<i>Dhoni's gift to Tendulkar</i>
If the world was a perfect place with fate written by an Indian hand, Sachin Tendulkar would have scored his hundredth international century yesterday in the World Cup final, and taken his country to their second world trophy in front of his home town crowd at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.
But India fans hoping Tendulkar would reach the landmark in the World Cup final against Sri Lanka on Saturday were stunned when he fell for just 18.
It had happened before: after being in sublime form to take India to the final in the 2003 edition, and faced with an even more daunting chase than the one confronting him yesterday, Tendulkar was caught and bowled by paceman Glenn McGrath for just four in a match India lost by a colossal 125 runs.
Tendulkar had said before the World Cup started that it was the only thing missing from his career, and Indian players vowed that they would do their utmost to win the trophy for the icon.
Yesterday, as he was leaving the field with his head bowed, he crossed paths with the incoming batsman, captain MS Dhoni, a man who in many ways is set to inherit the mantle of the most celebrated cricketer in the land from Tendulkar. Dhoni would have seen the man that his generation idolised returning dejected, ruing another missed opportunity, and perhaps something stirred in him.
The Indian captain had not scored a single fifty in the entirety of this tournament, but yesterday he was in the 'zone' that great batsmen like Brian Lara and Tendulkar talk about. With Gautam Gambhir, and later Yuvraj Singh, he played a consummate captain's innings, one which Tendulkar himself would have been proud of, and the rest will now be consigned to the annals of history.