Cricket is a religion in India and Sachin Tendulkar is its God. When the Master Blaster batted, time stood still in the 7th largest country in the world. And when he got out, the fans lost all hope and resorted to prayers as the only saving grace.
Gwalior is one of the most religious cities in the country and when the God of cricket steps in the city from central Madhya Pradesh, all the stars align to make it a perfect concoction. Sachin Tendulkar scored 529 runs in nine ODIs at an average of over 66 in the city, but his most memorable knock there came in 2010 against South Africa.
At one point, fans began to get nervous; some even angry. Mahendra Singh Dhoni was smacking the ball out of the park and Sachin wasn’t getting the strike. The overs were running out and cricket’s greatest ever player needed another run to reach a figure that nobody had ever before.
And then it came. In the 3rd ball of the final over of India’s innings, Sachin guided the ball behind point and took off for a single. The relief was palpable on every fans’ face, not just in Gwalior, not just in Madhya Pradesh, not just in India, but throughout the world, as Sachin became the first batsman to score 200 in an ODI.
It had been coming. Prior to this innings, he had come close to scoring a double hundred on quite a few occasions. His 175 against Australia and 163* against New Zealand left a bitter-sweet taste in the mouths of every Indian.
However, against South Africa in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, the Little Master created history.
India were batting first against a tough South African bowling line-up, but Sachin was at peak of his powers, and when the Master Blaster is in that kind of form, playing any bowling line up for him is as easy as finding a temple in Gwalior.
The former India captain was timing the ball as beautifully as the architecture of the Gwalior Fort. For the South African bowlers, however, every four and six stung more than the Gwalior sun and Sachin hit 28 of them, which included three maximums.
In the end, Sachin reached the milestone figure that no one else had before. And Gwalior – the City of Kings – was the city blessed to see the Little Master justify his ‘God’ tag in front of mere mortals.