We always knew that Sachin Tendulkar is a great cricketer, but after the Coca-Cola Cup here, we have seen the birth of a legend. I can't think of anybody who has batted more authoritatively in one day cricket for India, or even in the world except for Viv Richards.
For someone to do what Tendulkar did for two matches in succession requires not only extraordinary skill, but superb temperament and great ambition. It is not easy playing for India because the expectations from an Indian cricketer are more than all the other countries put together. It takes a different kind of species to handle such pressure successfully, and over the past few months, Tendulkar has shown that he is a class apart from all those who play this game currently.
Yesterday, once the early overs were through, Tendulkar took complete charge of the situation, almost as if he had personally masterminded the gameplan to win the Coca-Cola Cup from Australia. His knock in the final (134) may not have been as audacious as the previous match (142), but make no mistake, it was a superbly paced and ruthlessly executed innings.
His mere presence in the middle was enough for the Aussie shoulders to drop and that does not happen too often. He was dismissed to a pathetic decision - one of two in succession, Azhar getting an even more horrid one a little later -but by then he had ensured that India had one hand firmly on the winner's trophy.
After his dismissal, it became a different ball game immediately, but a well-settled Azhar, who had played his part in a match winning partnership with Tendulkar, timed his attack on the Aussies bowlers to perfection to make sure there was no calamity.
Azhar's decision to field first in a cup final was brave. Though the pitch was never going to deteriorate, chasing anything in excess of 250 was going to be very difficult because of the pressure. But with Tendulkar in such sparkling form, and the Indian skipper making a timely contribution, there were to be no iff's and but's about the result.
I cannot think of greater role model than a 25 year old young man who loves to bat, treasures the India cap, plays very hard and plays to win.