26/11/2008: The date is regarded as one of the saddest days in the history of modern India, written in goriest of letters. It was on this day that few Pakistani terrorists wrecked havoc in the Indian commercial capital, Mumbai, killing hundreds of innocents at the railway stations, on the road and major Mumbai hotels, including the Taj Mahal hotel. However, if you remember, it was also during this time that the Indian cricket team was playing a Test match in Chennai and was quite struggling to reach the stipulated target of 387 given by England.
Despite struggling hard for more than three and a half days, India emerged victorious in the match, with Master Blaster Sachin Tendulkar scripting an unbeatable 103 runs – his 41st century in Test cricket. It was indeed one of the best wins by India.
But how did the Indian team managed such a great turn around, when it was struggling really bad even in the third day? Sachin Tendulkar enlightened every Indian about one incident which prompted them to push their limits and give in their best. In an exclusive interview with former Marine Commando Praveen Kumar Teotia as part of the Indian Express’ ‘Stories of Strength’ event held in Mumbai on the ninth anniversary of the 26/11 attacks, the master batsman recalled how the Indian team drew inspiration from the bravery and valor of the Indian security forces to put forward such a winning show.
Tendulkar and Yuvraj’s unbeaten 165-run partnership has been written in golden words in the history of Indian cricket – after all, it was the fourth highest successful run chase in Test history and the biggest fourth innings score ever at Chennai’s Chepauk Stadium. Talking about this, the former Indian captain said:
When the terror attack took place in Mumbai, I remember we were playing a Test match against England in Cuttack. After the match, we went to the dressing room and saw news channels on television reporting that a gang-war has started in Mumbai. The reporting, initially, was of gang-war. Nobody had any thought that it was a terror attack.
Recalling the incident, the legendary cricketer further added:
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When we reached our hotel in Bhubaneswar after an hour and a half, the news reporting about the incident changed. News channels were showing Taj Hotel, Trident Hotel, and other things. But they were now not using the word gang-war. We couldn’t sleep the whole night. The situation got worse in Mumbai.
Next day, the ongoing tour got canceled. The England cricket team decided to return back. We also returned back to Mumbai. After 10 days, we had our Test match in Chennai. The England cricket team came back and agreed to play two Test matches. When we reached Chennai, the frame of mind of the entire team was different. No matter how much we tried to focus on cricket, at the back end of our minds, we all were thinking about the terror attack.
India was trailing at the Chennai test match, but the cricketers did not give up till the last moment. They continuously drew inspiration from the Indian security forces – something that helped them fight all odds and emerge victorious in the match:
For the first three and a half days of the Chennai Test, England completely dominated us. But we didn’t give up. We all had in our minds that we will do something for the country, for the people. After three and a half days in the Test match, things started to change and we went on to win the match, that too comprehensively. The whole team was so high on emotions that after the win, for the very first time, groundswomen, instead of groundsmen, came to the field, they celebrated our win, they congratulated us.
Even in our cricket team, we have people from different castes, religions etc but they all play together for India. When it comes to India, we all are together. This feeling of togetherness can never be removed. And all this was possible because of you guys, our brave Indian soldiers. On behalf of the entire nation and the people of India, I thank you, our Indian armed forces and your bravery. I salute you.
It was indeed a very special win for us though heartening as well for we lost hundreds of innocent men and valiant soldiers to the Pakistani intruders. But, like always, we emerged as winners – and hopefully, we will always till eternity.