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Shane Warne vs Sachin Tendulkar – A few memories

May 20, 2011

There is something charming to watch fast-bowlers like Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis hunt in pairs. An edge-of-the-seat horror film awaited you if you decided to watch Jeff Thomson and Dennis Lillee in action together. Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes were the first true connoisseurs when it came to batting together in the modern era. Saurav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar carried on their spirit.

But cricket isn’t just about watching bowlers hunting in pairs or batsmen forging a partnership. It is also about rivalry. Between a bowler and a batsman. One of the game’s greatest rivalries, probably a bit unethical as well but well within the then laws of the game, was England’s Harold Larwood steaming in against the Australian Don Bradman right through the Ashes Series of 1932-33. Larwood came away with the honours more times than not even while Bradman complained the bowler of being immoral. What made this duel fascinating was the fact that Bradman had made mincemeat of Larwood in the last Ashes Series, which was held in England in 1930.

In the modern era, a battle between Shane Warne and Sachin Tendulkar has always received top billing. While the Indian has held most of the aces in this poker match, the Australian has gone in with a few all-ins and emerged triumphant on a few occasions as well. A look back at one of cricket’s most written-about rivalries as Warne and Tendulkar prepare to do battle against each other one final time today.

Tendulkar’s opening salvo in Test cricket was as blunt as a failed pencil sharpener. For, he took on the might of Akram, Waqar, Imran Khan and Adbul Qadir. Warne, making his debut at Sydney in 1991, had a similar feeling. Against the best players of spin in world cricket, Warne was carted around all around the park. Tendulkar won the first round. Warne was sent back to the drawing board.

Pepsi was doing a series of ads with Tendulkar. One of the ad jingles went, “Sachin vandar ayya, Sachin vandar ayya” (Sachin has come). This was a much hyped match as this was Warne’s first Test in India. At Chennai, where all the bowlers have something in it for them, Warne fancied his chances of laying down a marker for the rest of the series. Sachin, meanwhile, wanted to keep the status quo.

And sure enough, Sachin drove Warne back past the bowler for a boundary of the first bowl. But Warne built up the pressure with a few good deliveries before one, which pitched just outside off-stump, jumped and spun away, but not before taking an outside edge from Sachin, who was playing a very agricultural cover drive. His innings lasted seven balls.

Keeping in mind the Pepsi ad jingle, the crowd started singing, “Sachin ponnar ayya, Sachin ponnar ayya” (Sachin has gone back).

(Sachin was quick to establish his supremacy with an outstanding hundred in the third innings of the same Test).

This was probably the game (series) which turned the tide forever in favour of the Indian. After taking a walloping at the hands of Sachin throughout the Test series Warne was set for one last battle against Sachin, this time at Sharjah. But the result was the same.

Warne had been treated as morse code by the other batsmen in world cricket. But Sachin was simplifying the Warne code by playing audacious cricket. The Australian admitted to “nightmares” after the game.

While Warne the bowler seldom managed to remove Sachin by the wrong-un route, Sachin the bowler did it during India’s historic victory at Kolkata some eleven years back. Warne was bamboozled completely by the flight and in-dipper.

Warne, knowing that Tendulkar had the upper hand in the battles, wisely opted not to bowl when Tendulkar was at the wicket. To just give an example of how much Warne suffered against Tendulkar, here is a grave statistic- In 14 Tests against India, Warne has returned with just one five-wicket haul against his name. That match at Chennai, were Warne took the fif-er, was not played by Tendulkar. Warne’s career average if 25.41!

In 31 Tests against Australia, Tendulkar has enjoyed an healthy average of above 60. But when one takes into consideration the Tests which were not played Warne, the average significantly reduces.

Today, the last chapter will be written in one of cricket’s most overstated rivalries. While I did state that Warne has enjoyed his moments under the sun, it has always been Sachin who has been wearing the pants of this relationship. I don’t know whether rivalry or battle is the right word to use. To have a rivalry, Warne would have had to adapt and remove Sachin. But that never really happened.

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