the moment the last Indian wicket fell, and they didn’t let up for days. You could not be faulted for thinking that the clouds had timed it to show up India for how the fight went out of them the moment Sachin was back in the pavilion.
It is difficult to recall all these years later, now that India have long got used to, howsoever sporadically, Test victories, that for a very long time Sachin’s innings were, in essence, all that mattered on India’s scorecard. The rest of the cricketers were just riveting profiles. Sachin’s performance was India’s. His standout innings and records were, in effect, our collective victories. How odd then that soon, definitely by the mid-2000s, the narrative changed, and Sachin began to be berated for playing for the records.
All these years later, looking at his career summary of 198 Test matches, could the case be made that it was during that summer of 2002 that Sachin’s team changed, and we began to fumble to find a fair measure of his contribution? At Headingly, Leeds, that August, India played for an innings victory in a Test that, to this day, is the best recap of Indian cricket’s recent golden age. Sourav Ganguly’s team played to their strength, fielding two spinners on an English track (Anil Kumble took seven wickets). Rahul Dravid took guard after the early fall of the first wicket, kept his nerve through the bruising attack and hit a man-of-the-match 148, and capped a tour of big hundreds that would transform his place in the team. Ganguly played a captain’s knock of 128, taking the lead spectacularly to step up the run rate and allow India time to get England out twice. And Sachin made the biggest century of them all, 193.
Could it be that in a team in which each man did his bit, and often heroically so, it became difficult to align Sachin’s profile as a sum of his records with his place in a team rebranded as New India? The dilemma showed in Multan a couple of years later, when India, pressing for victory, declared their innings while Sachin was six runs short of a double century and his post-match comments about being surprised were misconstrued as a tantrum, not the legitimate query about team strategy they probably were.
As time went by, a pattern developed, especially as his older teammates started retiring. There would