The Australian cricket team’s decision to train against ‘duplicate’ Ravichandran Ashwin ahead of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy evokes memories of Sachin Tendulkar facing Laxman Sivaramakrishnan ahead of the 1998 India-Australia series.
The Test series in India was widely billed as a battle between Tendulkar and the late Australian wizard Shane Warne as both cricketing icons were at the peak of their powers. A week before the mega-series in March 1998, Tendulkar practiced his batting skills against Sivaramakrishnan at the MRF Pace Foundation in Chennai.
As India and Australia prepare for their final battle, Sivaramakrishnan recalled his role in Tendulkar’s incredible feat against Warne during the 1998 series. The former Indian leg-spinner told The Times of India:
“Most people think about the exact purpose of these trainings. I will never be a replica of Shane Warne. But what worked for me was that I also had big leg breaks. You can never copy another bowler.”
Praising Tendulkar, he added that the Indian legend gave him accurate feedback on Warne’s variations and pace off the field, which helped prepare the batsman for the big challenge. Sivaramakrishnan continued:
“Those were the days when you didn’t have video analysts and the exposure to a wide range of video that you have now. We talked a lot. He gave me feedback from his experience of facing Warne. Sachin very vividly described the pace off the field that Warne could create.
“Also, it gave me a clear picture of the variation of pace, path and angles used by Warne. So Sachin was attentive. I just tried to implement it.”
Sivaramakrishnan represented India in nine Tests and 16 ODIs from 1983 to 1987.
“Sachin bought new shoes with sharp spikes” – Sivaramakrishnan on how Tendulkar ‘created’ rough
One of the standout aspects of Tendulkar’s success against Warne during the 1998 series was the way he dominated long-leg even when the ball was bowled rough.
Sivaramakrishnan revealed how the Master Blaster replicated hitting balls spinning off the court during practice. He recalled:
“Sachin bought new shoes with sharp spikes. It scratched the surface a lot and created a rough surface. The owner of the land was not satisfied with what we planned. Therefore, we decided to use only one court for the one-week session. On the third or fourth day, the pitch became very difficult to hit.”
Warne dismissed Tendulkar for four in the first Test of the 1998 series in Chennai. However, the Indian legend’s work paid off in the second innings when she smashed a masterful 155*, unleashing a flurry of strikes against Warne.