With the Master turning 46 on Wednesday, 24 April, just over a month removed from cricket's flagship tournament, we cast our minds back to his five finest Cricket World Cup performances.
Tendulkar is the competition's all-time leading run-scorer, with 2,278 runs over six editions. His tally includes a record six hundreds, and culminated in India lifting the World Cup after 28 years, in 2011 at home. A fluid and mesmeric stroke-maker, national icon and fierce competitor, Tendulkar's exploits at the premier tournament have left behind some indelible moments.
90 v Australia, 1996, Mumbai
India crashed out, after defeat to Sri Lanka in the semi-final on home soil, but it was the year that saw Tendulkar's World Cup legacy begin to take form. Averaging 87.16, with two tons and three half-centuries, at times it felt like a 22-year-old Tendulkar was carrying his side through the tournament, and on no occasion did this seem more apparent than when India took on a star-studded Australia side in the group stage.
In pursuit of 259 at his home ground in Mumbai, Tendulkar accumulated stylishly and swiftly to the delight of his adoring supporters, negotiating the likes of Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath with unerring ease. He amassed 90 before being stumped, and his elder, more seasoned team-mates could not pick up from where he left off. India lost by 16 runs, but it offered oppositions an ominous glimpse of the master's capabilities with the bat, and displayed an early yearning for big-game knocks that carried on for tournaments to come.
140* v Kenya, Bristol, 1999
Tendulkar's knock against Kenya in 1999 cannot be overstated in terms of importance or poignancy, and showcased the sheer level of elite batsmanship on show that day in Bristol. Firstly, India were in need of victory to keep their tournament alive, after early losses to South Africa and Zimbabwe, and Tendulkar's own involvement was not guaranteed, given his father had tragically passed away just a few days earlier.
He described this time as the 'most difficult stage of my life', yet displayed admirable stoicism and pride as he dismantled the Kenyan attack for a 101-ball 140*, setting his side up for a comfortable victory. Tendulkar's emotional nod to his father upon reaching three figures, with a six over mid-wicket, captured millions of hearts. Daring drives, paddle-sweeps and all, Tendulkar displayed his remarkable technical acumen and his ability to attack, as he took the stage on a sobering day for himself and India, and left a mark on it with his cricketing brilliance.
98 v Pakistan, Centurion, 2003
Despite losing agonisingly in the final to Australia, Tendulkar was the star of the 2003 World Cup, scoring 673 runs at an average of 61.18 – still the largest run-haul for a batsman at the tournament. Nothing epitomised Tendulkar's rich vein of form more than his match-winning knock against Pakistan in a salivating group stage encounter, featuring two potentially world-beating sides.
Chasing 274, Tendulkar smashed 12 fours and a six as he fell just two short of what would have been a devastating century, his 98 coming from just 75 balls. Shoaib Akhtar, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Shahid Afridi probed to no avail, and they were swatted to all parts by the master, who eventually departed in the 28th over, having all but secured victory for India. "I got a couple of balls to hit, they went nicely off the bat, and things started happening," he later said, and it is that kind of relentless momentum that consistently separated Tendulkar from his peers.
120 v England, 2011, Bengaluru
Tendulkar's World Cup swan-song was not defined by a particular innings, so to speak, but it still saw some of his most potent and responsible innings. In a group stage clash against England, he hit a 115-ball 120 from the top of the order, one of two centuries during his campaign. Interestingly, neither resulted in victories for his side.
Lighting up Bengaluru, Tendulkar crunched five sixes alongside 10 fours, before departing in the 39th over, having carved out an excellent platform for the lower-order hitters. In a gripping affair, England matched India's 338 to tie the game, Andrew Strauss' excellent 158 hauling the visiting side to parity.
85 v Pakistan, 2011, Chandigarh
Despite six triple-figure scores in World Cups, many of Tendulkar's most important knocks fell short of the century mark, and often came in cagey, lower-scoring affairs. A win for India in 2011 gave Tendulkar the only missing trophy in a spectacular cabinet, and it was his vital 85 in Chandigarh against Pakistan in the semi-final that took India one step closer to that moment.
On a tacky surface in Chandigarh, Tendulkar fought valiantly to protect his wicket as those around him floundered, the next best score coming from his opening partner Virender Sehwag (38), as India grinded their way to 260/9. It turned out to be sufficient as Pakistan failed to dig in, and the old-timer, in his penultimate World Cup match, showed his guile and experience. India, buoyed by the win, went on to beat Sri Lanka by six wickets in the final, securing the title on home turf.