When Charles Coventry was hovering in the 180s against Bangladesh, I voiced my fear that Saeed Anwar’s record seemed in danger of being broken. In response, a friend said, “Bah! Don’t get too attached to records, it’s a sign of mediocrity.” While it was some consolation that Coventry didn’t actually break the record – he equalled it – the gloss was still removed from that proud feeling that my countryman held the world record for the highest individual ODI score. That too, one of the finest left-handed batsmen of his time, and there’s no hiding the fact that his feat was made extra-special owing to the fact that he scored the runs against India.
Once again, as Sachin Tendulkar reached 150 against South Africa, my fellow sports fan at Dawn.com and I gave each other nervous, knowing looks. He said that whenever Tendulkar reaches 150 (he has done it on no less than three previous occasions!), he starts getting anxious.
We stopped working when Tendulkar got to 160 and started calling and texting friends to inform them that Saeed bhai’s record was under threat from the master-blaster. And as he reached 180, with almost eight overs to spare, we had resigned ourselves to the fact that Tendulkar was on his way to another record.
So when he did it, there was nothing left to do but stand up and applaud the monstrous effort. I mean, if there is anyone who deserves to hold the record, it’s Tendulkar. I’d rather have Tendulkar break Anwar’s record than any other batsman, especially if that batsman is an Indian. How would I have felt, for example, if Sourav Ganguly had done it? (Apologies to Indian fans, but that guy was really annoying). Or, for that matter, would my feelings have been as bittersweet if Coventry had actually broken the record?
The fact that Tendulkar smashed his way past Anwar’s grand total against a highly respected South African side – albeit on a cemented Gwalior pitch where the Protean bowlers averaged eight short-pitched deliveries per over – made the accomplishment even more commendable. I even found myself getting mad at M.S. Dhoni for taking most of the strike after Tendulkar had crossed 194, reducing his chances of making a double ton. Who makes 200 runs in an ODI, anyway?
Watching Tendulkar break Anwar’s record was surreal. It was also heartbreaking at times. But most of all, it was fantastic! Really, Sachin ala re bhaiya!
Hafsa Adil is a sports editor at Dawn.com.
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