With Sidhu injured, Azhar turned to me and I to Sachin: Ajit Wadekar
* Ajit Wadekar
It was Auckland, 1994. The team was warming up before a crucial one-day match against New Zealand. I was discussing strategies with Mohammad Azharuddin, Kapil Dev and Sachin Tendulkar, when Navjot Sidhu came limping towards us. We had already picked our playing XI and decided the batting order but Sidhu said he couldn't play as he had hurt his ankle during practice. Azhar turned to me and I turned to Sachin. He readily accepted my proposal to open the innings and the rest is history. New Zealand seamer Danny Morrison was in fine form during that series. But Sachin tore him to shreds and returned after scoring a scintillating 82. After that there was no question of changing his batting position in limited-overs cricket.
In the first part of his ODI career, when he used to bat at No. 4 or 5, he wasn't getting enough deliveries to build his innings. We had a very strong batting line-up then and Sachin always batted in the last 15 overs. That was the reason why it took him quite a while to score his first ODI hundred. But after he started to open the innings, centuries came thick and fast.
However, I must also mention that he never put himself under pressure, thinking about the lost opportunities. He had self-belief and knew that it was just a matter of time before he would start scoring tons.
I think it was one of my best decisions as a cricket manager to send him to open the innings. Sachin's talent and self confidence allowed me to take such a decision. He was quite confident that he would be successful, batting up the order. And the god-gifted talent that he is, he could easily change his game accordingly.
In fact, Sachin changed the entire approach of opening the innings. Before him, Indian openers were a lot more conventional — reluctant to take too many risks despite the fact that we had a rule that allowed only two fielders outside the circle for the first 15 overs.