There are certain incidents that make even the greats break down, and Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar experienced one such moment and shed tears of joy at the Wankhede Stadium on April 2, 2011, when India defeated Sri Lanka in the 2011 World Cup final to be crowned world champions.
This was a long-awaited moment for Tendulkar, who was playing in his sixth and probably his last World Cup, and for all the records and benchmarks he has set during his illustrious international career, which is now into its 22nd year, the disappointment of not being part of a World Cup winning squad had always rankled the batting maestro. The last time India reached the final of a World Cup – in the 2003 edition against Australia – Tendulkar failed in a massive chase as India was thumped by 125 runs. What happened to India in 2007 is a painful chapter that has been recounted many times over and Tendulkar felt the disappointment of the premature exit as much or more as the next player.
But, since then, the character of the Indian dressing room and the manner in which the players go out on to the field with a never-say-die attitude has seen India rise to the top of the Test rankings and currently being second behind Australia in the ODI rankings. As he has been for most of his career, Tendulkar has been at the forefront of this change along with former captains Sourav Ganguly and Anil Kumble as well as current skipper MS Dhoni and outgoing coach Gary Kirsten. Tendulkar has been a sounding board, inspiration and mentor for the rest of India's squad members apart from being an advisor of sorts to Dhoni on the field even as he has continued to be consistent and scored runs aplenty, especially over the last two-three years.
In the backdrop of this scenario and the fact that ahead of the 2011 World Cup, India was not only being touted as the pre-tournament favourites, but the rest of the squad had also expressed a strong desire to win the Cup for Tendulkar. India lived up to its billing of the pre-tournament favourites for most of the 2011 World Cup, except in the tied match against England and the loss to South Africa in the group stage; but after the loss to Proteas, Dhoni's men got their campaign back on track and were unstoppable for the rest of the tournament. And, not surprisingly, Tendulkar was again at the forefront of leading India's challenge for the title as he finished the 2011 World Cup as the second highest run-scorer with 482 runs to his name; this is not to forget the part that Yuvraj Singh, Zaheer Khan, Gautam Gambhir (in the final) and the support staff led by Kirsten played in this triumph. That being said, it was obvious the entire squad was inspired to do its best for Tendulkar.
Tendulkar may not have scored as many runs as he would have liked to in the World Cup final against Sri Lanka, but the manner in which Gambhir and Dhoni got India back into the match along with an useful knock by Virat Kohli, exemplified the desire the Men in Blue had to win the 2011 World Cup for the Little Master and the influence he has on the dressing room. Kohli then summed it up the best when he said after India's 28-year wait for the World Cup ended: "Everyone was emotional. Obviously Sachin was very emotional. Lifting him on my shoulders was very special. This was for someone who has dedicated 21 years for Indian cricket and we are very proud of his achievements."
The moment would have been that much sweeter for Tendulkar because it came on his home ground in front of an adoring crowd, and he expressed his emotions in the only way he could – by not hiding them, but shedding tears of joy for he had at last fulfilled his destiny and completed his career CV on the grandest stage of them all. This was the one achievement that had eluded Tendulkar, but he can now check that off his list.
One of the defining moments of the 2011 World Cup came when Tendulkar was chaired around the Wankhede Stadium. Apart from this being a show of gratitude to the master batsman, it was also an expression of the respect and admiration the players have for Tendulkar, and this is a perfect tribute to an iconic player who has bridged the gaps between generations with ease.
Tendulkar, and the rest of the squad, deserve to savour each moment and memory of winning the 2011 World Cup; but this will be a very special moment for Sachin as he has realised his World Cup destiny and finally managed to get his hands on that elusive trophy.