A greater part of my early childhood was spent playing the game of cricket. It was not always a big playground where I played. Sometimes it was the corner of the street, a veranda, or sometimes even indoors. Summer vacations meant choosing between grandparents home or summer cricket. I chose the latter. The idea of being a cricketer who played for India, became the first natural career option. And Sachin Tendulkar, became the first sporting hero and idol. Things change in life. I opted to be a photographer. And a day came where instead of playing cricket with Tendulkar, I was shooting photographs of his game 🙂
September 29th, 2007
It was the opening One Day International (ODI) game of the Future Cup – a 7 match ODI series between India and Australia. I was a staff photographer at Bangalore Mirror then. The Chinnaswamy stadium at Bangalore was jam-packed. It was a great atmosphere to be there. I felt privileged to be shooting the game sitting right along the fence. I was covering the game indeed, but as a cricket fan it felt great watching the game from the boundary ropes.
Though I had photographed Sachin on the field at few different occasions, this was to be the first ODI of Sachin that I would photograph. I had been at an India versus Australia ODI tie at Bangalore before. But, I was a spectator then. And watched India lose that game to Aussies with Gilchrist playing the match winning knock. This time I hoped that the story would be different and wished that I’ll get to witness a brilliant innings by Sachin too.
But, the man of the moment turned out to be Michael Clarke of Australia. Australia won the toss and scored 307 for 7 wickets, with Clarke scoring 130 runs of them. With a century he was a contender for the ‘man of the match’ award unless Indians scripted a great run chase to win the game.
The Indian innings began under the lights in front of a full house evening crowd at Chinnaswamy Stadium. Gautam Gambhir and Sachin Tendulkar opened the innings for India. Gambhir played out Brett Lee’s opening over for a maiden. Lee seemed to have given a good start to the Aussies. Sachin faced Mitchell Johnson from the other end for the second over of the game. It began to appear that this too could be another maiden over. Four balls into the second over and India was yet to get runs on the board. And suddenly it started to drizzle. The ground staff took their position to be ready to bring the covers on in case the match was to be interrupted by rain.
The last ball of the 2nd over and Johnson’s delivery went wide on the leg side. India was finally off the mark with a wide run (finally). Hopefully, some pressure off Sachin with a run on the score-card for the team. Maybe, now he will get off the mark too and play a match winning innings. Johnson came running down to ball the last delivery of the over. I took my position behind the 300mm lens again (I have used the mighty telephoto lens only during cricket!), anticipating an action and a moment that could be frozen to make it to next day’s morning edition. A swinger from Johnson and Sachin misses the ball. The ball hits Sachin on his pads. The entire Aussie team go up with an appeal for a Leg Before Wicket(LBW). Umpire Sushil Shastri lifts his finger and Sachin his dismissed for a duck! Anti-climax to the master’s innings. He walks back without scoring a run.
Few minutes later, the game was interrupted by the rain when India’s score was 9 for the loss of 1 wicket in 2.4 overs. The match could never be resumed from that moment, and it was abandoned without a result. Another anti-climax of the game. But, team Australia went on to win the 7 match series 4-2.
I was drenched in the rain, but managed to save the camera equipment and laptop from getting wet, and managed to send photographs back to the Photo Editor’s desk at our office. But, I was disappointed. Not because that I was drenched, but because there was no result in the game and that I could not see (and photograph) a good knock from Sachin. The defining moment in Sachin’s brief innings that night was of his dismissal. I had it in my camera. But, I wish the script that night at Chinnaswamy stadium was different.
Over the years, the little master has had quite a few ups and downs in his stellar career. But off late he hasn’t been in the best of the form. It has divided the cricketing world with ugly debates over whether he should quit or not, and whether he should be selected in playing eleven or not. For someone who followed cricket for many years with genuine interest, it was actually painful for me to see Sachin in his bad form. I believe that sporting greats should retire gracefully before hitting that terrible patch in life where their exit is demanded by others. Sachin deserves a graceful exit. He should have left a little earlier than waiting for his 200th test match. Whether Sachin played his 200th test or not, it doesn’t really affect the truth that he is one of the greatest cricketers of our time. But, it is my opinion and I don’t expect others to have the same opinion too.
Now as Sachin walks out to the field to play the last game of his life, I wish him all the best in the game and whatever life has to offer him post cricket. I wish he plays a splendid innings. And I hope neither the story of that September night at Chinnaswamy nor the story of Don Bradman’s last innings unfold this time.
P.S: Some other photographs from that game that I could quickly locate now. I’ll add more if I find them in the archives. These are not of Sachin. But of Michael Clarke, the centurion in that game. And of a maverick (now disgraced) name Sreesanth.