After Gavaskar, Tendulkar too backs India to do well at World Cup

Mumbai: Cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar today backed defending champions India to do well in next year's 50-over World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, saying the number one ODI side is ready for the tough challenge coming up in five months time.

(From left to right): Brett Lee, Australian PM Tony Abbott, Sachin Tendulkar and Adam Gilchrist with the World Cup trophy in Mumbai on Thursday
(From left to right): Brett Lee, Australian PM Tony Abbott, Sachin Tendulkar and Adam Gilchrist with the World Cup trophy in Mumbai on Thursday 

"The World Cup will be played next year in Australia and New Zealand and I have got some fond memories of '91-92, when we played in Australia and New Zealand. Just a gentle reminder to everyone here that the defending champions are ready to defend," Tendulkar said at an event at the Cricket Club of India with Australian PM Tony Abbott in attendance. Abbott was also given life-time membership by the Club on the occasion.

The retired cricketer was obviously referring to India's superb display in the ongoing five-match ODI rubber against hosts England after a dismal run in the preceding Test series which they lost 1-3 to England. Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men have bounced back in brilliant style by wrapping up the ODI series after taking an unassailable 3-0 lead with one game remaining to be played tomorrow.

India will now host West Indies for a short series and then tour Australia in December-Janaury before moving into the 2015 World Cup scheduled between February 14 to March 29. The Men in Blue would go into the show piece event trying to defend their crown they got by defeating Sri Lanka in a pulsating final at the Wankhede stadium on April 2, 2011.

Tendulkar, who quit all forms of the game after playing his 200th Test in November 2013, was part of that victorious squad led by Dhoni. The Master Blaster though fondly recollected one of his earlier visits to Australia to meet the country's greatest-ever sports icon Donald Bradman on his 90th birthday. "I think it was 1980 or'82, when my neighbour first showed me a letter that he had received from Sir Don.

He said 'I had written a letter to him, to which Sir Don has actually replied.' We checked out his autograph. "I was too young to know about Sir Don at that time. Little did I know that 19-20 years down the line I would actually be visiting Sir Don's place to wish him on his 90th birthday. That was an experience in itself," Tendulkar said.

"I went there with Warnie (Australian leg spin great Shane Warne) and both of us didn't know what to say or what questions to ask. That experience was really special," said the champion batsman. "We had asked what would you have averaged in today's cricket, because he had mentioned the standard of playing in cricket was better now. He said he would have averaged probably 70. The natural reaction was why only 70, why not 99 (99.94).

He said come on son it is not bad for a 90-year-old-man," he recalled. Tendulakar said Bradman paid him the ultimate compliment when he remarked on their similar batting styles. "The greatest compliment that I have received in my life was without any doubt from Sir Don. In 1994-95 he told his wife that my batting style resembled his batting style. And the icing on the cake was when he picked me to be part of his all-time best Test playing 11.

That was a special moment for me in life. I have a photograph of the playing 11 framed at my place, which I would treasure," he said. Tendulkar also remembered the occasion when he got the chance to hold Bradman's bat while playing at Sydney in 2007. "In 2007, I was playing a match at Sydney, and I actually got to hold Sir Don's real bat. We had be careful and I had to wear gloves.

But it was an exciting moment for someone who 30 years ago was checking out Sir Don's autograph to progress to hold Sir Don's real bat that he used in '30s and '40s," said the compiler of 100 international hundreds. Tendulkar further said his first tour to Australia in 1991-92 changed him as a player. "I have toured Australia on a number of occasions. My first one was in 91-92 when I was only 18 years old and got to play against the (then) world champions. I felt that those four months that I was in Australia transformed me as a person and, more so, as a cricketer," he said.

The function was held to felicitate some young cricketers by former Australian players Adam Gilchrist and Brett Lee in the presence of the Australian PM and Tendulkar took the occasion to advise the children to play in the right spirit and said sports has taught him a lot. "You compete fair in the right spirit on the field and respect your opponent. I believe sports teaches you a lot in life. It improves your health and concentration level.

You are able to focus longer and harder. "Some things that sports teaches you cannot be learnt in classrooms or boardrooms. Sports has also taught me, whenever I have faced defeat, to get up on my feet again and compete in the right spirit," he said. Former Australian wicketkeeper and Gilchrist said that statistically Tendulkar is the greatest batsman to play the game.

"One of the great discussions around the cricketing world is ..... who is the best--Tendulkar or Bradman. I think it is a fair comparison and fair discussion to have. I am not sure that it will work out who is. Certainly, statistically Sachin Tendulkar is the greatest cricketer to play the game.

He is a true gentleman," Gilchrist said. Australian PM Abbott said in lighter vein that India and Australia shared a common passion - that is to beat England in cricket. A research MoU between Indian Premier League franchise Kings XI Punjab and Australia's La Trobe University (LTU), based in Victoria - for working on mutually agreed topics like fan engagement, marketing and promotional practices - was also formally inked in the presence of the Australian PM.

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