"The best batsman in the world has risen to the occasion. And again looking skyward after he got that three-figure mark... sure dedicated that hundred to his father. Remarkable concentration..."
The commentary box was cordial as Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar reached his century against Kenya in Bristol during the 1999 edition of the World Cup. Things were not looking good for India ahead of this match, as they had slumped to back to back defeats against South Africa and Zimbabwe. The team had to win all their remaining contests to stay afloat in the tournament. However, unlike his teammates, it was not just the pressure of a must-win game that Sachin had to deal with during his match-winning knock on May 23...
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It was on the eve of the game against Zimbabwe that he got the news of his father Ramesh Tendulkar’s passing. As India got ready to face Zimbabwe on May 19, he was on the way back home for his father’s funeral. The team was not even certain of his return in time for the Kenya match. Not only did the Master Blaster returned, but played one of the finest innings in World Cup history, steering India clear of a hattrick defeat against African sides. Walking in at no 4 during the 21st over of the match, India was at 92-2 after having lost openers Sourav Ganguly and Sadagopan Ramesh.
With Rahul Dravid hold at the other end, he went after the Kenyan bowlers, effortlessly finding the ropes every now and then. Sachin hit 16 boundaries and send the ball sailing thrice as he made 140 runs facing just 101 deliveries. Dravid made sure he didn't fall very behind his partner and scored a textbook 104 off 109 deliveries. With both of them remaining unbeaten, India made a humongous total of 329 - too much for the Kenyan batsmen to handle.
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When it comes to Sachin's World Cup tons, this two-decade-old Man of the Match winning knock from England always gets first mention due to the emotional quotient attached to it. His five other centuries lack no charm or class and his 126 against the same opposition in the previous edition of the tournament is the finest example for this.
On February 18, en route his fifth ODI ton, Tendulkar made Kenya's total of 199 look trivial as his tally of 15 boundaries were 3 more than their entire team could manage! He stitched a 163-run opening partnership with Ajay Jadeja, who made 53 and later finished the game single-handedly after losing three partners in quick succession. By the time India crossed the target, the side still had 9 overs left to play.
Sachin scored yet another ton in the '96 edition with his second coming against Sri Lanka on March 2 in New Delhi. Sachin made a 175-run partnership with Mohammad Azharuddin for the third wicket during his run-a-ball 137 that included 8 fours and 5 maximums. Though his innings ended following a run-out, he made sure the host side reached a compatible target of 271. But his effort was not enough to hand India a victory as the Lankans won the match hands down with 6 wickets and 8 balls to spare.
The Little Masters interest in bullying the associate sides didn't stop with the Kenyans, and his highest score in the World Cups was against another non-Test playing side - Namibia.
Along with his captain Ganguly, Sachin made the Africans curse their skipper Deon Kotze's decision to bowl first as the duo built a huge partnership of 244 runs to guide India to 311 runs in 50 overs. Facing 151 balls, Sachin smashed 18 boundaries on his way to a crafty 152, spending over 3 hours at the crease. Just when it felt like both of them are going to carry their bat back, Sachin was cleaned by van Vuuren. However, the February 23 game Pietermaritzburg handed India one of their biggest wins ever as Namibia was all out for just 130 runs in 42 overs.
Cricket's biggest stage returned to India once again in 2011 and Tendulkar, the home sides most-experienced player by then, added two more tons to his tons to break the record of most World Cup centuries. It seemed like he had saved his finest show for his swansong tournament as both his hundreds were against two heavyweights - England and South Africa. However, neither of these innings were in winning cause as South Africa chased down India's 296 with 3 wickets in hand in Nagpur, while Andrew Strauss played arguably the innings of his career to hand the Three Lions a respectable draw in Bengaluru. Sachin had made 111 runs off 101 against proteas in his home state, while he made 120 off 115 against the English.
Sachin was able to make yet other notable contributions to India's successful voyage to World Cup glory, including the 85 against Pakistan in the semifinal in Chandigarh.