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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Inspirational campaigner par excellence


If the Indians need any inspiration in this demanding campaign, they need not look far.

The sight of Sachin Tendulkar in the dressing room should lift the spirit of the side in any situation. The man's commitment is as bright as headlights on an unlit highway.

India's bid to regain the World Cup it won in 1983 has been fuel-driven by Tendulkar's dream. As a precociously talented boy, he watched Kapil's Devils ambush the Caribbeans in the summit clash at Lord's in 1983.

The images from the television spurred on the little Tendulkar as he rapidly climbed the rungs.

Subsequently, in a journey of miles and milestones, the maestro raised the bar for batsmanship, conquered adversaries and conditions, touched new heights and found a place in the consciousness of most Indians.

Something missing

There was something missing though in a career of exceptional achievements. Tendulkar has never been part of a World Cup-winning squad.

The closest he came to living his World Cup dream was in Southern Africa, 2003. But then, India was subdued by Aussie aggression in the final.

In his sixth World Cup now, Tendulkar's fire and passion endures. Despite the scars of time, the 37-year-old legend has been putting in a phenomenal effort in this edition.

Tendulkar is second in the list of leading run-scorers so far in this World Cup with 324 runs in five matches at 64.80 (strike rate 100.30).

And his two centuries — 120 versus England in Bangalore and 111 against South Africa at Nagpur — underlined the timelessness about the man and his ways with the willow.

Years fall away as Tendulkar continues to construct monuments.

He retains his balance, poise and timing and still finds the gaps with a surgeon's precision.

Remarkable

And his running between the wickets has been remarkable. Truth to tell, Tendulkar can leave much younger teammates embarrassed when he covers the distance between the wickets. There is this undeniable feeling of lightness about him at the crease. He still glides down the track, converting lengths and meeting the ball with the touch and assurance of a wizard.

As in the immortal song on the great boxer Mohammed Ali, Tendulkar ‘floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee'.

Tendulkar innovates and creates; his soft hands caress the ball delicately. His batting retains legerdemain.

And he continues to surmount individual barriers. No batsman has made more centuries in the premier ODI competition than Tendulkar (six). No batsman has more runs in the competition — 2120 runs in 41 matches at 58.88 (SR 89.86) — than the little big man.

Tendulkar is just one short of a historic 100th international hundred — he now has 48 ODI centuries.

His overall record in ODIs is an imposing 17,953 runs in 449 matches at 45.22 (strike rate 86.39). He is an enduring champion with a heart even larger than his frame.

His has been a tale of sacrifices. Tendulkar's father passed away during the 1999 World Cup in the Old Blighty. He returned home but, keeping personal tragedy aside, came back to notch up a hundred against Kenya.

Tendulkar shoulders the expectations of millions without displaying a hint of discomfort. Will this be a triumphant World Cup for India and Tendulkar?

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