No one who grew up in the 90s can forget Sachin Tendulkar’s two blistering innings in Sharjah against Australia. Even Sachin Tendulkar terms his 143 and 134 during the Coca Cola Cup special amongst his 100 international innings.
Even the then Australian captain Mark Taylor had remarked that Australia had not been beaten by India but by an individual named Sachin Tendulkar; such was the impact of two of his brilliant innings in the gulf.
The 143 came in the final league game between India and Australia, as India required beating New Zealand on net run rate to get into the finals. Sachin went berserk on the Australian bowling, something that even a desert storm couldn’t stop him from doing.
"The storm was an experience. I had never seen anything like that. I feared I would get blown away by the storm. It was very scary. It was known as the sandstorm match rightly and I could feel the power of the wind. (Adam) Gilchrist was the only one next to me and I just wanted to hold on to him. Such was the force of the wind. I wanted some support because it was like a whirlpool and I thought I might be sucked in by the force," Tendulkar remembered in an exclusive chat with Sportstar.
Tendulkar focused on winning the match. "I wanted to go out and win the match. I wanted to do it before the final because it would have been a good psychological advantage against Australia which was winning everything, beating everyone. I had it in my mind when the game resumed after the storm."
Michael Kasprowicz and Tendulkar had a heated exchange in the middle, but the great one denies anything personal was said. "There was no such thing actually. If you see I was playing cricketing shots. It was different from the shots you see today where the game is played differently. The youngsters today are exposed to T20. We were not exposed to T20 and those days the shots looked daring," says Tendulkar.
Tendulkar remembers getting angry on VVS Laxman, "It happens. I was keen to keep the strike and I had this understanding with Laxman that we would have to keep rotating the strike. I had told him 'no run out' at that stage at all. When I say yes, it had to be yes. No confusion. We laughed off the incident later."
"My worry was I needed time to recover for the final. After the desert storm match, I remember entering my hotel room around 2 a.m. The next day there was a dinner by the Sharjah Cricket Board and once again it was a tiring day. There was a birthday cake for me and believe me when we went into the final, I had not fully recovered. After the match, I was completely sapped and had to sit for an hour or so with my feet on ice. It was incredibly hot that night," Tendulkar talked about having only one day’s gap between the final league game and the tournament final.
On the 134 that he compiled in the final, Tendulkar recalled, "I was mentally focused. It was time to get ready physically and mentally. I remember I was not getting my timing right at all. The first five-six overs I could do nothing. I had to forget the 143 and start this new innings. I knew the ball will not come on as nicely and I had to start from zero. It may take me one ball or 15 balls before I got my rhythm right. I would have to be around. Everyone was expecting me to take from where I had left in the sandstorm match."
Sachin talked about his rivalry with Warne, "We are both aggressive players. We both were looking to establish the initial supremacy. It was always going to boil down to who would be more aggressive. It would have been tough had he got an early wicket or two. I was looking to prevent that. He was an integral part of the Australian team. I also had an important role in my team. It was a nice battle."
Comparing the two hundreds, Tendulkar noted, "In the final the start was different. But there was a similarity in the way I paced the two innings and put pressure on the bowlers. It was a big target (272). In today’s cricket it would be something like 350. in the desert-storm match the pressure was to meet the run rate but the situations in both the matches were different."
"Every century is important but I think these two were the turning points. They came at a very crucial stage of my career and also Indian cricket. The significance of each century was different because one put us in the final and the other helped us win the final. It also gave us the belief that we could chase huge targets. The excitement of the tournament was amazing because everyone wanted India to win the tournament. It opened a new chapter in Indian cricket," said Tendulkar.
A day after the final, Tendulkar was at the Shivaji Park in Mumbai. "I was the chief guest at a function to celebrate India’s win. It was a memorable gathering. Shivaji Park was full of cricket fans. It is vivid. I have all bats with which I have scored a century. This one is special. I used it in the 1999 World Cup too. It was a proud part of my personal collection."