Saturday, April 9, 2011

If wishes were horses!

"So what do I wish for my hero in the future – well if wishes were horses then I would want him to score atleast 15,000 runs in test cricket (well that’s only 2227 runs away), complete a century of international centuries (only 14 more to get!), to break Lara’s record of the highest test score of 400* (it’s sad that Sachin hasn’t got a triple ton till date…) and break Saeed Anwar’s record of the highest ODI score of 194 (well Sachin came close in Hyderabad scoring 186* (150b) on 8th Nov 1999 – a game I was priviledged to have watched at the Lal Bahadur Stadium)… but above all else, he must win India the World Cup (his stature demands it!)."

I wrote the down this fantastic wishlist on 20th September 2009 when Sachin completed his two decades in International Cricket - at the time, I did not imagine that in just over a year down the line, playing his 21st season for India, at 37, my hero would achieve almost all of the above. In 2010, he achieved most of the wishes on my list: He closed in on 15,000 test runs (just 308 runs away now) having already hit an incredible 51 Test Centuries  ... and he fulfilled my 4th wish - in February 2010, a few days before his 37th Birthday (and one day after my 29th!), Sachin scored the first double century in ODIs thus eclipsing Saeed Anwar's record! What a birthday gift! What a year he had!

Come February 2011, the entire country (including his coach, Achrekar Sir) was willing him to lead India to World Cup victory. Sachin Tendulkar himself had said that ICC cricket World Cup 2011 was the most important tournament of his life. Even though he has never let his private emotions to be made public, he is in full vigour to continue playing WC 2011.Sachin said, "Yes, it is the most important tournament of my life. Everyone wants the team to do well. I need to focus all my energies on how to go about doing my job."

Well., to say that the pressure on Team Indian and Sachin in particular was immense, would be the understatement of the century!

India started as favourites and in a long tournament, that started on 19/02/2011, the team started slowly and fans  got restless. Then add to that the drama of the tied game with England and losing to South Africa after having scored 300+ runs (Sachin scored centuries in each of these matches).

However with pressure just increasing in the knock out phase, Team India came through to the finals beating Australia in QFs in Motera and Pakistan in the semis in Mohali. Finally on 02/04/2011, Dhoni led India to World Cup glory over Sri Lanka and my biggest wish came true! Here's SRT during WC 2011 Finals that was played in his homeground, Wankhade Stadium in Mumbai:

Sachin Tendulkar said that winning cricket World Cup is the best moment of his life and that the winning the Cup was for all of India (Well India says thanks a billion, Sachin). India's master batsman He described winning the World Cup in front of his home crowd in Mumbai as the proudest moment of his life. Tendulkar was unable to mark the occasion with the 100th international hundred millions had craved for him, leaving it instead to captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (91no) and Gautam Gambhir (97) to lead the run chase in a six-wicket victory over Sri Lanka.

But after India had won the Cup for the first time since their maiden trophy in 1983, at 37-year-old Tendulkar's sixth attempt (see picture above for Sachin at all 6 WCs), he admitted to shedding tears of joy at succeeding at last. "They are happy tears, so I don't mind at all," he said. "I could not have asked for anything better than this. Winning the World Cup ... it is the proudest moment of my life. It's never too late. Thanks to all my team-mates. Without their fabulous performances, this would never have happened."

During the WC, Sachin went past 18,000 ODI runs. At the end of the tournament, he finished up as India's leading batsman and was the second highest run-scorer with 482 runs (just 18 behind leader Dilshan) with 2 centuries, one each against England and South Africa. He nearly got his 100th International Century against Pakistan in the semis in Mohali but got out on 85. Never mind... there's just one more to get for my third wish to come true!

"He has carried the burden of the nation for 21 years. It is time we carried him on our shoulders." - Virat Kohli leads the Tendulkar tributes after India's World Cup triumph

"Couldn't have asked for more. This is ultimate. It is the proudest moment of my life," said Tendulkar in a choked voice after the victory. "I thank the team for putting up a fabulous performance and playing consistent cricket," the maestro added.

Tendulkar, who did a lap of honour on shoulder of his teammates, said that there were tears in his eyes once Dhoni hit that six. "Yes, they were happy tears. So I don't mind. We have stuck together through ups and down," stated the smiling legend.

The entire team wanted to win the World Cup for the Little Master. Before the tournament started, Gautam Gambhir was brimming with confidence and was sure that Team India will go all out to win the World Cup in honour of the team's oldest player and veteran 6 times over, of the mega-tournament. "I sincerely wish that this would not be Sachin's last World Cup and he would play one more. All members of the Indian side would like to win it for him," Gambhir told a leading news channel. And the Boys in Blue kept their word. Gauti himself said after winning the Cup that the win was a gift to his great teammate from the entire squad. "All credit for this win should go to Tendulkar. We were all playing for him, this trophy is for him."

After the victory over Australia in the QFs, Yuvi has said: "I want to win the World Cup for someone special." After playing a major role in India's World Cup title triumph, a feat that fetched him the man of the tournament award, swashbuckling left-handed batsman Yuvraj Singh revealed that he wanted to win cricket's most coveted title for senior teammate Sachin Tendulkar. "Very sorry to disappoint you, guys. It was not for my girlfriend but for Sachin Tendulkar," he said at the packed post-final media conference with skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni sitting by his side.

And the man to whom the team dedicated the cup was his humble-self, stating that it was a team effort. "Thanks to our support staff. Everyone worked very hard, especially Mike Horn who joined us before the World Cup started. And also in the last couple of games worked on our mental side to deal with expectations and pressure. So I think that has really helped," said Tendulkar.

"Obviously the team stuck together through ups and downs; there were a few rough phases in the team. We proved most of the people wrong, who were doubting our ability," the master batsman added.

When quizzed about the evident self-belief in Team India, Tendulkar said it was "always there." "It has always been there, a little more in the last two years when we have been consistent. It has been an honour to be part of this team. A special thanks to Gary and the whole staff. I think their contribution has been immense."

Describing India's World Cup win as a dream he had been chasing for 21 years, Sachin Tendulkar said that he could not sleep on Saturday night as he could not believe that India had finally become world champions. "I never thought that God would show me this day. I cannot express my delight," Tendulkar said.

"As an Indian, we have all won this cup. It's not just us 15 (in the squad) but the entire nation. The cup belongs to the entire nation so I am sure they are feeling part of it." Asked if he would play in the next edition in 2015 in Australia and New Zealand, Tendulkar replied: "All I will say is that it is a great moment. Focus on this, enjoy this, rather than looking back or too far ahead." Tendulkar, who was speaking at a reception hosted in honour of the victorious team at Raj Bhavan, said: "We should leave all that (speculation on his future plans) and enjoy this moment." Asked if he was disappointed at missing a chance to make his 100th international century in the final, Tendulkar said that was not relevant. "The World Cup win was big and should be savoured."

Sachin, later, also revealed that he started nurturing ambitions of winning the 2011 World Cup right after India's crushing first-round exit in the 2007 edition of the tournament. Talking to Mid-Day after India's victory in the World Cup final, Tendulkar said the prospect of lifting the Cup in front of his home crowd had motivated him through tough times.

"That [winning the World Cup at the Wankhede Stadium] was my dream after we lost in 2007," Tendulkar said. "I took up that challenge. I said, the next World Cup is in Mumbai and this is where I would want the trophy. It was a challenge and I started working towards that. After the 2007 World Cup when we got to know that the next one is in India and the final would be held in Mumbai. That is when I felt that this is the place where we have to lift the trophy." 

Tendulkar admitted the 2007 exit, which came on the back of a patch of poor personal form was the toughest phase of his career. "Yeah, it was really tough," Tendulkar said. "My family and friends really supported me at that stage. It was probably the toughest phase of my career and I was really demoralised. Talking about the World Cup in India at that time was something which motivated me. The final in Mumbai, that was greater motivation because here is where I grew up playing cricket. I wanted to do something really, really special here in India and Mumbai." 

Tendulkar said MS Dhoni's winning hit in the final was the most unforgettable moment of the campaign. "The moment the winning runs were scored, I jumped," he said. "Viru [Virender Sehwag] who was next to me, jumped too. We were sitting in the dressing room and praying." 

India's win included hard-fought victories against each of the former World Cup champions. Tendulkar scored two centuries in losing causes, but rated his chancy 85 against Pakistan as his most important contribution. Tendulkar recalled a couple of critical moments in that game, which India went on to win and extend their unbeaten record against Pakistan in World Cups.

Sachin had a very interesting observation: Indian cricketers from small towns are making their presence felt in a big way in international cricket, and Sachin feels these players are a bit "more motivated" to make it big. "I think the players from the smaller towns sacrifice a bit more for developing their cricketing skills. They are a bit more motivated to make it big."

Sachin rated MS Dhoni as the best captain he has played under during his 22-year cricket career. Dhoni had earlier said what the rest of the world already knew:

Sachin Tendulkar also spoke about about his finest memories of the 2011 World Cup where he finally fulfilled his lifetime dream of lifting the coveted trophy:

Unforgettable  dressing room moment: The moment the winning runs were scored, I jumped. Viru (Sehwag) who was next to me, jumped too. We were sitting in the dressing room and praying.

Unforgettable part of the celebrations: When we got the trophy in our hands and the popping of champagne. Also, when the team lifted me with the tri-colour in my hand. That was the ultimate feeling.

Unforgettable innings that you played: I was batting really well against South Africa, but in terms of importance, it's got to be the one against Pakistan.

Unforgettable innings from your teammates: There were many! The one Viru played in the first game against Bangladesh, Yuvraj Singh played many, Suresh Raina, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli... all the guys chipped in.

Unforgettable bowling spell: Zaheer Khan bowled some very important spells. In the semi-final, Ashish Nehra bowled well. Munaf got some important wickets too. Harbhajan Singh and R Ashwin bowled well too. Everyone has chipped in. That is why I call it a thorough team performance. Everyone did their job and somewhere they made an impact.

Unforgettable captaincy move: We set a 6-3 field against Pakistan at Mohali. Their opening batsman, Mohammad Hafeez tried to play a sweep shot off Munaf Patel and got caught behind. I thought that was the turning point of the match.

Unforgettable catch: The one Viru caught off Shahid Afridi. The match was very much alive then because Misbah & Afridi were batting and we needed two-three big overs at that stage, so that was an important catch. An easy one, but important.

Unforgettable tense moment: There were many moments when we were really tense especially in the last three matches....we knew there would be no second chance. There were many moments like that.
For me, this was the most unforgettable moment of the victory celebrations:

Sachin Tendulkar walked out of the changing room and gestured to Sudhir Gautam to come up. Gautam is the thin, pale man with a shaven head and body covered in the Indian tri-colour. He is the man you would have seen recently with a miniature replica of the World Cup hanging atop his head. For at least half a decade now, Gautam has been Tendulkar's biggest fan, waving the Indian flag and blowing his conch shell at every venue Tendulkar plays. On Saturday, Tendulkar decided to repay Gautam for his devotion.

No sooner had he realised that Tendulkar was calling, than Gautam jumped the electronic advertising hoarding and then skipped up the 30-odd stairs on to the corridor of the Indian changing room. All through his short journey he screamed in delight. Tendulkar shook hands with him, then embraced him and finally asked one of his teammates to get the World Cup trophy. Zaheer Khan brought the cup outside with utmost care and held it tight. Gautam virtually snatched it out of the hands of the tournament's joint-highest wicket-taker. But Zaheer held on to the crown still. Eventually Gautam lifted the Cup with both hands as Zaheer let go. As soon as Gautam lifted the Cup and screamed "Indiaa", Tendulkar could not help but smile. He even clapped and was joined in appreciation by a few of his teammates. The sweat on Tendulkar's face glistened under the floodlights, enhancing his joy of winning the World Cup. It was a day when the common man felt he was part of something special. (Read the full story at:
For the record, here's how WC2011 went for SRT: Thought the most outstanding virtue of SRT is his conduct and dignity; to handle all the adulation and expectation and still have his feet on the ground is perhaps a bigger achievement than the hordes of batting records that he holds. But then, as fans, we love his records too... Here are His innings at World Cup 2011 and his 2 Centuries. (Click on the photos to zoom in)
In the match Vs Netherlands, the Run Machine became the first player to score 2,000 runs in World Cup history. Sachin, playing his sixth World Cup, the most by any player (a record he shares with Javed Miandad), also holds the records for most centuries (6) and most half-centuries (15) in 45 matches in the flagship event of the ICC. Also, in this edition, he reached 99 International Centuries.

Further, the batting legend , while achieving the magical figure of 99 international hundreds during the India-South Africa Group B match in Nagpur, became the first one to score 20 One-day International (ODI) centuries in his home country. Sachin made an Indian record for most sixes in ODIs, taking his sixes’ tally to 193, bettering Sourav Ganguly’s tally of 190. (Shahid Afridi (289) holds a record followed by Sanath Jayasuriya (270) and Sachin Tendulkar (193))

The master blaster also has become the first to complete 2,000 runs against South Africa. Sachin has now complete 2,000 runs against four countries in ODIs - South Africa, Australia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka.

So with the World Cup lifted, it's truly been 21 years of glory. With 51 Test tons, 48 ODI tons and nearly 33,000 runs in the bag, here's what his incredible record currently looks like:

What's left then? For starters, a century at Lords - the Honours Board at Lords has his name missing. Heck even Ajit Agarkar has his name on it! It could happen this July.

And maybe, round it off with Mumbai Indians lifting the IPL and even the Champions League T20? That would kill two irritating arguments against the man - one, on his captaincy and two, on his age, retirement, ability of veterans to play T20, et all!

But the one I wish for the most is a test match triple century... he has six double hundreds (it would have been seven if not for Rahul Dravid's abrupt declaration in the Multan Test in 2004, which left SRT stranded only six runs short of a double century. Tendulkar, batting on 194 in the first Test against archrivals Pakistan, left no one in doubt that "he felt let down", Wright says in his just-published book Indian Summers. "The matter became a full-fledged sensation when Tendulkar told a press conference he was disappointed not to get his double century. He'd been playing for India since he was 16; he'd stood up for his country in bad times and tough conditions, and often been the only man to do so. Having given so much for the team, over such a long period, he probably thought this was one time the team could give something back to him. Even the greatest have their goals and dreams and milestones, and a double century against Pakistan in Pakistan would have been a memory to treasure.")

Well at least for now, Lara's 400 is safe. But India is visiting Brian's part of town this summer - if wishes were horses, eh?


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