'Sachin Tendulkar slapped me on the back and...': Sehwag shares gripping 'Save me from Wasim Akram' incident

‘Sachin Tendulkar slapped me on the back and…’: Sehwag shares gripping ‘Save me from Wasim Akram’ incident

Indian cricketers are up there when it comes to the best opening pairs in ODI cricket. Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly, statistically, are still the best with 6609 runs from 136 rounds at an average of 49.32 and 21 century partnerships. At No. 4 is the duo of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan with 5,148 runs from 115 rounds with 18-century partnerships. Next, at No. 5, is arguably the most entertaining pair – that of Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag who amassed 3919 runs from 93 batting innings together at an average of 42.13 and 12 centuries. Even after all these years, after Ganguly and Tendulkar, the opening duo of Sachin and Sehwag remain one of the most legendary and beloved pairings in Indian cricket.

Once there, Sehwag became India’s certified opener and remained so until the end. His partners would trade between Tendulkar and Ganguly, but it was with the Master Blaster that Sehwag formed a series of memorable partnerships. Sehwag and Tendulkar started battling together in 2003, mainly at the World Cup in South Africa, where India finished second…and the rest, as they say, is history.

Read also | ‘Tendulkar’s true greatness was…’: Sachin’s former India teammate identifies Virat Kohli’s ‘great mountain’

Tendulkar and Sehwag’s first real test came in the high-tension India-Pakistan match, and as all Sachin fans know, he barely took the first hit. But in this particular case, it was Tendulkar who faced the first ball. Over the years, several theories have emerged as to why Sachin decided to strike first. Some reports suggested he did it to show his intent, while others claimed he wanted to derail the Pakistani frontrunners earlier. However, a stunning new claim from Sehwag reveals a whole different story.

“I wasn’t doing well against fast left arm bowlers. I got the first ball out to Chaminda Vaas many times and Nathan Bracken many times as well. When we were playing against Wasim bhai in the 2003 World Cup, and the last of the innings when we were in the field and I asked Sachin Tendulkar to take the strike. I said, ‘You see, if Wasim throws the first pitch, I might get out.’He (Tendulkar) said “No, no, I’m very superstitious, my pandit ji told me to hit No. 2”. And I said “You are the No. 1 drummer in the world and you talk about Pandit ji… But he said, “No…I’m going to strike at No. 2; you have to take the strike,” Sehwag said during an interaction on the sidelines of ILT20.

“So we were playing Centurion and we had to climb a lot of stairs, so we walked in for lunch, then came back to ask for Tendulkar. He had put on big headphones, taken one off, slapped me on the back and told me to go and get stuffed; I won’t take the strike. So you know I was trying to please Tendulkar to save myself from Wasim Akram.

However, somewhere between this discussion and the first ball played, Tendulkar changed his mind. Pakistan had posted a solid first strike of 273/7 – their highest tally in a World Cup against India, and Sachin was aware his side needed a flying start against Wasim, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar. The sleepless nights Sachin had endured before the game, it was time for Tendulkar to own the big stage again. And once he hit Akram with his back foot for his first limit, the world knew something special was about to happen. For someone with 49 ODI centuries, his 98 innings that day at Centurion is considered by many to be his most important shot, and to some extent that notion isn’t even debatable.

“When we were going down to bat, going down the stairs, I asked him to strike again…and he said no. Until the 30 yard circle, I asked him to strike and he kept saying no. And then all of a sudden I see Sachin walking towards where the wicket keeper is standing and I said “Wow, it’s my lucky day, you know” He took the strike, first ball he took single and second ball I had to face Wasim Akram. So I was lucky enough to survive that but at least I didn’t play the first one,” added Sehwag.

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