Paceman Tim Southee was a two-year-old toddler when Sachin Tendulkar first toured New Zealand in 1990. The Indian didnt score too many runs in that series,his second,but the locals were sure they hadnt seen the last of the 17-year-old,curly-haired prodigy. Four years later,New Zealand got a ringside view of the launch of an opening act that became a hugely popular travelling show around the world. In Auckland,Tendulkar,opening in one-dayers for the first time,blasted a memorable,match-winning 49-ball 82.
A lot has changed since then,but not everything. The frame has thickened,the hair has thinned but the halo refuses to fade. They still applaud when he enters the ground and,on Sunday,at the AMI Stadium gave a standing ovation as Tendulkar walked out,retired hurt,for 163.
This despite the fact that the master batsman has been responsible for spoiling the bowling figures of several generations of Kiwi bowlers. And with Southee coming off with figures of 10-0-105-0,its obvious that Tendulkars word-of-mouth publicity in this faraway land will continue in the years to come.
Before Sunday,the one thing missing in the New Zealand chapter of Tendulkars story was a one-day century. He had one in Tests in Wellington in 1998 but in ODIs,he hadnt even entered the 90s. Since the time Tendulkar has been here,it was clear he wanted to set the record straight.
A common sight at the nets has been of Tendulkar facing the bowling machine or coach Gary Kirstens fierce throwdowns. A focused Tendulkar during training isnt new but the batting hours had noticeably increased. During the rain abandoned first ODI,Tendulkars 69-ball 61 gave a glimpse of things to come.
And on Sunday,when Virender Sehwag departed early,the stage was set for the much-awaited Tendulkar show. As he later said,he opted to play smart. Keeping in mind the short boundaries at the stadium,the trademark straight drive was left behind. He got 129 runs square off the wicket.
He was unbeaten on 163 and with five overs still remaining,Christchurch thought it could get better. The first ODI double hundred seemed on cards. That was when he twitched an abdomen muscle.
The man who has gone though the trauma of several injuries didnt want to take any chances and walked back,unconquered. Nonetheless,he gave Southee and many others a tale to narrate about the day he shared the field with the master. And he wouldnt be embarrassed to tell them he went for over 100 runs in his 10-over spell.