The year 1988, April 22. It was the date when a ferocious desert storm settled down on the lands to see a destructive Sachin Tendulkar blowing away the lethal Australian attack like a house of cards. The innings came in a losing cause but was named ‘Desert Storm’ in respect of the Master Blaster’s masterclass.
It was the sixth match of the Sharjah Cup tri-series that was played between Australia and India. New Zealand was the other team participating in the series. While Australia had qualified for the finals, India was playing for a place in the finals. Australia, batting first, racked 284/7 from 50 overs, thanks to the century by Michael Bevan. A humongous target of 285 stared at India.
The second innings was delayed by 25 minutes due to a wild sand storm that swept through the stadium. That’s why the innings is famous as the ‘Desert Storm’ innings. Those who were present there say, “The stadium witnessed two storms that day. One due to the sand and another from Sachin’s bat.” And they are not wrong. When India came to bat, the target was reduced due to the sand storm from 285 in 50 overs to 277 in 46 overs. However, the men in blue needed just 237 to qualify for the finals.
24-year-old Sachin came to open the innings with Sourav Ganguly, and when he returned to the pavilion, he’d already escorted his team to the finals. The master blaster gave an explosive start to India, and the Aussies bowling attack appeared miserable in front of him. The Australian attack consisted of Damien Fleming, Shane Warne, Michael Kasprowicz, and others. Sachin thrashed all of them brutally and made all of them his bunny. The master scored a brilliant 143 of just 131 balls. He scored nine boundaries and smoked five huge sixes.
Tendulkar reached his fifty in the 22nd over itself when the team’s score had barely crossed 100. As he raised his bat, the first words from the commentator’s mouth were, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Soon after his half-century, the master started toying with the field placements. It was like he had a leash on the kangaroos and was making them run from one corner to another. The Aussies weren’t enjoying it at all, but the crowd had gone mad. Sachin reached his century in just 111 balls, and the team total at that stage was 194/4. India still needed 82 runs to win. Sachin was the subject of the commentator’s discussion in every line they spoke. “What a champion player,” Ravi Shastri said.
The century was followed by two boundaries and two sixes. Some of the fans ran towards Sachin, overjoyed by his masterclass that was on display. Ravi Shastri, in the commentary box, uttered, “He has gone berserk, so has the crowd.” After a few deliveries, Sachin steered the ball for a couple, and India qualified for the finals with the score of 238/4. By then, there was deafening noise in the ground. The next ball was thrashed by a blazing cover drive by the master, and the Aussies knew he was going for the win. They could only pray for a miracle, that was not far away given the scorching heat at Sharjah that had tired Sachin as any other player. Sachin got out while trying to hook a ball, and India went on to lose the match, falling 26 runs short of victory. But, the task was done, India was into the finals, and the inning had made its way among the top ODI innings of all times. Sachin, the legend that we know, had announced his arrival.
Sachin’s inning in Sharjah is etched in the history books and legends of the game call it one of the best ODI innings they’ve seen. He himself remembers the knock as one of the best by his bat. Cricket Australia has magnificently described the innings in an article. One of the lines from the article reads: “The 1998 Coca-Cola Cup, a three-team tri-series in the United Arab Emirates featuring India, Australia, and New Zealand, was dominated by two factors; the No.1 ranked Australian side and Tendulkar.”
Current Indian captain Virat Kohli, another legend of the game, was recently asked about the one knock that he wished he had played, and Kohli without taking a second responded: “1998 desert storm.” Such was the greatness of the inning. The Australian bowlers were tormented by the brutal bashing they had witnessed, and the likes of Shane Warne knew that many more such innings awaited them. “Brace for impact,” they would’ve said.
“Given the conditions in the month of April the temperatures are really high, and you can feel the heat going through your shoes and socks, and the first thing you want to do is to put your feet in the ice bucket,”