If there is a debate about the greatest decisions by captains that proved to be masterstrokes then Mohammad Azharuddin’s decisive thinking in 1994 is sure to be in the top 5. On March 27, one of the greatest batsmen in the history of the sport started a legendary run. Sachin Tendulkar used to bat in the middle-order for India before he was asked to open the innings by Azharuddin. In consultation with team manager Ajit Wadekar, Azhar decided to promote the 21-year-old Tendulkar up the order.
Sachin used to bat at No. 5 or No. 6 in the batting order and did not have a single hundred to his name. Just to put things in perspective, the man who scored a century of international hundreds did not score a single ton in his first 5 years of One Day cricket.
But when asked to open the innings, Sachin did not disappoint his captain. He scored 82 runs off 49 balls against New Zealand in Auckland to justify the decision to send him up the order.
But what prompted that decision? Azharuddin has explained in an interview with Sportstar.
“I have been noticing that nothing was happening big with Sachin even though he was batting well at No. 5 and 6. We (myself and Wadekar Sir) did have a talk on this issue and went ahead with the decision to have Sachin as opener after regular opener Sidhu (Navjot Singh) was unwell.”
“And, importantly, Sachin also wanted to open and now we are glad that went on to become one of the greatest batsmen of all-time,” Azhar said.
“I won’t say I was surprised by his response, I knew Sachin had the talent. He just needed that opportunity to showcase his abundance of talent.”
“I can’t take pride for his achievements later on. In fact, nobody can. He had the talent to go to places,” Azhar added.
This move was the catalyst for one of the greatest runs in international cricket. Sachin eventually ended up with 49 ODI centuries in 463 matches and is now regarded as arguably the greatest batsman to play the game.