Bengaluru, May 3: Challenging the maestro has always been a tempting ploy for the opponents but at the end of the day, it is always a gamble that mostly backfires.
In 1998, Zimbabwean pacer Henry Olonga had faced it in Sharjah. Even before that, Shane Warne had also got a taste. And five years later, at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2003, it was the turn of Andrew Caddick.
India had an ordinary start to the tournament as they won against the Netherlands after managing just 204 and then were whacked by the Australians after getting shot out for 125. A serious backlash at home and a pioneering act by Sachin Tendulkar saw them beating Zimbabwe next and then following it up with a win over Namibia.
The next game was against England who, at that point, were also with three wins (it could have been four had the Three Lions not gave a walkover to Zimbabwe because of political reasons) and one of those had come against Pakistan - a big one. The two sides were set to lock horns in Durban on February 26 and it was on the eve of the clash that England veteran Caddick fell for the trap.
Speaking to the media at the nets before the game, Caddick took direct digs at India as well as their star batsman Tendulkar. The pace bowler said the Men in Blue were not impressive enough in terms of batting and bowling and even taunted that they should not take pride in scoring a 300-plus score against debutants Namibia. "They were aided more by the nimble-fingered Namibians than their batting strength," he went to the extent to say.
He then went after the big fish. "Even Sachin did not play well despite his century. Sachin's just like another batsman in the Indian team, and there are a lot of others in the Indian side," the man said about a batsman who had just scored his 34th ODI hundred, the same number as Caddick's age.
The Indian team did not react. The two teams had enough of duels around the same season (2002-03) with players from either sides taking off shirts to make statements. Ganguly won the toss and elected to bat and it was over to Tendulkar. The man, who hardly played below par in World Cups, got on with his job perhaps a tad faster since Caddick deserved a response.
The drives that Tendulkar played on the day left the commentators, who are otherwise at loss of time to speak their minds out, enthralled while one short ball that Caddick sent at his direction was facilitated to go out of the ground in a pull by the Master Blaster.
Apart from the umpire's arms, another set was also raised, and it was Caddick's eyebrows. That six, one of the three hit in the game, had settled the war that Caddick had started the previous day. The bowler with a side-arm action finished with three scalps (all came in the final over when Indians were eyeing blind slogging) for 69 runs in the game but none of them was Tendulkar.
Tendulkar made 50 off 52 balls, but on a highly charged up day, that was more than a just a half-century. India reached 250 for nine in 50 overs and then it was the magic of Ashish Nehra (6 for 23) that saw the Three Lions getting skittled out for 168.