Right through his career Sachin Tendulkar developed the habit of paying attention to detail in order to deal with tricky customers.
One such episode involved preparing well to outwit the foxy leg-spinner Shane Warne. Tendulkar was in the thick of action for Mumbai in the three-day friendly against Mark Taylor’s Australia at the Brabourne Stadium in February, 1998.
He thrashed the bowlers, Warne in particular and made an unbeaten 204 with 25 4s and two 6s.
Mumbai won the match by lunch on the third day, but Tendulkar had noticed that the clever Warne had not sent down even one “round the wicket” delivery in 16 overs.
He told his friends it was a tactical move by Australia not to let Warne bowl round the wicket, and that the ace leg-spinner would do so in the Test series beginning in Chennai. He shrugged off suggestions that the Test series would turn out to be a “clash of the titans”, referring to the prospect of a needle-fight between him and Warne, but in actuality he began serious preparation soon.
Left-arm spinner Nilesh Kulkarni, who took seven wickets for Mumbai against Australia, says: “Sachin came up with the round-the-wicket theory and made us bowl to him that way. We scruffed up a large patch (at the MIG ground and Wankhede) around the leg stump to make it resemble a worn out fifth-day pitch.
“Sachin wanted to get an idea of the deviation Warne would get and find ways to tackle it. He stepped out to meet the ball on the pitch.
“He identified areas to hit the ball and practised a lot of slog-sweep shots. In slog sweep, either you hit or miss, there is very little chance of top-edging the ball.”
Leg-spinner Sairaj Bahutule says: “Sachin asked us to bowl on his leg; that’s the line Warne eventually takes once he finds there is no purchase in the wicket or if there is a rough around the leg-stump.”
A Tendulkar show
Warne accounted for Tendulkar for four in the first innings of the Chennai Test, but thereafter it was all a Tendulkar show with scores of 155, 79, 177 and 31 for a tally of 446 runs.