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Mar 03, 2008 04:45 PM 3652 Views
(Updated Mar 03, 2008 04:53 PM)

In the year 2001 the world of Tennis witnessed a watershed event. Wimbledon 4th round. Pete Sampras, the greatest champion then, bowed out of Wimbledon with a loss to Roger Federer. Only one man had beaten him before - Richard Krajicek. Prior to that he was beaten in 1992 by Goran Ivanisevic, but that was before he became a Sampras!

Anyway that match was the change in times. An aging Pete gave way to the Fedex. The end of the Pistol Pete, and the start of the next.

Watching the first final of the Commonwealth Bank Series between India and Australia, one could not help thinking that something similar was happening like that to India cricket. And the main topic in concern was the partnership between Sachin Tendulkar and Rohit Sharma.

Let us first rewind the clock back to 1991, when Sachin was in Australia for the first time. India had a long tour of Australia. 4 Tests(which India lost 1-3). A one-day tri-series with West Indies the third team. And the West Indies those days were still a major fighting force. Followed by the 1992 World Cup. Though Sachin had made his debut as early as 1989, this was the coming of age. The last match of the tri-series was the 2nd final between Australia and India. Australia had already won the 1st final. The Indian bowling performed much better in the 2nd, having reduced Australia to a 208 despite a fighting 74 by opener Geoff Marsh. Had Marsh not got going, Australia wouldn't have even got 160, since Boon their in-form batsman failed to click.

After the old war-horses, dating from the 1983 World-Cup, failed to click(like Srikanth) India were brought to a strong position by Sachin Tendulkar. As wicket after wicket fell beside him, and as the asking-rate kept rising, Sachin, though a teenager then, fought all the Australian bowlers single-handed. He made around 60-70 odd. The match had its moments of drama, with Sachin being run-out but not referred to 3rd umpire, A catch taken off a no-ball, and Steve Waugh dropping a sitter off his own bowling. After his wicket, the Aussies attacked and India lost by 7 runs.

Coming back to 2008. A lot has happened in World cricket. 208 is a total that poses no problems to a team batting 2nd. But in the 1st final of the CB Series, there was a mini-collapse that would have pressed the panic button.Tendulkar has always played in partnership of a retreating army, or he has played in times when India was on top of the bowling. But it is very rare that Sachin has been in a position where the batting and the bowling were in an equally-matched position, where a good partnership swings the balance one way and a coupl-a-wickets the other.

Three wickets down, and Sachin might have been saying "Oh no not again". But things changed dramatically once Rohit Sharma got into his groove. India have seen many young cricketers come, sizzle, flop and then crash. Even Sachin's school buddy Kambli went the same way. But this was not that type of a youngster.

Facing the facts, Rohit Sharma may never get to be a Tendulkar. But in this battle called cricket, he epitomises a "Team Spirit" that needs to carry the cause further. When the partnership started, Rohit was content to work the ones and twos. Then he changed gears. However what was most important was the assault he lead to the Australian camp.

With Sachin tiring down rapidly(he had a bit of a limp), a century seemed elusive once again. The last time he got a century in ODIs was more than a year ago. And this was the final of the competition. A loss would put the pressure back on the Indians. Ponting, intelligent captain that he is, brought back Brett Lee as well as Nathan Bracken to the attack. I'm sure he would have hoped that Nathan Bracken would pull it off, bowling left-arm pace to Sachin in the nervous 90s. The field was all set for Sachin - to make the slightest nick, the most aggressive rush of blood, the most subtle mistake. But what upset the Australian apple-cart was the counter-offensive by Rohit. His swatting of Brad Hogg, Symonds and Hopes made way for the bowling change. And the next to get it was Nathan Bracken, one of the most experienced Australian bowlers. Bracken has never been charged like this. He managed to work the ball all across the outfield. Including a 4. And Bracken sent a full-toss delivery. Rohit kept it down artistically. It wasn't a wild slog attempted out of clear frustration. It was a controlled shot to the man at extra cover, and not a definite defense too. Only a person on top of his batting could play like that.

Clearly the Australians were running out of ideas, and Sachin brought up his first ODI hundred against Australia. Immediately, Rohit departed. But this was not the way a warrior is defeated in battle. One could feel a sense of accomplishment. Not only had he guided India  upto within striking distance of the total, his batting gave Sachin the confidence to go all the way through. And Sachin never slashed at any delivery immediately after his 100(save for a tough chance that Gilchrist dropped).

The future of Indian batting is in safe hands.

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