WC 2003 - Sachin primed for crunch week at World Cup
Published: Tuesday, March 18, 2003, 21:29 [IST]
Copyright AFP 2001
Johannesburg: Sachin Tendulkar is on the verge of being named the player-of-the-World Cup, but the maestro would rather hold the silverware instead."Winning for India is more important than any record or award," the record-breaking batsman has always insisted.India is two matches away from winning the title after a gap of 20 years and few players have contributed so much to a team's success as the 29-year-old.Tendulkar has lived up to his reputation as the most prolific batsman of our times by scoring a record 586 runs in the nine matches so far, breaking his own World Cup record of 523 set in 1996.He has almost single-handedly inspired India to seven wins in a row after a pathetic start when it failed to last 50 overs against The Netherlands and was shot out for its lowest World Cup total of 125 by Australia.Tendulkar launched the comeback with 81 against Zimbabwe, 152 against Namibia, a brilliant 98 off 75 balls against the likes of Pakistan's Shoaib Akhtar and Wasim Akram and 97 against Sri Lanka.That has already won multi-millionaire Tendulkar three gold watches for being man-of-the-match against Zimbabwe, Namibia and Pakistan.One more award in Thursday's semi-final against Kenya - or the final here on Sunday if India make it as expected - will win him the player-of-the-tournament award from the legendary Garfield Sobers of the West Indies, widely acclaimed as the greatest cricketer of all time.Tendulkar is four points clear of Sri Lankans Marvan Atapattu and Chaminda Vaas, who are playing in Tuesday's first semi-final against reigning champion Australia at Port Elizabeth.Tendulkar's performance will have finally silenced a growing band of critics who said he may have set new batting benchmarks but rarely won matches for India.It was evident from the start that Tendulkar was focused on helping India to World Cup glory just as Kapil's Devils had done in 1983 when the modern master was just nine years old."Sachin has just one goal, to win this tournament for India," said team official Amrit Mathur. "He is totally focused on doing that, nothing else matters."Having endured frustration in his three previous World Cups, Tendulkar is determined to change the trend this time.As an 18-year-old in his first World Cup in Australia in 1992, Tendulkar saw India fail to make the semi-finals. Four years later, crowd trouble in Calcutta's Eden Gardens saw the hosts being knocked out of the semi-finals.The 1999 World Cup in England was both tragic and a disappointment for Tendulkar, who was forced to return home due to the death of his father in Bombay, came back to score a century against Kenya but failed to take India past the Super Sixes.Captain Saurav Ganguly and coach John Wright helped Tendulkar's cause here by reverting him back to the opening slot where he has scored all but one of his record 34 One-day centuries.Tendulkar's thrilling batting in the tournament prompted Australian great Greg Chappell to label him a "genius whose deft touches and raw power are virtually unmatched in the modern game."The Indians already knew that. Now they are hoping he delivers when it matters most.