VENUE : Eden Gardens, Calcutta.
TIME : 4th day of the inaugural Asian Test Championship match between India and arch rivals Pakistan.
CROWD : An estimated 95,000 - usual in the cricket crazy Calcutta where "India wins" is a forgone conclusion in the minds of the people and millions glued to their TV sets.
The big moment has come. In walks Sachin Tendulkar - seemingly intent on putting his first innings debacle ( an embarrasing golden duck) behind him at the quickest. A firm push for two through mid off, a blazing cover drive for four, both off Akram, was followed by a fluent clip off the pads through midwicket.
Tendulkar ran two, the second run getting him to his 5,000-run mark in his 67th Test, and then turned for an easy three. He was in fact coasting when disaster struck. The batsman was running with his eye on the throw coming in from Azhar Mahmood. Meanwhile, Shoaib Akthar had come racing in, from cover, to back up. Both were facing the ball, and ended up in a collision. A second earlier, the batsman had his bat across the line and was safe. The collision however lifted the bat off the ground, just as the throw landed on the stumps.
When the appeal was made and it was referred to the third umpire, Dravid and Tendulkar met in mid-pitch, and Tendulkar smilingly told Dravid not to worry, as he had grounded his bat behind the line well ahead of deadline.
Television replays, called by umpire Steve Bucknor, indicated Tendulkar may have grounded the bat before he banged into Akhtar, but it was raised when the ball hit the wicket. Third umpire KT Francis rightly declared Tendulkar out because Akhtar had not collided deliberately with the batsman.
The red light shocked Tendulkar to the core, as was in any event apparent in the way he dragged himself off the ground - trailing his bat after him - a walk the kind that would have done the chief mourner at a state funeral proud.
The crowd now erupted. They chanted "cheats, cheats" against Shoiab Akhtar and threw missiles when he returned to the long-on fence. Players and umpires ran for shelter in the dressing rooms as part of the 90,000 crowd threw bottles and oranges at the Pakistan team. Play at the Eden Gardens ground was halted for 46 minutes.
"No Sachin, no test match," chanted a section of the crowd and demanded that Tendulkar be re-called to the crease.
Match referee Cammie Smith called the players off the field as security men immediately ringed the outfield and ball boys cleared the debris. Smith ordered an early tea break - during which he spoke to officials, umpires and the two captains - before play resumed
Meanwhile, immediately on reaching the pavilion, Tendulkar headed for the match referee's cubicle and, within a toucher of tears, pointed out the relevant section of the rule book. It reads:
Either batsman shall be out run out if in running or at any time while the ball is in play -- except in the circumstances described in Law 39. (Stumped) -- he is out of his ground and his wicket is put down by the opposite side. If, however, a batsman in running makes good his ground he shall not be out Run Out, if he subsequently leaves his ground, in order to avoid injury, and the wicket is put down.
Tendulkar's argument -- a well taken one -- was that when he grounded his bat at the bowler's end, as he clearly had done, he had completed his run. The lifting of the bat subsequently was due to the collision, which comes under the 'in order to avoid injury' clause. And that, therefore, he could not have been given out, under the laws. He insisted that the match referee take another look at the replay, which was why the incident was shown two, three times while Azhar was at the crease.
Cammie Smith, the match referee, rubbed salt in the wounds by consolingly informing the Indian batsman that he had a point, but that in any case, nothing could now be done about it as the next batsman had already addressed a few deliveries.
Tendulkar then went back to the dressing room in tears -- and was less than enthused when, immediately thereafter, the officials, with Dalmiya for company, asked him to take a walk around the stadium and cool things down. As armed policemen patrolled the ground Tendulkar walked out and gestured to the crowd to calm down and let play continue.
Appeals for calm on the ground's electronic scoreboard read: "Cricket,a messenger of peace and harmony."
That lack of enthusiasm in any case showed in the way he performed that duty, walking the perimeter with his head down, occasionally coming up with a half-hearted wave to pacify the crowd.
Police applauded Tendulkar's move. "It was very good for Sachin to agree to our request to pacify the crowd," said Calcutta police chief Dinesh Vajpai. "Fortunately we had not allowed the spectators to bring in anything lethal. It's a big relief that the game resumed after some time."
"We were outraged with the run out but he himself came out and said the play should continue. That was marvelous," said Sudip Bannerjee, a college student.
"It's unfortunate. If he was there probably we would have been in a winning position," J.Y. Lele, secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India told reporters.
Former England captain Tony Greig said "Sachin was actually watching the ball coming from the boundary and as a result of that I think he didn't see the player (Akhtar). He should have been looking at the crease and not the ball".
He should have been looking at the crease and not the ball! Thats ridiculous! If a player is confident that he will reach the crease before the throw comes in he is entitled to do whatever he wants before he reaches the danger end....even have a drink if he wants to! Nobody can stop him from doing that! How on this earth is he to expect that a player will suddenly appear from thin air and bang into him?
One thing repeatedly said was that Akram should have recalled Tendulkar, under the circumstances, in the 'spirit of the game'. Yes, if you had learnt your cricket in the era of G R Vishwanath and the likes -- but this is a different day and age, and Clive Lloyd underlined today's philosophy best when he said, once: "There is no such thing as a good loser. A good loser is still a loser!". The grand gesture would perhaps have lifted the profile of the game -- but realistically, the grand gesture rarely comes these days, not from any skipper now active.
To make matters worse, the BCCI had clamped down on the players, and exhorted them not to speak to the media about anything at all because the board does not wish to risk some ill-advised words causing controversy! Which does seem a classic case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, but then, our board moves in mysterious ways its blunders to perform. . And the result of all this? Sachin could not even express his side of the story to clear the matter and all we have is a violent fifth days play wherein the match has to be completed by evacuating 70,000 people with the help of the riot police!
Meanwhile, Pakistan captain Wasim Akram said newspaper reports had provoked the Indian crowd into disrupting play in the first match of the Asian Test championship, which India lost on Saturday.
"It was the press that contributed to this," Akram told reporters after Pakistan beat India by 46 runs in a match in which angry spectators at the Eden Gardens ground interrupted play for nearly three hours on Saturday and 46 minutes on Friday.
"People had read reports in the newspapers saying Sachin Tendulkar's dismissal was not justified."
Several local papers said Akram should have recalled Tendulkar to the crease because he had been dismissed through no fault of his own.
Bengali and English language newspapers lambasted Akram, who had been popular in India during Pakistan's recent tour.
"Akram loses India, may win test," a banner headline in The Telegraph said.
"He could have called back Sachin Tendulkar and become a hero. But he chose to sour the goodwill generated by him and his team on this tour with one gesture he chose not to make," the paper said.
Former Indian test cricketer Dilip Vengsarkar's column in The Asian Age daily was headlined: "Sachin should not have been given out".
Vengsarkar said that in a similar circumstance English umpire Dickie Bird had given the benefit of doubt to a batsman during the World Cup in 1983.
Akram said nobody could be blamed for Tendulkar's dismissal. "It is nobody's fault... We have come to play against a team, not an individual," he said.
"It is disappointing," India captain Mohammad Azharuddin said.
Harsha Bhogle - "At Calcutta, Sachin Tendulkar must have been an angry and disappointed man. I am sure he had his own theories on his dismissal, and the only way to soothe him was to leave him alone. Cricketers like Tendulkar are highly strung individuals. That is why they achieve so much and that is why they hate failure. To ask him to come out and face a crowd that he would have loved to entertain was a shocking ignorance of human feelings."
Aamir Sohail - Pakistani star batsman Aamer Sohail has said that Skipper Wasim Akram should have called back Sachin Tendulkar after he was given run out in the controversy-ridden Calcutta Test. In an interview with a Calcutta daily, Sohail responded positively when asked if he would either have withdrawn the run out appeal against Sachin, or called him back on Day 4 of the Eden Test match. He said: "Let me put it this way: if the visit actually was a Friendship tour as it was made out to be, on both sides of the border, then Wasim should have called Sachin back. But if winning is everything, then " Sohail, however, did not blame Akram. He added "The appeal was perfectly within the laws I suppose, it depends on how you look at it. That's the bottomline."
Shaharyar Khan - "We admit the crowd's sentiments, as they had all come to see their hero batting. But the dismissal was a cricketing decision by the umpires and it had to be respected," he said."The point is that the incident was totally unintentional. Both the players were watching the ball. In fact, it was the fault of the batsman who should have kept an eye on the fielder as Shoaib was in no position to see in which direction Tendulkar was running as he was moving with the ball to cover the throw. The dismissal was in accordance with the rules of the game and rules can't be mend to please the crowd.. I am not disappointed as I can understand that the crowd was disturbed because they had come to watch him (Sachin Tendulkar) in action. After all, Sachin had scored a first ball duck in the first innings."
Javed Miandad - "We discussed calling him back, but agreed it would be a very bad precedent. Sometimes bowlers take wickets off no-balls; the umpire doesnt pick it up, but TV does. Will you recall all those batsmen? It would mean the crowd will decide whos out and whos not. Sachin didnt run well. Earlier Ganguly took a catch that bounced a foot in front of him but he claimed it. Newspapers didnt write about it. In England, once Salim Yousuf took a catch that bounced in front of him and all the papers there called us cheats."
Wasim Akram - "It is nobody's fault... We have come to play against a team, not an individual,"
Dilip Vengsarkar - "Sachin should not have been given out. In a similar circumstance English umpire Dickie Bird had given the benefit of doubt to a batsman during the World Cup in 1983."
Arun Lal - "It was unfortunate, no question about that. I am not sure whether the bat was grounded or not. Even if it was grounded ,it was lifted up not to avoid injury. By the laws, he was out. I do not think the infringement was deliberate. The onus is on the batsman to avoid the fielder, who was there legitimately, to collect the throw. Tendulkar crashed into the fielder, and it was his fault. And no, I would not have recalled the batsman. It was unfortunate, the way the dismissal happened, but rules are rules, and that is how the game is played. Every day, in every match, batsmen who are not out are given out by the umpire -- would you recall all of them? Frankly, had I been Sachin, I would not have returned to the crease even if they had called me back. When you are not out and the umpire gives you out, tough -- but that is cricket."