“The best moment of my life, without any doubt.”
The speaker, Sachin Tendulkar. The moment, winning the ICC Cricket World Cup.
For a man whose name sits alongside almost every batting record imaginable, there’s one moment that stands out above all the rest.
Not his 100th international century. Not making his India debut at the age of just 16. But lifting a trophy that meant so much to not only himself, but his whole nation: the Cricket World Cup in 2011.
After 28 years of hurt for his country – and 19 years for Tendulkar personally – the Little Master led India to their first World Cup title since 1983 in 2011, at his sixth and final attempt.
“That is what I lived for. That is what I started cricket for,” he described the World Cup win to Nasser Hussain on Sky Sports.
After MS Dhoni hit the winning runs against Sri Lanka in the 2011 Final, Tendulkar was lofted on the shoulders of his teammates and paraded around the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. Virat Kohli put it perfectly: “He’s carried the burden of the nation for 21 years so it’s time we carried him on our shoulders.”
For Tendulkar though, the thoughts were slightly more cautious.
“Please don’t drop me! It was an unbelievable feeling. It was special, for the teammates to do that, it was pleasing.”
It’s no surprise that a World Cup win was celebrated as wildly as it was in a cricket-mad nation like India, but the levels of jubilation across the country took even Tendulkar by surprise.
“For me, I’ve never experienced anything like that. How many times do you have the entire country celebrating one event?
“The celebrations were at a different level. Just from Wankhede Stadium to go to the Taj (team hotel) took us an hour-and-a-half and the distance is only 2/3km. It was jam-packed and the bus was not able to move, such was the excitement and people dancing on top of cars and celebrating. I’ve never seen India like that, it was a big moment.”
Despite scoring over 34,000 international runs, including 100 centuries, there’s no ego with Tendulkar. While the world knew just how important he was to India’s squad for almost 23 years, he was keen to just do his job for the team and ignore the hype.
“I knew I was one of the important members of the squad but never did I think that if I get out it’s all over,” he added.
“It’s always a team sport. Yes, there are key players and there are key wickets that the bowlers will pick, and I’d like to believe I was one of those batters.
“Other than that, I felt 2011 was for sure going to be my last World Cup, and being the senior-most player in the squad I had my role to do.”
It would seem almost absurd for a man of Tendulkar’s standing to retire without a World Cup title to his name, and there’s no doubt neutrals – not to mention fans of other countries – smiled when they saw Tendulkar finally get his hands on the prized possession in 2011.