The Sachin inspiration

Sachin Tendulkar’s commitment was as bright as headlights on an unlit highway. His tale of sacrifices on a spirit-lifting journey of miles and milestones lifted the Indian morale. When the legend took his seat in the dressing room, the side needed to look nowhere else for inspiration.

India’s incredible run in the 2011 World Cup was much about Tendulkar realising his childhood dream. The sheer passion with which the unit played for India and the maestro was easily among the highlights of the competition.

In several senses, India’s progress on the highway to glory in the tournament was driven by Tendulkar. After all, the World Cup meant so much to him. In 1999, Tendulkar had left the competition in England to attend his father’s funeral but, with his mind strong, got back to smash a century against Kenya in his first match on return. Yet, the World Cup proved elusive for the maestro.

India made the final of the 2003 World Cup in South Africa, but went down to a rampaging Australia.

In what was surely his last World Cup, Tendulkar’s unrealised ambition — that missing silverware — became the focal point of India’s campaign. Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni said the team wanted to “do it for Tendulkar.”

The ageless maestro himself was in top form. Years fell away as he launched into the bowlers, pierced the gaps with balance, timing and precision.

Tendulkar’s stroke-filled centuries against South Africa in Nagpur and England in Bangalore — his lightness of feet was captivating — at the top of the order provided India the momentum. And he laid the foundation for India’s momentous victory against Pakistan in the high-voltage semi-final clash in Mohali. The World Cup was now within touching distance. Perhaps, Tendulkar’s beaming visage shone brighter than the lights that lit up the Wankhede Stadium after India overcame Sri Lanka on an extraordinary night in Mumbai. The maestro’s cup of joy was now full.

Festive air

Bangladesh’s unprecedented enthusiasm as one of the co-hosts of the tournament was another highlight of the competition.

The moment was huge for Bangladesh. And when this writer travelled to Dhaka for the Opening Ceremony and the tournament opener between India and Bangladesh, the roads leading to the venue were full. The Stadium was packed too, but there were more people outside the arena. They were there just to get a feel of the occasion.

There was all-night partying at various points in the city, people sang and danced in brightly illuminated streets and the rhythmic beating of the drums filled the air. The whole of Bangladesh celebrated, as the nation welcomed cricket with the kind of passion this writer had not seen even in Kolkata.

Those memorable vignettes from Dhaka will forever stay in the mind.

Lee, the winner

There were tales of bravery too in this World Cup. The sight of Brett Lee, despite a bandage under his right eye, thundering in to bowl against India in the quarterfinal at Motera was a stirring one.

The fast bowler had injured himself while diving to prevent a boundary at fine-leg and the speeding ball had struck Lee under the eye. The area below his eye was bleeding and the Australian had left the field in agony. He was back though, soon, to bowl full throttle for his team.

Australia lost that night, but Lee was a winner in every sense.

O’Brien’s blitzkrieg

In cricket, one can expect the unexpected. Who would have thought that minnow Ireland, 111 for five in 24.2 overs, and chasing 328, would actually go on to trump the Englishmen in Bangalore?

The game has a habit of throwing up heroes. And the big and strong Kevin O’ Brien exploded with a 63-ball 113 — a blitzkrieg that shut out England.

When O’ Brien reached 100 off 50 balls, it was the quickest century in World Cup history. The Hurricane Irishman blew England away with strokes of thunder. Ireland was home by three wickets in the final over. It was a famous win at the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium. It was also the day of the underdog.

S. Dinakar