Twenty years ago, around the same time, Sachin Tendulkar had played two of the greatest knocks in ODI history. With 143 off 130 balls, the 'Master Blaster' had ensured that India passed a stiff Australian test and entered the final, battling a desert storm on the way. Two days later came another gem of an innings. Tendulkar slammed 134 off 131 balls on his 25th birthday to deliver India the Coca Cola Cup title on a hot afternoon in Sharjah.
Now 20 years down the line, Tendulkar relived those two epoch-making innings, and in an interview to Mumbai Mirror, felt that the innings in the final was of the same value as VVS Laxman's 281 in the Kolkata Test against Steve Waugh's Australia in 2001 that ensured that India not only turned around a hopeless position, but went on to win the Test match.
Asked if his Sharjah innings matched Laxman's knock at the Eden Gardens, Tendulkar said, "I would think so, but I don’t do comparisons. Correct me if I am wrong, I don’t remember us chasing high totals before that. These was no Twenty20 then and the approach to ODI cricket also was different those days. That’s why I felt it was one of the important knocks of my career as well."
Reminiscing about the Sharjah innings, the legendary batsman said that Australia were "virtually unbeatable" at that time, but said that he had prepared well, and was ready for the challenge. He remembered his practice on turning tracks against the likes of L Sivaramakrishnan, Nilesh Kulkarni, Rajesh Pawar and Sairaj Bahutule, so that he could face Shane Warne better.
"I was feeling confident because we had played Australia in India. We also played a tri-series in India involving New Zealand and Australia. I had also scored 80-plus runs against Australia in the first match of the tri-series in Sharjah. I was batting really well. So, I had felt the flow was really really good."
He revealed that he hardly got any recovery time before the final, and was not able to middle the ball at the start, but knew that all he needed was to give himself time to settle in the middle. He persisted and the rest as they say, is history.
The legend said that irrespective of whether it was his birthday or not, on the day of the final, what mattered most was that there was a match to win. He clarified that for him representing the nation was of the greatest priority to him.