On this day: Emotional Tendulkar dedicates World Cup century to his father
The 1999 Word Cup in England was a tough affair for Sachin Tendulkar. Not only were India eliminated after the Super Sixes, but in the middle of the tournament, Tendulkar suffered a personal tragedy in the form was his father’s passing, causing the batsman to return to India midway. Having lost the first two matches, India were in desperate need of a win, and it was Tendulkar who delivered it with an emotional knock - against Kenya - on May 23, 1999.
India had lost to South Africa in the second match of the World Cup by four wickets. A day before their match against Zimbabwe at Leicester, Tendulkar was paid a visit by wife Anjali, who broke the news to him of his father’s passing. The batsman took the flight back to India to attend Ramesh Tendulkar’s funeral, meaning the team was without its premier batsman against Zimbabwe.
Brijesh Patel, India’s manager for the tournament, told BBC: “Sachin is in a state of shock, he was very close to his father. His death was unexpected although he had been ill earlier but had recovered. Sachin flew home this morning but we hope to get him back to play against Kenya on Sunday or, in the worst case, next Wednesday against Sri Lanka.”
Tendulkar’s absence was felt as India lost by three runs. With two wins in two matches, India needed to win their final three games of the league to progress to the Super Sixes. India’s campaign not in the best of shapes, Tendulkar took the flight back and returned ahead of their match against Kenya. In desperate need of a win, India were 92 for 2, when Tendulkar walked out to join Rahul Dravid at the crease, and cast the demons in his head aside to produce a memorable knock.
Kenya weren’t the strongest of sides, but a tough start to a World Cup, coupled by the personal tragedy of such magnitude could have thrown anyone off their game. Tendulkar walked out calmly, took his guard and got ready to face the first ball. It didn’t take his time to get going and once he drove Thomas Odoyo for a drive down the ground, it was usual business for India’s batting maestro.
He and Dravid batted till the end, adding 237* runs for the third wicket. Dravid got to a hundred himself, his first World Cup ton, but Tendulkar’s century emerged as the talking point. After scoring his half-century off 54 balls, Tendulkar’s next 50 would come off 47. From 264/2 in 44 overs, the final six yielded 65, with Tendulkar in full flow. He reached his hundred with a couple, followed by a look towards the heavens. Tendulkar was never exuberant in his celebrations, but everyone knew, his 22nd ODI ton – off 84 balls – meant a lot to him and the Indian cricket team as a whole.
Off the next 17 balls he faced, Tendulkar scored 40, finishing the innings with a six off the final ball, taking India to 329. Debashish Mohanty claimed 4/56 as India recorded a 94-run win.
Years later, Tendulkar in his autobiography ‘Playing it My Way’, would reveal what the century meant to him: “After spending four days in India, I returned to England to rejoin the team on the eve of the match against Kenya. That, it seemed to me, was what my father would have wanted me to do, and that’s what prompted the decision to return to London to play the remaining World Cup matches. Though I managed to score a hundred in the match against Kenya – which remains one of my most cherished centuries, one I dedicated to my father – my mind was not always on the game.”