The relationship between Sachin Tendulkar and the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium has been a gratifying one. The theatre has inspired him and the maestro has held the audience spellbound.
Tendulkar’s 970 runs and five hundreds in 10 Tests at Chepauk — the most runs and centuries by this astonishing batsman at any ground — have seen him build immortal monuments in the city.
It’s not just the numbers but the manner in which Tendulkar has achieved them that make his achievements here special. Each one of his centuries has been significant.
It was here in an epic innings, capturing the passion and drama of sport, that Tendulkar carved out a magnificent 136 against Pakistan in 1999. Tendulkar withstood searing back-pain, he often cried out in agony, but refused to give in.
Pakistan clinched a thriller by 12 runs but Tendulkar’s fourth innings master class represented victory in a defeat. A team-man, though, Tendulkar was inconsolable in the dressing room.
A year earlier, Tendulkar had conjured up an awesome game-changing second innings 155 not out against Australia. When leg-spinning legend Shane Warne came round the wicket to exploit a rough, Tendulkar, taking a leg-stump guard and opening his stance, pulled him against the turn in a moment of sheer wizardry.
Plenty of thought and preparation went into his batsmanship. Ahead of the series, Tendulkar practised in the nets by getting former India leg-spinner L. Sivaramakrishnan to pitch into the rough outside leg that he had dug up himself!
In 2001, Tendulkar’s technical excellence and mental fortitude were on display again as he made 126 against a high-quality attack of Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie and Warne. India nailed the decisive Test of an incredible series by two wickets and Steve Waugh’s Final Frontier remained unconquered.
Tendulkar’s fourth-innings unbeaten 103 provided India, pursuing 387, a famous six-wicket win over England in 2009. The manner in which he employed his feet against spin on a deteriorating surface underlined the balance and the inventiveness of his batting.
Interestingly, Tendulkar’s first Test hundred in India — a strokeful 165 versus England in 1993 — arrived at Chepauk. This has, indeed, been an enduring romance.