Greatest opener, Sidhu's neck strain

Mumbai, Dec. 24 -- It was circumstance and chance, a case of being at the right place at the right time, which got Sachin Tendulkar to open the innings for India in ODIs and the world to witness the batsman go on to become the most prolific cricketer in the format.

Tendulkar, just days before he turned 21, took apart the New Zealand attack with a blistering 49-ball 82 that included 15 fours and two sixes at the Eden Park in Auckland. It was the second match of the four-game series.

Ajit Wadekar, former captain and the team manager then, recalled how it was a last minute decision to push Tendulkar up the order. "Around 20-30 minutes before the toss Sidhu (Navjot Singh Sidhu) came up and told me he had injured himself (a neck strain) and would not be able to play the game," said Wadekar.

Wadekar, who has known Tendulkar since his school days, was clear about his choice on who would be Sidhu's replacement.

"Luckily, Mohammed Azharuddin and Sachin (who were the captain and vice-captain respectively) were around, and we were discussing our plans. I had the confidence and looked at him. He got the hint and said he would open the innings," he said adding, "It was beautiful the way he hit Morrison (Danny Morrison) who was in form and that too against the swinging ball."

"I think it was his best knock, he was confident about opening and wanted to prove that he could," said Wadekar.

In an interview to a website, after he completed 20 years in international cricket in 2009, Sachin said about the moment, "I requested both Azhar and Ajit Wadekar to just give me one opportunity. 'I'm very confident as in the first 15 overs I can play some big shots. I feel I'll be able to deliver. And if I fail I'll never ever come to you again'. They both agreed graciously, and I was able to go out and perform. It helped me as a cricketer because you go out and face the new ball and at the same time you are looking at putting the ball away."

The change was the platform that propelled Tendulkar to scale many a peak in cricket, which will now, in all probability, be left unconquered given that all his contemporaries are miles behind him.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.

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