Mohali, Mar 29: Rarely has a person's career graph defined his nations rise in global scenario. When Pele touched greatness, Brazil appeared a different country from the usual land of Samba, drugs and poverty and Muhammad Ali punched his way into greatness and alongside him changed the way the coloureds and the afro-americans were viewed in the US and the same can never be more correct in any other instance apart from Sachin.
India, it seems followed Sachin from being a land with potential in the 1990s to be on the cusp of supremacy in 2011 and now as the ultimate clash in cricket looms large, history for the umpteenth time beckons the maestro.
For fans and cricketers, former and present alike, Sachin's 98 against Pakistan in 2003 was probably the second-best innings next to his famous 'Desert Storm' against the Australians at Sharjah in 1998. However, this time nothing less than a match-winning century can surpass his most famous ODI half-century, the 98 against Pakistan in the 2003 ICC Cricket World Cup.
As always Sachin is preparing himself for the big clash with the same dedication and intensity that has been his hallmark for the past 22 years. TV reports showed that he has already added more meat to his bat, making it heavier by 300gms than what is weighed at the start of the tournament. Sachin started the tournament with a bat that weighed around 1100gms and for the Pakistan game he has raised it to 1400gm.
That apart, Sachin will also be on the lookout to elongate India's victory run against Pakistan in the World Cups. India's supremacy over Pakistan in the gala-event has coincided with the rise of Sachin. In 1992, when India first met Pakistan in the World Cups, Sachin was still an innoccous youngster barely out of his teens but still on the verge of greatness. When the neighbouring nations met again in 1996 he had already stamped his class on the World stage and was considered one among the three best batsmen of his generation.
The Indo-Pak encounter again took place in the land of their old colonial masters, England and this time too Sachin, who was marginally ahead of Lara as the best player of his generation, chipped in with useful contribution and India prevailed over their arch-rivals.
By 2003, Sachin was the unanimous choice for the best batsman since Bradman tag and he let Pakistan know of it when he launched a brutal assault on the Pakistan bowling arsenal that boasted to be the best in the World. And the story continued with yet another Indian victory.
The two teams were relegated from the league stages of the 2007 World Cup and strangely the fates of Sachin, India and Pakistan were the same with each at possibly the lowest ebb of their cricket.
However, the stakes this time is higher than ever before as the clash is a Semi-final encounter, Sachin is on 99 international tons and quite possibly in his last World Cup too. He is already being acknowledged as the greatest batsman ever and would like to impart the lesson to Pakistan by scoring that all-important century and Sending the neighbours back to their homes.
The weights have been added, reputations enhanced and it is now game, set, go for the biggest rivalry in cricket and the focus is once again on the game's most charismatic and finest showman, Sachin to improve on the previous 98 and present 99 to guide India to yet another defining moment of its cricketing history in general and the entire population's collective confidence in particular. Long Live the master.