BANGALORE: As he opens the door to room number 2033 at the ITC Royal Gardenia hotel in Bangalore, the demigod who resides in it apologises for the mess inside. It is immediately evident that Sachin Tendulkar is every bit the unassuming man the world knows him to be.
“These guys are crazy,” Tendulkar says softly, referring to his mates in blue who are now often talking about winning the cup for him. “They just talk about gifting me something.”
The nation wants to win this World Cup – but this time, unlike his five earlier campaigns, they want it as much for him as they want it for themselves. Surely, this is Sachin’s last chance.
He doesn’t want to exaggerate his importance in India .s World Cup campaign, but the more he avoids talk on it, the more it returns to haunt him. “I just want to go out there and play. The rest is,” he looks up as if there is someone else who decides.
And through his gestures he makes it obvious that he just can’t wait to take it on.
Sachin tries an aggressive pose for the camera, but gives up. “It is all inside. It will come out when I am facing the ball,” he says thumping his chest. “You will definitely see a lot of aggression during this edition.”
If that statement is a hint of his strategy for the next 40-odd days, it will rouse the expectant nation that has only now, finally come to grips with his recent measured, cut-out-the-risks approach.
Could he go back to his old, swashbuckling ways?
“Sachin’s aggression will be crucial to India’s fortune this time,” says former all-rounder Mohinder Amarnath.
Tendulkar made the most one-day international runs in 2010 (1,562) with an average of 55.90 and scored seven centuries.
Check his strike rate between 2009 and 2011 before he returned from the recently-concluded series in South Africa with injuries: 95.15 in Sri Lanka; 134.21 against South Africa in India; 56.36 in South Africa.
“That has been because of the controlled aggression,” says Amarnath.
“He has conquered everything, but the World Cup. I hope he does it this time,” says John Wright . “I have seen him when he is the most aggressive. And he is at his aggressive best when he is determined. That determined aggression should work this time.”
“I want Sachin to be a World Cup winner and you can see that in his intent. Our styles differ but I can see the same intent in his eyes,” says former West Indies cricket legend Viv Richards.
Sachin holds the record for most number of runs (1,796) in World Cups, including four centuries and 13 fifties with a best score of 152 not out against Namibia (2003).
This time, the pressure is huge, Sachin says, because it is happening here in India. And, of course, there’s all this hype about it being his last Word Cup.
“Is it?” Sachin asks.
He immediately looks the other way and stares into the camera lens as if he was more curious about hearing an answer rather than being asked that question.
“I feel Sachin has to do it for us. He has to win this World Cup for us and we are waiting for that,” says Kapil Dev .
But the master blaster is more concerned about the mess in his room, than the chat around the cup. He remains apologetic.
The room really isn’t in much of a mess. There is his kit lying in a corner, a few practice bats leaning on another, his travelling strolley too.
The bed has been removed from the room and the mattress laid on the floor. “It is better,” he doesn’t give too many explanations and seems to assume that we know what he meant. He moves towards his mobile phone that is hooked to a charger on the writing table. It rarely rings. “I like to listen to music,” which he says helps him to unwind. He has a SoundDock set up in his bathroom for his ipod – demigods have quirks too.
As he poses for the camera he squints and keeps going to the photographer to check the shot. During one of those interjections he says that he can only blink with one eye…his right one. “But not always, when I am batting, I often don’t blink with either,” he says with an impish smile. “You know I always wonder about this even when I am batting. The one-eyed blinking makes it (the eye) look smaller.”
What about the World Cup? “Ha, that can never get smaller.” It is as big as ever.
“I don’t think Tendulkar’s records will be surpassed. But a World Cup will be the crowning glory among his enormous achievements,” says Brian Lara. “And I am sure he knows it.”
Tendulkar changes his attitude according to conditions, be it his fun-loving persona when bowling to his team-mates during net practice and the utterly serious poise when he is padded up and facing the bowlers. Other times might have him giving tips to a Kannada film star, Karthik, who is a regular at the nets whenever the Indian team is in Bangalore.
Training is one thing he couldn’t be more serious about, his teammates being the other. His phone rings. He dives for it and rushes out to close the doors of the balcony. “I have to run. They are waiting for me in the bus downstairs. I can’t keep them waiting,” he says as he prances around to put his kit together.
The entire nation is waiting too, for the one thing that Sachin Tendulkar has not been able to give them yet – the World Cup.