The turning point in Tendulkar's ODI career

Azharuddin asked Tendulkar to open the innings for the first time in a ODI, on the morning of March 27, 1994, when India played against New Zealand.

New Delhi: “Rafi, open karega kya?” That was how captain Mohammad Azharuddin asked Sachin Tendulkar about opening the innings for the first time in a One-day International (ODI), on the morning of March 27, 1994, when India played against New Zealand in Auckland.

It was a moment that led to the biggest turnaround in the batting maestro’s ODI career, and gave India a match-winner in the 50-over format – thanks to a far-sighted decision by Azharuddin.

“Sachin was singing while taking a shower. Azhar heard him singing and said ‘kya baat hai (wonderful), Mohammed Rafi saheb’. After that he always called him Rafi,” said former India team physiotherapist Ali Irani, revealing a well-kept “secret”. “And when he asked him if he would open, he said ‘Rafi, open karega kya?’ Sachin immediately said yes,” the doctor who was associated with the Indian team for more than 10 years, starting 1987, told MAIL TODAY. Azhar asked Tendulkar to open the innings in ODIs. (Getty Images)

Tendulkar hammered 82 – his second-highest score till then — off 49 balls (15x4s, 2x6s). It would take him another nine ODIs to score his maiden ODI ton. He added 61 for the opening wicket with Jadeja, and won the game for India and himself the Man of the Match.

Of the 452 ODIs Tendulkar played, he opened the innings in 340, scoring 15,310 (48.30) of the 18,426 runs (44.83) in that position.

Azharuddin needed someone to partner Ajay Jadeja after Navjot Sidhu developed a “neck strain” just before that game at the Eden Park.

“I was thinking of asking him to open the innings for some time. He was batting at No. 5 or No. 6 at the time and was getting five or six overs to play. He was scoring 30s or 40s or 50s or 60s, scores that were considered good enough for someone batting at that position,” Azharuddin told MAIL TODAY. “I thought we were wasting such a good attacking batsman batting so low. For me, he was the No. 1 batsman in the team. So, I made him open,” he said.

Sidhu was back in the team for the next match in Wellington, but Azharuddin made him bat at No. 3 while persisting with Tendulkar as opener.

Tendulkar’s love for music is well-known and Irani gave an example to buttress this. “When he went to take the delivery of his first Maruti [ 800] car, I was looking at the engine and everything else while he was sitting in the car, taking a cassette out of his pocket and checking the music system of the car. He was not bothered how the car would function,” he said.


Reproduced from Mail Today. Copyright 2013. MTNPL. All rights reserved.


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