Sachin Tendulkar has been honoured at Sharjah Cricket Stadium where a stand has been named after the Indian batting great.
The West Stand will now be known as the Sachin Tendulkar Stand. The announcement was made on his 50th birthday – and 25 years to the day since he played one of his finest innings at the ground.
On April 22, 1998, Tendulkar played an innings which has become known as “Desert Storm”, given it was briefly interrupted by a sandstorm.
The century against Australia is regarded by many as one of his greatest ever. Virat Kohli recently said it was the one innings he wishes he himself had played.
It meant India advanced to the final of a tri-series which also involved New Zealand. Two days later, on his 25th birthday, he won the series for India with another century against a star-studded Australia line up.
“This was where my passion for cricket started,” Khalaf Bukhatir, the chief executive of Sharjah Cricket, said.
“It was 1998 and we had to come and watch ODIs, for about 10 hours a day. We would roam around the stadium and be less focused on the game, because at that stage I wasn’t very aware.
“But from that day my passion was started. I became a fan of the game, and a fan of Sachin Tendulkar. I can’t forget his birthday celebrations. It mesmerised the whole audience, and I feel lucky to have been there.
“That day is not just special to Sachin but special to everyone who witnessed it.”
Mazhar Khan, the long-serving administrator of Sharjah Cricket, said everyone who was there for that fixture realised it would live long in the memory.
“India needed to chase a target of 250 to make the final of the Coca Cola Cup and to do that they needed some amazing performances,” Mazhar said.
“Suddenly there were heavy, dark clouds around. Then the match had to stop because of a storm. It sent the players back to the pavilion.
“It was a sandstorm and we called it ‘Desert Storm’. That sandstorm stopped the match for 25 minutes and I remember distinctly the players being sat of the steps at the front of the changing room.
“Raj Singh Dungarpur [India’s team manager] had his arm around Sachin’s neck and was telling him something. It was history what followed after that.”
Mazhar said the new name for the West Stand is a fitting honour for a player who is inextricably linked with Sharjah’s cricket history.
“The way he displayed his class was evident for everyone to see,” he said. “I don’t think we see such innings in today’s cricket. It was God gifted.
“The way he took on Shane Warne, [Michael] Kasprowicz, Tom Moody, Damien Fleming, it made for an amazing story.
“Sharjah had been a pioneer by saluting the masters of cricket in the past, and we are really thrilled to be able to honour such a wonderful personality here at the stadium now.”
The man himself paid tribute to the “special venue” via a video message. “Playing in Sharjah has always been a magnificent experience,” Tendulkar said.
“From the electrifying atmosphere to the love, affection and support, Sharjah has been a special venue for Indian cricket fans and lovers of the game from around the globe. It's given us so many special moments.”