Sachin Tendulkar finished as international cricket’s leading run-scorer but he wouldn’t have been the same batsman had the Indian team hadn’t promoted him as an opener in the early 1990s. Tendulkar’s career changed for good when Mohammad Azharuddin took the decision to make the youngster open the batting for India in an ODI against New Zealand in Auckland. Tendulkar scored a blazing 82 off 49 balls, and Indian cricket never looked back
Over the years, many former cricketers who were part of that squad have narrated the incident of what led to Tendulkar moving up the order. This time, Tendulkar himself explained what transpired after Navjot Sidhu informed the team of his stiff neck and revealed the conversation that took place between him, captain Azharuddin and coach Ajit Wadekar.
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“Azhar was captain and Ajit Wadekar was the coach. When Sherry (Navjot Sidhu) informed us that he’s got a stiff neck and he won’t be able to play, I told Wadekar sir ‘Sir, Can I be considered because I am feeling very confident about playing my shots. I told Azhar that if I fail, I will never come back to him again,” Tendulkar told Aakash Chopra on his YouTube channel.
“I told him ‘I need one chance because I feel I could go and play shots at the beginning. Rather than building partnerships and not to lose an early wicket, I could attack and put pressure on them. So let’s try that’. And they both graciously agreed, saying ‘If you’re so confident, we’ll back you.”
Tendulkar never looked back and went on to become one of the most feared openers of all time. He was moved to No. 4 a couple of times later in his career, but as an opener is where Tendulkar tasted most success in ODIs for India. Tendulkar played 344 matches as an opener and scored 15,310 runs at 48.29, including 45 of his 49, as compared to 3116 at 33 from 119 matches batting lower down.
“I had played some 60-70 ODIs by then and after that innings, I didn’t have to ask again. They were more than happy to have me as opener,” Tendulkar said.