Individual above the team, it's the Indian way!

India went into day four of the first Test against the West Indies needing a further 124 for victory, but that was considered no more than a formality by most people. Interest didn’t revolve so much around whether India will go 1-0 up in the three-match series as whether Sachin Tendulkar would score the 67 more runs needed to round off a hundred international hundreds. Only a couple of thousand spectators turned up at the Feroze Shah Kotla first thing on Wednesday morning, but as the word spread that the Master was in the mood, the stands began to fill up.

 The sense of anticipation was palpable. The press box began to get animated, people in the stands started cheering every run, and once it became clear during the Tendulkar-VVS Laxman partnership that victory was indeed round the corner, even the dressing room began to be sucked into the drama of the moment.

 The cyber world too was busy, with Tweets floating around suggesting that Laxman should go slow to facilitate Tendulkar’s tryst with three-figures. Out in the middle, that’s precisely what was happening, because after having begun with a flurry of boundaries, Laxman took his foot off the pedal, focussing on turning the strike over and feeding the bowling to his partner.  If Tendulkar was in a rush, it didn’t show. There were flowing drives and trademark sweeps, but Tendulkar didn’t manufacture any strokes. Even as he was scoring quickly, it was through proper cricketing strokes, each one played because the merit of the ball so deserved it.  Tendulkar breezed through the 50s, stormed past the 60s and moved into the 70s with effortless ease, reinforcing the belief that November 9 was going to be THE day. Then came the over where the dream was comprehensively shattered.
 Off the second delivery of Devendra Bishoo’s 18th over, Tendulkar attempted a paddle sweep. The ball missed the bat but flew off the pads in the direction of fine-leg, Darren Sammy giving chase from slip. The West Indies went up in appeal, Laxman set off on a single but Tendulkar stood transfixed, perhaps put off by the appeal, perhaps going into a temporary brain-freeze.

 Had he taken that leg-bye, he would have been at the non-striker’s end. Instead, three deliveries later in the same over, he missed a straightforward pull when the shot was on, and was trapped plumb in front.

 The crowd looked on stunned even as a disappointed Tendulkar walked back slowly. As he neared the boundary, the fans thronged the fence but strangely, there was no applause, so stunned were they that there was no magical century. Post lunch, with victory a cinch, the stands again wore a deserted look, the Indian obsession with personal achievements as opposed to team success again coming to the fore strongly.
DH News Service

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