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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

This is the most important tournament of my life: Sachin

Finally, the word is out. Sachin Tendulkar has conceded that this is the most important tournament of his life.

Typical of the man, though, he has made sure that his feelings have remained in the private domain. TOI had to dig deep to find out how much importance he attaches to this World Cup.

Having started his WC career in 1992, he has featured in as many as six World Cups, including the ongoing one. By 1996, he had not only become the bulwark of the Indian batting but also the most feared player as far as the opposition went.

While he has broken virtually every record out there, he has always longed for the one missing crown: the World Cup title. He missed out the T20 world title when he, and Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly, withdrew from the tournament in South Africa and Mahendra Singh Dhoni scripted a memorable victory.

At 37, he knows it's a now or never opportunity. It's generally believed this could be his farewell World Cup and he realizes nothing could be sweeter than winning it at home. It would complete his mission in cricket and make him the greatest player the game has seen, if he already isn't that.

"Yes, it is the most important tournament of my life," Tendulkar had told his closest friends, and most in the team are also aware of his determination.

Like always, though, he is making sure that it doesn't become a self-before-team cause. "Everyone wants the team to do well," he has told his mates. "I need to focus all my energies on how to go about doing my job."

What remains unsaid is that this is the perfect setting not only for him but also the team. India, of course, take on mighty Australia in the quarterfinals on Thursday. If they get past them, they might well face Pakistan in the semis. And then South Africa (if form and odds don't go awry). Seems daunting.

Tendulkar, though, is clearly driven. He has worked hard for the tournament and you could see him straining every sinew on Tuesday too, here at the Motera. He happily spent a few hours under the blazing sun so that his body is not caught napping on match day.

That's not all. He has watched most of the other games closely, in the sanctity of his hotel room. He has been doing his homework and devising his own strategies.

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