Watch: Sachin Tendulkar slams 82 in 49 balls in first innings as opener to change ODI cricket forever
Watch: Asked to open for the first time in ODIs at Auckland in 1994, Sachin Tendulkar slammed 82 in 49 balls to change ODI cricket forever.
Several teams had used non-specialist openers at the top of the order at the 1992 World Cup. From Mark Greatbatch to Brian Lara, from Ian Botham to Kapil Dev. Some experiments worked; some, not quite.
The idea was twofold. Some batters were used to take advantage of the early fielding restrictions (the word ‘powerplay’ was not coined until 2005). The other was to ensure the most outstanding batters got to face as many balls as possible.
Tendulkar had never opened batting until India’s 1993/94 tour of New Zealand. Even in the first ODI, he made 15 from No.5. After that match, his average stood at 30.84 and strike rate at 74 – not worthy of someone identified in his early teens as a special cricketer.
Regular opener Navjot Sidhu pulled out of the second ODI at Eden Park with a neck pain and, after India bowled out New Zealand for 142, Tendulkar walked out to open with Ajay Jadeja.
He hit three fours in the second over of the match, bowled by Chris Pringle, and never looked back. With the field inside the ring , he lofted the ball beautifully inside the first 15 overs and raced to his fifty in 34 balls. At one stage, he threatened to get his maiden ODI hundred despite the low target.
That was not to happen, for he hit one back to Matthew Hart when he was 18 short of the mark with India requiring another 26.
Over the rest of his career, Tendulkar averaged 47.08 and struck at 88. More importantly, a trend had been set. In 1996, India promoted middle-order batter Sourav Ganguly to the top in ODIs.
In 2001, Ganguly promoted Virender Sehwag, yet another middle-order bat, extending the experiment to Test cricket. In the 2010s, they did the same with Rohit Sharma.
Tendulkar, Ganguly, Rohit, and Sehwag, in that order, are the four most prolific run-scorers among Indian openers in men’s ODIs. It all started that day, when Sidhu complained of neck pain.