A timely reminder
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Starting with a gentle push off medium-pacer Ishwar Pandey for four, the ROI bowlers had only the briefest of respite as Tendulkar took his time to settle down, before launching into what turned out to be a memorable innings for the Wankhede faithful. With his unbeaten 140, Tendulkar equalled Sunil Gavaskar at the top of the Indian tree with 81 first class centuries.
It was a trademark Tendulkar innings with a sumptuous spread — the straight drive, the cover drive, the back-foot punch, the slog-sweep, the paddle sweep and classy inside-out strokes against the spinners. His struggles against Australia and England had lent a nervous edge to the experience of watching him struggle. He might not be his old belligerent self anymore. But after what seemed like an eternity, Tendulkar was back to displaying all his strokes.
He had appeared in four first-class games for Mumbai this season but had hardly looked this confident, except probably during his century against Railways in the Ranji opener. Amidst the young, promising talent in both teams, Tendulkar in fact never looked like someone who will turn 40 in 10 weeks, and his tormented recent past looked like a long time ago. Rumours of slowing reflexes and leaden feet were dismissed in a huff. His innings had come just before Australia's arrival in India for a four-Test series, and it couldn't have come at a better time.
"It was good to spend time in the middle against a quality attack. I enjoyed being there," Tendulkar told The Indian Express after his hundred.
ROI pacer S Sreesanth revealed how they had planned to keep Tendulkar on the back foot, but the plan didn't quite produce the results his team hoped for. Tendulkar showed his far younger Mumbai teammates how to bat, leaving his mountain of runs to one side and focusing on the job at hand. He was rarely ever rushed even as Mumbai folded up for 409, and there were times he got hit on the shoulder by Sreesanth but he never lost his composure.
If Sreesanth kept bowling bouncers — some zooming above Tendulkar's head, others directed at his shoulder — he left them well alone. Mumbai lost Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma and Abhishek Nayar in quick succession, as if to pave way for the veteran to hog the limelight.
setting things right
Left-arm spinners, especially those with the penchant to dart it in like Monty Panesar, might have troubled Tendulkar of late. But he was all over Pragyan Ojha on Friday. India's No.1 Test spinner was forced to try unnatural strategies like lending loop in the air to his deliveries and bowling to a tight leg-side field, trying to get Tendulkar on the drive. The result was Tendulkar jumping out of his crease and lofting Ojha over his head for six.
The left-armer then went back to his Plan A of bowling flatter but this time was hit inside-out over the covers. He continued to target Ojha and slammed two consecutive fours against the left-arm spinner. The seamers couldn't quite stop the Tendulkar onslaught either. Or even pause it. Pandey and Abhimanyu Mithun were treated with equal disdain regardless of the line or the length they bowled.\ Despite watching him from the non-striker's end, Mumbai's inexperienced tailenders kept trying to dispatch every ball to the ropes, with only Ankeet Chavan showing some mettle to play the supporting role. Of Tendulkar's 140 runs, 84 came courtesy 18 boundaries and two sixes.
In a crucial game where players with little-to-mid-level experience were trying to catch the selectors' approving eye, Tendulkar showcased a batting masterpiece, leaving one headache less for five worried men.
Brief scores: RoI 526 & 27/1 in 5 overs (M Vijay batting 18; D Kulkarni 1/10) vs Mumbai 409 all out in 114.1 overs (W Jaffer 80, A Rahane 83, S Tendulkar 140*, A Chavan 49; Harbhajan Singh 3/64, I Pandey 2/76).
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