In the first 69 One Day International matches of his career, Sachin Tendulkar batted in the middle order. In 61 of the 66 innings in that phase, he batted at number four and five scoring 13 fifties and no century and maintained an average around 30.84. He was already recognized as one of the stars of the ’90s and established himself as a fine test batsman with his centuries at Manchester, Perth, and Sydney. But the impact he was expected to create in ODIs were missing as most of the time he came with not many deliveries to work with.
On 27th March 1994, the second ODI between New Zealand and India was played at Auckland. Indian bowlers did well to restrict New Zealand for just 142. Then the Indian captain Mohammad Azharuddin made a key decision which changed the fate of Indian cricket and in a way world cricket for years to come.
One day cricket was going through a change. The fielding restriction in the first fifteen overs was a new innovation during 1992 world cup and teams were making changes in their batting order to utilize the gaps with only two fielders out of the fifteen-yard circle.
India’s regular opener Navjot Singh Sidhu was out of the match due to a stiff neck and Azhar asked Sachin to open the innings with Ajay Jadeja. Azhar must have hoped that with his timing and skill to find gaps in the outfield Tendulkar could take this chance and help India to chase the small total. But what happened next was unexpected by everyone. Tendulkar mercilessly attacked the fast bowlers and started scoring at a breakneck speed. The balls were sent to the boundary at regular intervals as both New Zealand opening bowlers conceded runs at close to seven runs per over. Gavin Larsen who was known for his control and great line and length was hit for 24 runs in two overs as Tendulkar kept stepping out to him to break his rhythm. He hit 15 fours and two sixes in his innings of 82 off just 49 balls. India won the match easily but that was just a mere statistic. The significance of the match was the beginning of Tendulkar’s journey as an opener. In this journey, he went on to play 344 matches as an opener scoring 15,310 runs with 45 hundred and 75 half-centuries. There were memorable innings galore including the first ever ODI double hundred.
It was an iconic inning played on this day and established the legend of Tendulkar from that early age.