After what seems like ages, India is once again on the threshold of a cricket world cup tournament without Sachin Tendulkar playing in it. The ‘Little Master’ took part in six world cups from 1991 to 2011, famously winning the championship as part of the Indian team in the last edition that he played. Every time the country entered cricket’s biggest stage the hopes and aspirations of a billion Indians would hinge on Sachin as they knew India could sink or swim depending on how he played.
Even in 2011 when he was past his peak Tendulkar was the second highest scorer in the cup after Sri Lanka’s Tillakratne Dilshan. And in 2003, when the Indians reached the final in South Africa, he was by far the topper among all batsmen. The notion that some fans had that he never scored runs in India’s successes was thus thrown out the window. His annihilation of Pakistan’s fearsome pace attack in the 2003 edition, when he literally destroyed Waqar Younis, Wasim Akram and Shoaib Akhtar, will remain one of cricket’s most memorable moments.
The lead-up to every world cup would be sure to have Tendulkar’s name leveraged to the hilt by all concerned with TV commercials featuring him ad nauseum. In 1999, when he lost his father during the tournament and returned to India, it was thought he may not return for the remaining matches. But return he did and scored a magnificent century in his first match thereafter.
Earlier in 1996 he was the only one who countered the Sri Lankan spin attack on an agonisingly crumbling pitch at Eden Gardens when the rest fell like nine pins and India crashed out in the semifinals. And, in 2007, when India performed so poorly, he and the other ace batsmen – Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble, Sourav Gangulyand Virender Sehwag – had their hearts broken in the West Indies. Greg Chappel’s divisive policies were then to blame, it was alleged.
When 2011 came critics said Tendulkar was done and India stood no chance. But MS Dhoni’s men had other ideas, playing brilliantly with Sachin leading the way until the final and scoring two centuries. He fell cheaply on that fateful April evening in Mumbai when he was finally to achieve his lifelong dream of lifting the cup, as India rejoiced like never before.
And now we go into the 2015 ICC World Cup with a young Indian team looking out of sorts and jaded, and with no Tendulkar. Dhoni’s men might surprise one and all by performing amazingly after all, but the signs are ominous. Too much cricket has left the cricketers fatigued and even spectators bored. There just does not seem to be any excitement ahead of the big event.
But the show must go on, must it not? And we wish the Indians all luck. They are sure to need it!
(The writer is the deputy commissioner of Panchkula)