India have won important matches without Sachin Tendulkar having to come to the party © Getty Images
India have won important matches without Sachin Tendulkar having to come to the party © Getty Images


By Suhrid Barua


It almost sounds trite to hear in every quarter that the 2011 World Cup means a lot to Sachin Tendulkar. But why this hype about one player when the World Cup is huge for every player?


The answer is simple: Tendulkar is playing his sixth World Cup and he hasn’t yet been part of that elusive World Cup-winning side. Thirty eight in two months time, in all probability, this is his final chance to achieve that dream – and that too in his own country and in his own city. It would be a dream finale to a sensational career of a player who has towered over one and all in over two decades at the international level.


The entire nation wants Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s team to win the World Cup and it will be awesome if Tendulkar plays a huge role in winning it. But to suggest that this World Cup is only for Tendulkar, or it means a lot more to him than any other team member would be unfair to the other members in the Indian team.


There was a period when India used to count on Tendulkar to bail the side out every time the innings was in strife. Oppositions knew, if they got Tendulkar out, more than half their job was done.


Memories of Tendulkar’s vintage knocks of 143 and 134 in the 1998 Coca-Cola Cup final and back-to-back knocks of 117 and 91 which steered India to 2007-08 Commonwealth Bank Series victory are testimonies of the times he carried the Indian batting on his shoulders – almost on his own.


But India has evolved as a team. The dependence on Tendulkar has diminished significantly –  a process that began under Sourav Ganguly’s regime when the Men in Blue forged into cohesive unit.


The 2002 NatWest Series final at Lord’s is a striking example when India scripted a sensational win without much contribution from the maestro. Tendulkar made just 14 as India successfully chased England’s score of 325 for 5 after they were tottering at 146 for 5 in the 24th over.


Even the recent series-levelling Durban Test win last December was achieved without Tendulkar coming to the party.


These statistical figures are merely to view things objectively and not to belittle the genius of the great man. As a venerated elder statesman of world cricket, Tendulkar’s mere, larger-than-life presence in the dressing room would be a huge motivation to the Indian dressing room.


It will unquestionably play a huge contributory role in India’s game plan. A short motivational discourse by the Master before the team steps out in the middle will be a great energizer – something that other teams cannot boast of, simply because there is just one Tendulkar on the planet!


While saluting the maestro, let us also think of the 14 others who go on to make up the Indian team at this World Cup and whose roles are equally important if Tendulkar has to ride into sunset with the elusive World Cup medal around his neck.


(Suhrid Barua is a cricket buff who invariably gets pumped up before every India match)