In a conversation with Aakash Chopra on a live session on Facebook, former legendary Pakistani fast bowler Wasim Akram recollected memories of the famous Test match at Chennai in 1999 between India and Pakistan, as he went on to reveal how he and off spinner Saqlain Mushtaq decided to take a risk against an in form Sachin Tendulkar which luckily paid off.
Tendulkar, who made 136 of his finest runs in the 4th Innings of that Test match as India were set 271 to chase, could not get his team over the line, as Pakistan went on to win the Test by 12 runs. Battling back spasm, Tendulkar, with India 17 away from victory, top edged a heave off the bowling of Saqlain and was out caught by Akram himself. 21 years after that epic Test at the Chepauk stadium, the former Pakistan captain weighed in on the match, offering his insights.
“I remember that Test match like it was yesterday. India and Pakistan were known to play close matches. I remember a Test match in 1987 in Bangalore when Sunil Gavaskar scored some 90-odd and then this Chennai Test. It was such a close Test match, into its last day. I think India needed some 20-odd runs, and the partnership between Mongia and Sachin was flourishing. Sachin was reading Saqlain bloody well, and was aware when he bowled the doosra.”
After India were reduced to 82/5, Tendulkar and wicketkeeper Nayan Mongia came together to add a 136 run partnership for the sixth wicket. Akram, who broke the stand by foxing Mongia to play a rash shot, believes that was the moment when he believed Pakistan had a chance to wrap things up and indicated the message to his players. Akram said, “Had Mongia played along, the result would have been different. But when he skied one and got out, I told the players this is the time. Sachin was battling back spasms so the opportunity was right there.”
Akram recalled the risk they took in order to get the big wicket of Tendulkar. He said, “For Sachin, all fielders were on the boundary. Only I was at extra-cover. I told Saqlain to bowl a flighted doosra, knowing the risk that it may even go for a six. Knowing that Sachin would hit over mid-wicket, Saqlain bowled it full on middle and leg. He went after it and top-edged the ball to me.”