Sachin Tendulkar’s insights into the World Cup proceedings will be a special privilege for viewers this year. But then again, nothing better than watching the little champion with a piece of willow...
A few days ago, a PR mail landed in my inbox, confirming Sachin Tendulkar’s debut as a TV pundit during this year’s World Cup. It gave me mixed feelings. His insights into the proceedings will be a special privilege for viewers. But then again, nothing better than watching the little champion with a piece of willow.
Time flies and nothing lasts forever, but to a whole generation that has grown up with Tendulkar, it’s difficult to think about the biggest cricket show on earth without their hero. It’s not easy to roll over the memories of the past six World Cups—the fascinating journey that culminated in the title triumph at the Wankhede stadium in Mumbai in 2011.
We will miss Tendulkar, especially when India play their first match of the tournament against Pakistan on February 15. India held sway over their arch rivals in all five meetings in the World Cup so far. What will happen this time? Who will provide that reassuring presence on the field?
Tendulkar had always reserved his best for Pakistan. In 1992, his first tournament, his 54 not-out at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) turned out to be the difference between the two sides. India won by 43 runs. Move on to Bangalore in 1996: his 31 ensured a good start and helped Navjot Sidhu get into the groove at the other end. The winning margin was 39 runs. Then came Old Trafford in 1999 and, once again, Tendulkar contributed with a cameo (45). India won by 47 runs.
Centurion in 2003 deserves special mention. It was one of his best limited-overs innings. Pakistan had posted 273/7, with Wasim Akram and Shoaib Akhtar leading the pace attack. Tendulkar tore them apart and set up the chase with a scintillating 98 off 75 balls. Fans back home celebrated an untimely Diwali.
Four years ago, during India’s World Cup-winning campaign, India met Pakistan in the semi-final. Tendulkar was not at his best. The Mohali pitch was a bit two-paced, making things difficult for stroke players. We saw the other side of the master then. Yes, it was streaky. He was allowed reprieves at least four times, but Tendulkar didn’t throw in the towel. He fought hard to score 85, as India won by 29 runs. The dropped catches notwithstanding, it was still a special knock under the circumstances.
Tendulkar was a ball boy during the 1987 World Cup semi-final between India and England at Wankhede. It was Sunil Gavaskar’s swansong. The emergence of the 16-year-old two seasons later, however, allowed almost a seamless transition. His debut in the World Cup was colourful, of course in a metaphorical sense, for coloured clothing was introduced in 1992. The previous four editions were played in flannels.
Tendulkar began with a huge promise, lived up to it in style and ended up being the ‘god’ of cricket. His World Cup record is staggering: 2,278 runs in 45 matches at 56.95. He has six centuries, also a Cup record. He towers over the rest. Here’s the break-up:
l 1992: Eight matches, 283 runs
l 1996: Seven matches, 523 runs at 87.17 (two centuries)
l 1999: Seven matches, 253 runs at 42.17 (one century)
l 2003: 11 matches, 673 runs at 61.18 (one century)
l 2007: Three matches, 64 runs at 32.00
l 2009: Nine matches, 482 runs at 53.56 (two centuries)
As the International Cricket Council’s (ICC’s) brand ambassador for the 2015 World Cup, he shared his advice and success mantra recently. “Perth and Brisbane are renowned for their fast and bouncy wickets that will easily expose inexperience. Both batsmen and bowlers have low margins for errors. As a batsman, if you understand the pace and bounce, then you could get on top of the bowling,” he wrote in his column for the ICC. “In New Zealand, batsmen will have to beware of the windy conditions due to the geographical locations of some of the venues. The wind sometimes can be strong enough to seriously affect a batsman’s timing. Playing against the wind, your backlift is faster but the down-swing is considerably slow while the ball is coming on faster, and vice-versa, from the other end,” he added.
Invaluable advice to someone like Virat Kohli. The latter has already confirmed his status as ODI great. But he’s still relatively new to the conditions Down Under. Kohli is India’s main man, a reason why he will live under Tendulkar’s shadow throughout this World Cup. But the 26-year-old has the proven quality to grow out of it.