There have been just 11 editions of the World Cup that have taken place so far, and Sachin Tendulkar was a part of 6 of them. His journey in cricket’s showpiece event started in the year 1992, and ended in 2011, with him finally tasting success in his sixth and final attempt. And, over the course of two decades, Sachin carried the burden of more than a billion people from his country on his shoulders every time he strode out to bat for his nation.
Along the way, he provided cricket lovers with memories that will last a lifetime. It is really hard to imagine any sportsperson playing six World Cups and even harder to imagine them being the country’s flag bearer for the entire duration.
But then, Tendulkar proved that it was possible. Every time the man strode out for his country, there was hope. Hope that something special would transpire.
Now then, the World Cup has seen several legends grace the event. Sir Vivian Richards was the first big cricketing superstar that ODI cricket produced. He scored a scintillating hundred in the 1979 World Cup final to take the West Indies home against England.
Then, of course, we had the iconic Imran Khan - a man who exuded charisma, a man whose dynamic leadership was instrumental in Pakistan lifting the World Cup in 1992. Then, we have had the likes of Ponting, Gilchrist and McGrath whose awe-inspiring performances allowed Australia to become the most dominant force in the World Cup.
But then, what makes Sachin the greatest cricketer in World Cup history? Let us start with the numbers and get them out of the way first: 6 World Cups, 45 matches, 2278 runs, 6 hundreds, 1 Man of the Tournament award; the list goes on.
Let's agree on this; no cricketer can ever come close to replicating the numbers generated by Tendulkar. They almost range on the absurd.
Now, let us come to the intangible quotient. And it is in this dimension that Tendulkar outscores the rest of his competition. There has been no cricketer who has been able to capture the hearts of so many cricket lovers and stay relevant for such a long period of time in a manner Tendulkar did in his illustrious career.
Do you remember that chilly morning in Bristol in the 1999 World Cup, when Tendulkar returned to score a scintillating century for his country just 2 days after losing his father? Or that audaciously slashed six over backward point off Shoaib Akhtar in the 2003 World Cup that rattled the fastest bowler in the world? Or that age-defying hundred against England in the 2011 edition where Tendulkar, into his sixth World Cup, defied Father Time and coerced all of us into believing that time was indeed just an illusion?
And finally, the night of April 2nd, 2011, when a teary-eyed Tendulkar ran onto the ground like a child after MS Dhoni’s six landed into the crowd, allowing India to lift the World Cup after almost three decades?
Yes. No cricketer can have the swagger of Vivian Richards, no cricketer can have the flamboyance of Shane Warne. No one was more charismatic than Imran Khan. No one can be as lethal as McGrath. But then, if you roll all of this into one, you get a complete package in the form of Sachin Tendulkar.
And that is precisely why Sachin will qualify as the greatest cricketer ever in the history of the World Cup.