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Mumbai set for Tendulkar's dream final

cricket Updated: Mar 31, 2011 17:28 IST
AFP
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A billion hearts will beat for Sachin Tendulkar as India bid for their second World Cup title in the all-Asian final against buoyant Sri Lanka on Saturday.

Tendulkar returns to his home turf at the Wankhede stadium in Mumbai determined to add the only silverware missing from the collection of the most celebrated cricketer of the modern era.

The Indian star, who turns 38 next month, holds almost all coveted batting records, but not even his individual brilliance could win the ultimate prize in a team sport like cricket.

In five previous appearances in cricket's showpiece event, Tendulkar helped India reach the semi-final at home in 1996 and finish runners-up to Australia in 2003 in South Africa.

When India won the World Cup under Kapil Dev in 1983, Tendulkar was 10 years old, but five of his current team-mates -- Ravichandran Ashwin, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Piyush Chawla and Munaf Patel -- were not even born.

Playing in his sixth and possibly last World Cup, a record he shares with Pakistan great Javed Miandad, Tendulkar has led from the front to lift India into the final.

His 464 runs in the tournament are just three behind Sri Lankan Tillakaratne Dilshan's 467, and he goes into the title clash one ton away from recording an unprecedented 100 international centuries.

Tendulkar's lucky 85 in Wednesday's semi-final against Pakistan, when he was dropped four times and survived close leg-before and stumping decisions, suggests he was destined to play the final.

"It will be a fantasic occasion," Tendulkar said of the match in his home city. "We will focus on the job in hand and try to get the job done."

Even the International Cricket Council will be delighted how the tournament has panned out.

"Can you imagine a fairytale ending with Tendulkar getting a hundred in the final and India wins at Wankhede which is his home ground?," ICC CEO Haroon Lorgat had said last week.

The task ahead will not be easy against a supremely confident Sri Lanka, who have marched into their second successive final after losing just one match out of eight in the tournament.

Kumar Sangakkara's men, playing at home in Colombo, thrashed England by 10 wickets in the quarter-final before delivering a five-wicket blow to New Zealand in the semi-final.

Sri Lanka, like India, are also seeking their second World Cup title after winning in 1996 when Arjuna Ranatunga's team stunned Australia in the Pakistani city of Lahore.

Dilshan has led a power-packed display by the batsmen to become the tournament's leading scorer, while Sangakkara has notched up 417 runs and young opener Upul Tharanga has made 393 runs.

World bowling record holder Muttiah Muralitharan, who will make his farewell international appearance on Saturday, has been his team's most successful bowler with 15 wickets.

Sri Lanka enjoy a formidable bowling attack with sling-arm fast bowler Lasith Malinga (11 wickets) and unorthodox spinner Ajantha Mendis (seven) complimenting off-spinner Muralitharan.

Indian seamer Zaheer Khan, who will also play on his home ground in Mumbai, goes into the final with 19 wickets, second behind Pakistani captain Shahid Afridi's tally of 21.

Sri Lanka have prevailed in recent one-dayers against India, winning six of the 10 matches played last year in Dhaka, Harare, Bulawayo and Dambulla.

But India have won five of seven matches against the Islanders on home soil over the last five years.

India will be playing at the refurbished 33,000-capacity Wankhede stadium for the first time, while Sri Lanka know what awaits them having beaten New Zealand by 112 runs in a league matcha at the ground on March 18.

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