How Sachin Tendulkar made himself ‘Shorter’ to see off Allan Donald in Cape Town

Allan Donald and Sachin Tendulkar (Image: ICC)

Newlands in Cape Town is something of a South African fortress. Since their readmission to international cricket in 1991-92, South Africa have won 24 of their 35 Tests there. Four of their five defeats have come against formidable Australian sides. India, apart from a missed opportunity in January 2011, have never come close to breaking that duck. Despite that, there was one Indian who always enjoyed playing at this most picturesque of venues. Sachin Tendulkar scored two memorable centuries and two 50s in his four Tests at Newlands. In an earlier episode of Backstage with Boria, he has spoken of the challenges of playing there, and especially of taking on Allan Donald, then one of the most-feared pace bowlers on the planet. As India, under Rohit Sharma, look to end their Cape Town jinx in a New Year Test they need to win the square the series, here are excerpts from the that conversation. 

Boria: While writing your book, you had told me this fascinating story of widening your stance against Allan Donald…

Sachin Tendulkar: Allan Donald was known for his hostility and aggression. Mind you, off the field, he was and is a fabulous guy. A friend of mine, and I value that friendship. With Donald, when not much was happening over the wicket, the strategy was to come around the wicket and attack my ribcage. At that moment, I thought of how sometimes the taller guys use their height to get on top of the ball. So, why don’t the shorter guys use their [lack of] height to get under the ball?  That is exactly what I tried to do.

I shifted my center of gravity lower, and started going under the ball, which made things much easier. Donald was quick and called White Lightning, so because of the pace and the bounce he was generating, I felt even if the ball was just short of good length, I could duck under it. To do that consistently, I widened my stance and went even lower. It was then all about picking the length. Once I picked the length, I was already in a better position to go down and assess the delivery.


Boria: Can’t this still be done by current batsmen?

Well, it depends. Sometimes, you can take them [the bowlers] on and sometimes you can let the ball go. The same Allan Donald, four years later, in Cape Town, when he tried bowling a couple of short-pitched deliveries to begin with, I was able to hit those pull shots. And to [Brian] McMillan, when I pulled, I thought it was going for six. And then, Adam Bacher took a blinder on the boundary line. He was six or seven yards in, and the ball was travelling. It would have gone for a six.

It all depends on the non-strikers as well, and whether taking those chances is necessary.

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