March 23, 2007: Sachin Tendulkar Recalls The Worst Day Of His Career
March 23, 2007 is one of the least glorious days for Indian cricket fans. Why so? Because, it was on this unfortunate day when India, led by Rahul Dravid, crashed out of the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies. Playing in a relatively easier group featuring Bangladesh, Bermuda and the only worthy competitor Sri Lanka, India were expected to sail smoothly to the Super Eights.
The Men In Blue were one of the favourites to win the title after having reached the finals in the previous edition in South Africa. However, the tournament turned out to be an utter nightmare as they crashed out of the event in the group stage itself. The aftereffect was so bad that it made Sachin Tendulkar lock himself in his hotel room for two days!
It all started with the shock loss to Bangladesh at the Port of Spain. Opting to bat first on a moist wicket, Rahul Dravid-led India could only post 191 after being stunned by spectacular performances from the bowlers led by Mashrafe Mortaza (4/38). Bangladeshis then committed no errors and chased down the target in the final overs of their innings with fifties from opener Tamim Iqbal, Mushfiqur Rahim and Shakib Al Hasan to hand India an unforeseen loss.
“The 2007 World Cup was obviously not good for us. The first blow was the loss to Bangladesh and then we lost to Sri Lanka. I never thought we would lose to Bangladesh. We were not over-confident, but you do feel confident about India beating Bangladesh. It was one of those uncertainties of the game,” Tendulkar said.
“I was so disheartened! You feel terrible that the game which has shown you the best days of your life was now showing you the worst day of your life. I couldn’t imagine cricket could do this to you. I felt really, really terrible. I felt low and I didn’t leave home for quite sometime.”
There was still scope for revival. Newspapers ran stories about the possible scenarios which could help India sail ahead in the tournament. While the loss was a huge moral damage, the chances of making it to the next round were still high. To make the calculation simple – India were in a must-win situation where they needed to beat both Bermuda and Sri Lanka while the Lankans needed to thrash Bangladesh to eliminate the low-ranked side out the competition and pave the way for India. However, India failed. After winning comprehensively against Bermuda, Sri Lanka snapped off all hope by defeating India by 69 runs in an all-important game at Port of Spain on March 23, 2007, exactly a decade ago.
“I would call it (March 23, 2007) one of my worst days in cricket. When you feel you win and end up losing, you are bound to feel terrible. Like the Johannesburg Test (in 1997) when we had to get South Africa out but it rained, the Barbados Test (in 1997) when I was captain and the 1996 World Cup semi-final loss to Sri Lanka. There are such instances when you feel really terrible.
“We were in the West Indies for two days after we lost, but I didn’t leave my hotel room after we lost. I was in no mood to do anything. It was such a massive disappointment that I didn’t feel like doing anything in those two days. It was tough to get that out of your mind and move on to the next tournament.”
The aftermath of the exit was a huge controversy that shook the core of Indian cricket. Head coach Greg Chappell, along with senior players, bore the brunt of the fans. In his autobiography, Sachin Tendulkar made some stunning revelations and blamed Chappell for the mess.
“Yes, 100 per cent, absolutely… Greg (Chappell) was responsible for this imbalance and I stick by what I said (about Chappell having a lot to do with the mess Indian cricket found themselves in). The guys who were opening in South Africa which was our previous tour, were batting in the middle order. There were so many changes that were made. If I were to bat at No. 4 in the World Cup, why was I opening in South Africa? And he had no answer to that. Anything and everything that was happening was not in the right direction for the team.
“The Indian team of 2007 was a good one. It was not handled properly and the right resources were not used. I repeat, it was a good side because the same players stuck together and played some amazing cricket and went on to become No 1. in Test cricket and won one-day competitions and the 2011 World Cup.”
With angry fans and a huge turmoil surrounding from all sides, Tendulkar felt incapable of handling this disastrous low of his career and even thought of bidding adieu. But the West Indies legend Sir Viv Richards interfered and guided Tendulkar out of the mess with a chat over the phone. That call from Sir Viv motivated him enough to get back to his feet again.
“I was away when I got a call from Sir Viv Richards. He spoke to me for around 45 minutes — about the ups and downs in cricket. He stressed that I have plenty of cricket left in me and said, ‘You are not going to retire now.’ He had heard from a friend of ours that I was really depressed to a point that I was literally thinking of retiring. He told me that it’s only a matter of time that I get back so don’t take any decision now.
“It makes a huge difference when your batting hero calls you. I always looked up to him and Sunil Gavaskar. Sir Viv’s call to me was made at the right time and I got convinced. I then said to myself, ‘Okay, I’m going to abandon these thoughts and start practising again as soon as I return to Mumbai. My brother Ajit spoke to me about the 2011 World Cup, telling me that this trophy can be in my hands. That was the motivating factor and I started chasing my World Cup dream. I trained at 5:30 am and practised in the afternoons.”
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