Sachin Tendulkar may have retired from international cricket, but the Little Master’s many special knocks continue to be remembered by cricket fans everywhere. On his 44th birthday, we celebrate what was perhaps his most defiant century, a 103 not out in the fourth innings against England, a Test match played two weeks after the terrorist attacks of 26/11:
‘Sachin Tendulkar’s outrage over the terrorist murders in his home city of Mumbai has been the most enduring image of the Chennai Test. His defiant words, played endlessly on Indian television, have felt like an address to the nation. He speaks of the need to pull together in bad times until the good times return and his vehement final sentence ingrains itself in the memory of all who hear it. “I play for India,” he spits. “Now more than ever.”’
– David Hopps in the Guardian, 16 December 2008.
India went into the fifth day needing 256 off a possible 90 overs. The press still felt the odds were against India, and the morning papers reminded readers the highest ever winning score in India was 276 by the West Indies. Yet, that did not deter the crowds. On the last day, even though it was a working day, over 20,000 spectators poured into Chepauk. An unforgettable treat was in store for them. Although the day began poorly for India, as Dravid went in the third over, caught behind as a ball from Flintoff left him, Tendulkar walked in at 141 for 2 to a rousing reception, as always…
At the first drinks break, India were 180 for 2, having added 49 in the first hour off 12 overs. The break did no good to Gambhir who left as soon as play resumed; Collingwood caught his loose drive off Anderson neatly at gully…The lunch break proved expensive for India; the third over after lunch, India lost Laxman as an offbreak from Swann spun and spat at him. A catch to short-leg, and India were 224 for 4. In came Yuvraj, a nervous starter and vulnerable to spin. The target seemed a fair distance away. Suddenly, Tendulkar pulled out a couple of paddle sweeps and a thumping pull against the spinners. Yuvraj took heart and when his turn came, he hit three rousing boundaries – a punch into the off, a sweep and a lovely loft over mid-on. India went past 250…
Tendulkar was in his eighties and Yuvraj moved into his seventies as he put away a full toss from the dispirited Swann to the mid-wicket fence. With just 19 runs needed for a win, Tendulkar was still 12 runs from a century. He set this right in Panesar’s over, with a delicate paddle – a beautiful sight on any day, and he played quite a few that day – and a splendid drive to cover. He moved to 97 while India needed 10 runs for a famous win. Yuvraj played the next over with exaggerated defence, waiting to allow Tendulkar to complete his century. An over later, it was Swann again. Yuvraj tickled him round for a single and the crowd was on its feet. Tendulkar was on 99, and India 383 for 4. Off Swann’s third ball, Tendulkar played the sweep that ran away to the fine-leg boundary and raised his arms in triumph. Yuvraj bore down on Sachin and lifted him off his feet in a bear hug of delight, a moment of ‘perfect symmetry’ as Cricinfo’s Andrew McGlashan wrote, describing the perfect timing of Tendulkar’s century and India’s victory coming off the same ball.
If there was one thing constantly held against Tendulkar, it was that he had not piloted India to a victory in a fourth innings chase. He set that right in front of 35,000 deliriously happy spectators. Dileep Premachandran wrote, ‘He’s 35 years old and owns practically every batting record in the game, but you couldn’t escape the feeling that this was probably Sachin Tendulkar’s finest hour.’