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World Cup Heroes: Sachin Tendulkar (South Africa, 2003)

ANALYST
Modified 28 Dec 2014, 11:09 IST
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Sachin has been named the Ambassador for the 2015 World Cup which will be played in Australia and New Zealand. Let’s take a look at Sachin’s best World Cup performance, which came in the 2003 edition. The World Cup was always missing from Sachin’s collection of trophies before he was finally able to rectify that in 2011. 2003 was his 4th World Cup, and one could say that Sachin tried the hardest that time to get it for his country. And he almost did.

He had had good tournaments before as well, averaging 47.17, 87.17 and 42.17 in the 1993-1999 editions respectively, but India hadn’t quite made it as a unit. Come 2003 and India did reach the finals only for the second time in cricket history, and it took a star-studded Australian side playing on top of their form to stop India. They were the only side better than India in 2003, which was clearly reflected in the two losses that the Indians suffered against them in the two games.

Sachin was awarded Man of the Series for his brilliant knocks throughout the tournament. He scored 673 runs in the tournament in 11 innings at an average of 61.18, which included 6 fifties and a hundred. This was the most number of runs scored by a batsman in a World Cup tournament ever, and it is just one of the many batting records Sachin has to his name and will surely need some time breaking.

Interestingly, the Little Mater did not do much net practice during the World Cup. This is what Dravid had to say about him –

“In the 2003 World Cup, Sachin Tendulkar didn’t bat a single ball in the nets, right through the tournament. He only got throw-downs. He just received hundreds of throw-downs through the whole tournament. All of us were wondering ‘Why is he doing that?’ When I asked him, he said, ‘I’m feeling good. I don’t want to go into the nets and waste the touch. I want to feel good about my batting. If I have that sort of feeling, I will score runs when I go in’.”

The Initial Slump

Sachin Tendulkar hits a shot as Dutch wicket-keeper Jeroen Smits looks on

India did not have the best time at the start of the championship. They just scraped through against Holland, and were obliterated by the Aussies who were in no mood to cut any team any slack. Sachin was the top scorer for India in both games.

Against Holland, India managed 204 in which Sachin contributed with a well-made 52, and it was the bowlers who rescued the Indians from what would have been downright humiliation, if it happened. Against Australia, nothing unexpected happened looking at the form the Indians were in. They managed only 125 batting first, which the Aussies chased down with 9 wickets in hand. Sachin was opener, and stuck around till half the side was back in the pavilion for a resilient 36 off 59 balls, only to then get out leg before to Gillespie.

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The supporters back home were not one bit pleased. Stones were pelted at Kaif’s and Sourav’s homes, and even posters and effigies were burnt. Ironically enough, it coincided with Team India’s return to form.

Back in Business

Whether it be the fact that Indians had two games against minnows to try and get back in the rhythm, or the scare that the stone-pelting back home provided – the Indians finally hit it off with a victory run that was only interrupted in the finals.

India played Zimbabwe in their third game, and registered a win, a comprehensive one at that. The Master Blaster top-scored once more, and was Man of the Match for his 81 that helped India set a total of 255 batting first. Sehwag, Ganguly, Dravid and Kaif all chipped in with the bat too, but the stage for all of that was set by Tendulkar. Zimbabwe were all out for 172, thanks to some tight bowling by the Indians.   

In the next game against Namibia, the duo of Sachin and Sourav was at it again – they left no room for any complacency whatsoever. Tendulkar made a beautiful 152 at faster than a run a ball, hitting 18 fours. He opened the innings, and was dismissed only in the 48th over of the innings.

Skipper Ganguly, his partner at the other end, made 112 (6 fours, 4 sixes). The Namibians needed 312 to win, but could only manage 130 in their reply. Sachin was Man of the Match a second time in two games.

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Bulldozing England and Pakistan

This is what Andy Caddick, England’s strike bowler, had to say about Team India in general and Sachin Tendulkar in particular before their game at Kingsmead –

"I'm more than happy if Sachin opens the batting, we have a better chance of getting him out,”

"India hasn't been up to the mark - both their batting and bowling have been unimpressive. They should not take pride in scoring 300-plus against Namibia. They were aided more by the nimble-fingered Namibians than their batting strength, even Sachin did not play well despite his century. Sachin's just like another batsman in the Indian team."

He may have been right in parts, but was outrageous in the others. This was enough to anger Tendulkar, and the pull against Caddick over mid-wicket that went out of the ground that is still fresh in our minds was a result of that.

He scored 50 off just 52 balls, out of which 36 came off 19 Caddick deliveries who he had already decided to give some special treatment. India were off to a good start thanks to Sachin and Sehwag, and the middle order saw to it that India put on a competitive 250. England fell well short and managed only 168 thanks to the genius of Ashish Nehra who took 6 for 23.

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The importance of the game against Pakistan need not be reinstated. The build-up for the game had started no less than a year before since the time-table was announced, and it was as important for both teams as a World Cup final, if not more even though both teams had made it to the Super Sixes. Sachin himself recalls in his book that he match-winner that he produced that day against the arch rivals was the most important innings of his life.

Pakistan had put on 273 thanks to a Saeed Anwar ton. India had a daunting task ahead, given the dangerous attack they were up against – comprising of names like Akhtar, Waqar and Akram – enough to send down chills any batsman’s spine. But the Mumbai maestro was as composed as ever. He looked like he had thought about this game for a long time before entering into it.

He was in a mood to attack from the onset itself. He started off the scoring with a sweet cover drive. In the 2nd over of the game that was bowled by Shoaib Akhtar, he launched into a short wide delivery, upper-cutting it for six over third man. That is when he announced to everyone that he meant business. The following delivery he flicked to the leg side, square of the wicket for a boundary, beating deep square leg who was too fine to have a chance. The next and last delivery of the over was treated to a textbook straight drive that was executed to perfection.

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Though Sehwag left soon after, Sachin continued with his shots. But it wasn’t the smoothest of rides for him either. He was dropped by Abdul Razzaq at mid-off on a Wasim Akram delivery, a mishap that may have well cost them the match. To follow that, just after the 16th over, he started experiencing cramps, and carried on after some attention from the physio. He reached his fifty with an overthrow that gave him 6 runs as things did not seem to get any less frustrating for the bowling side. Kaif partnered him for a brilliant 102 run stand for the 3rd wicket. Tendulkar also reached 12,000 runs during this beautiful knock.

He took a runner for the first time when he was batting at 98 off 74 balls. Shoaib Akhtar returned to the attack and got the better of him this time, surprising him with a quick short delivery that he could only edge to Younis Khan at point. With his dismissal Pakistan may have sniffed a chance here, but Yuvraj and Dravid saw India home without further loss of wickets.  

The Super Sixes – defeating Kenya, Sri Lanka and New Zealand

Sachin missed out on scoring big in the first Super Sixes game, which was played against Kenya. Sourav Ganguly was the hero of the match with a brilliant century that ensured India were able to chase down 225 with 6 wickets in hand.

The memories of the 98 against Pakistan were still fresh from two games ago, when Sachin produced another masterpiece at Johannesburg against Sri Lanka. The performance ensured that India won the match with ease, and thus secured a place in the semi-finals of the Cup. He played controlled shots against Chaminda Vaas and Muralitharan, and reserved all his aggression for the others.

He missed out on his hundred again though, when he was dismissed by Aravinda de Silva just 3 runs short of the figure.

India won the game by a huge 183-run margin thanks to some venomous bowling by India’s quicks, who dismissed the Lankans for just 109 in 23 overs.

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One interesting bit of trivia here. Sachin had to drink a lot of isotonic drinks to recover from the cramps he faced against Pakistan. He added some salt to the drinks, thinking it would speed up the recovery. But it caused a tummy upset instead, and this is how he dealt with the problem, in his own words –

“The situation was so bad that I had to bat with tissues inside my underwear. I even had to go back to the dressing room during one of the drinks breaks and was feeling extremely uncomfortable in the middle. I somehow scored 97, but batting with stomach cramps wasn’t a pleasant experience. I was pushing myself to the limits of endurance and in the end I was glad that the effort paid off.”

So much for dedication while playing for one’s country.

The next match against New Zealand, India won, thanks once again to its bowlers who dismissed the Kiwis for just 146. Sachin did start off with 3 back-to-back boundaries – two cover drives and a pull – as India begun its chase, but then threw away his wicket in the same over to Daryl Tuffey, not to take anything away from Jacob Oram who took a blinder at point. It was the middle order - Kaif and Dravid, who saw India home without any further hassles.

The Semi-final – winning against Kenya

Sachin Tendulkar pulls during his 83 in the semi-final

This was an innings that required lots of patience as a batsman. The pitch at Durban was helping the Kenyan bowlers. It was difficult to get the big shots going. Even Sehwag hit just 3 boundaries in his 33 before getting out.

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Tendulkar, thus, had to rely on running between the wickets for scoring. But with the kind of form and confidence he was in, nothing looked too difficult for him. He crafted another beautiful innings of 83 in 101 deliveries, hitting just the 5 boundaries and a six. He partnered Ganguly for a 103-run stand for the 2nd wicket.

The Indian skipper meanwhile, hit his 3rd hundred of the tournament and his 2nd against Kenya. He remained not out and took India to 270/4 in the 50 overs, which was a fairly competitive total and turned out to be more than enough in the end.

Sachin played his part with the ball as well. He got the wicket of the Kenyan skipper and high-scorer Steve Tikolo to start with, and dismissed Collins Obuya next over to leave just the one wicket between India and victory.

The Final test against Australia

This was a brutal end to a dream run for India. The initial shock was presented by Ganguly himself who opted to bowl after winning the toss. Whether it was the Johannesburg pitch that prompted him to do so, or the previous game against the Aussies where India did not do well batting first – the decision did not turn out to be a good one. The Aussies put on 359 batting first, helped on by a Ponting massacre who smashed 140 off just 121 balls.

A dejected Sachin Tendulkar walks back after making just 4

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Tendulkar was out caught and bold by McGrath in the fifth ball of the Indian innings, trying to pull a short-pitched delivery, but only managing to top edge it back to the bowler. It looked all but over then for India. Sehwag did manage to keep hopes alive with his 82 off 81 balls, stringing together partnerships with Ganguly and Dravid. Once he got out, it was only a matter of time before the Indians succumbed. The last man Zaheer Khan was out in the 40th over with the score reading 234.

Thus ended India’s World Cup journey. Sachin had to wait another 8 years to win it, another tournament in which he fared excellently with the bat, scoring 482 runs in 9 games. But the Sachin that we saw in 2003 was at the peak of his play and confidence – every shot that he hit could well have featured in a cricketing shots manual, his technique – the footwork, the balance, and the follow-through of the blade, just went on to show how well he was in his groove that tournament. Few batting performances will come close to this. 

Published 28 Dec 2014, 00:03 IST
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