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Monday, April 4, 2011

Toast of the nation

When Sachin Tendulkar got a thick edge to a back of a length ball that moved away from Lasith Malinga and was caught by Kumar Sangakkara, the Wankhede Stadium had fallen silent.

It was a harsh blow to India’s World Cup dream. As Virat Kohli walked in and Tendulkar walked out, the batting maestro, a veteran of six World Cups, stopped briefly and gave Kohli a word of advice.

“When I walked in to bat, there was dead silence in the stadium, I just looked at him (Tendulkar) walking back. Sachin stopped me, and told me to take my time, stay in there. ‘We can do it’ he said. That was all I needed to boost my confidence,” Kohli said a day after India’s six-wicket win.

Kohli added 83 with Gambhir for the third wicket after India lost Virender Sehwag and Tendulkar early. It was followed by a a 109-run partnership for the fourth wicket between Gambhir and Dhoni and a match-winning 54-run partnership between Dhoni and Yuvraj.

Tendulkar lifted the World Cup trophy once again on Sunday evening at a official felicitation by President Pratibha Patil at the Raj Bhawan in Mumbai. If the team members looked a wee bit groggy eyed it was because they had partied till 7 am. The party was thrown to celebrate the title win but the toast was raised to Tendulkar.

“For me the biggest achievement was to carry Tendulkar on my shoulder during the victory lap,” Kohli said.

As the team posed for a picture with the president, Tendulkar couldn’t help but glance at the trophy placed on the green turf in front. The world title meant the world to him, he has meant the universe to his mates.

Suresh Raina hadn’t slept since Dhoni hit the match-winning six. “Everybody in the team wanted to win this Cup for Sachin. We had said it before the start of the tournament too. I was ready to go in and chase the total. We were all very determined to win. Tendulkar was destined to win a World Cup. He has been an inspiration for me,” Raina said.

S Sreesanth couldn’t stop talking about Tendulkar’s influence on the team. “We all wanted to win it for Sachin bhai. He was the most keen person in the dressing room and that rubbed off on all of us. We got inspired by his dedication, and when we won, we all cried together. We partied in the dressing room and then partied in the hotel. The party was dedicated to Sachin bhai. We were just happy to see him so happy,” the fast bowler said.

Yuvraj Singh said that the ‘special person’ he was playing for was Tendulkar. “All through the tournament I wanted to win it for him because what he has given to Indian cricket nobody has. The things he has achieved is remarkable. I always prayed to the Almighty that you should give it to him before he retires.”

The reception hosted by the President was well attended with the who’s who of international cricket, BCCI and top industrialists arriving. The celebrations will go in, cash prizes will pour in even as players disperse to catch some quality time with family before they get ready for the Indian Premier League.

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