance,” gushed Jack Bai­ley in The Times af­ter Ten­dulkar brought up his hun­dred with a hooked six over a lime tree on the bound­ary off Ian Bishop – the ball al­most fly­ing com­pletely out of the ground.

Scores of 19 and 31 in the two one-day in­ter­na­tion­als pro­ceed­ing the first Test of the se­ries barely hinted at what was to come. His dis­missal in the first of those matches – bowled be­hind his legs by Devon Mal­colm – also gave rise to doubts over his abil­ity to play high pace.

With his one-day av­er­age stand­ing at less than 20 af­ter that se­ries, it ap­peared that Eng­land would have to wait to see the best of the prodigy, with the 1990 tour per­haps com­ing too early for him to un­veil the true ex­tent of his bat­ting pow­ers.

The first Test at Lord’s is re­mem­bered for one of the supreme bat­ting per­for­mances in English cricket his­tory – Gra­ham Gooch’s 333 in Eng­land’s gar­gan­tuan to­tal of 653-4 de­clared. With Ravi Shas­tri and Azharud­din re­spond­ing with cen­turies, there was cer­tainly no short­age of runs for those pour­ing through the Lord’s turn­stiles.

“At the end of the most in­tox­i­cat­ing week in this run-drunk sea­son, we are wit­ness­ing some­thing from an­other age, a Test match in which the re­sult seems to mat­ter less than the en­ter­tain­ment,” wrote Alan Lee in The Times. Of the 1,603 runs scored at the Home of Cricket, though, just 37 came from the ap­par­ently over-sized bat of Ten­dulkar.

Eng­land could have been for­given for won­der­ing what all the fuss was about.

Af­ter a 247-run spank­ing on the fi­nal day at Lord’s, the chas­tened tourists headed north to Old Traf­ford and Ten­dulkar could only watch on help­lessly as Eng­land’s bats­men once again filled their boots.

Gooch scored his third suc­ces­sive hun­dred against an In­dian bowl­ing at­tack that must have been sick of the sight of him. Mike Ather­ton also scored his sec­ond cen­tury of the sum­mer – his first com­ing against New Zealand at Trent Bridge back in June – as did Robin Smith in Eng­land’s im­pos­ing first in­nings ef­fort of 519.

En­ter, for the first time in the se­ries but for the first of many times against Eng­land, Ten­dulkar. Com­ing in with In­dia tee­ter­ing at 246-4, Ten­dulkar shared in a stand of 112 with Azharud­din and, af­ter tak­ing a scarcely cred­i­ble 54 min­utes to get off the mark, he even­tu­ally un­veiled his full reper­toire as Eng­land’s bowlers strug­gled to find a re­sponse to a man play­ing with the straight­est of bats and the calmest of heads.

Ten­dulkar was the last man out, caught by Chris Lewis off the bowl­ing of Hem­mings for a sec­ond high­est Test best score of 68. “A flow­er­ing tal­ent,” wrote Lee. And one that was about to blos­som in the most at­trac­tive way imag­in­able.

If there was a re­cur­ring crit­i­cism of Ten­dulkar dur­ing his Test ca­reer it was that he didn’t do enough to win In­dia Tests when they needed him most. As In­dia’s top or­der crum­bled in the sec­ond in­nings at Old Traf­ford, though, he was about to an­swer his coun­try’s call. Mind you, Eng­land only had them­selves to blame.

Ten­dulkar had scored just 10 when Hem­mings shelved a caught and bowled op­por­tu­nity. It would be a costly miss and one that handed the 17-year-old the chance to cre­ate his­tory. There was still plenty for him to do when Kapil Dev be­came the sixth In­dian wicket to fall. Never one for re­treat, Dev still bat­ted as if In­dia’s tar­get was still em­i­nently at­tain­able and was bowled af­ter at­tempt­ing to a smash a turn­ing Hem­mings’ de­liv­ery over the Pen­nines. He hid his face be­hind his bat

Ten­dulkar is cor­rect, un­spec­tac­u­lar and ut­terly un­flap­pable and he is des­tined to be a world star in the next cen­tury

Our se­ries on ma­jor events that gripped the cricket world con­tin­ues with the emergemce of an all-time bat­ting great

Ad­mirer: In­dian leg­end Su­nil Gavaskar

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