The Indian hockey team had a surprise visitor in Sachin Tendulkar on the eve of their departure to The Hague for the World Cup that starts on May 31. Tendulkar, who is a mentor to the Mumbai Indians, was on his way from Delhi to Mohali with the rest of the team for Wednesday’s clash against Kings XI Punjab. The batting legend, however, decided to stay back to meet the Holland-bound hockey team at the insistence of his friend and skipper Sardar Singh.
He interacted with the players for close to two-and-a-half hours, leaving them overwhelmed and, according to several young players, a lot wiser about dealing with the pressures of playing in high-profile tournaments. The players were keen to know how Tendulkar prepared for big games and about his experiences of playing in six World Cups.
“We have worked hard on the training ground for the World Cup but his visit has inspired us a lot. He spoke about the sacrifices a sportsman has to make to succeed and stressed on the importance of having a healthy atmosphere within the team,” said India forward SV Sunil.
Citing the example of India’s defeat to Bangladesh at the 2007 World Cup, Tendulkar said the shock loss had left the team shattered but taught them a harsh lesson, which ultimately helped them lift the cup four years later. “He said the team hadn’t expected such a defeat but insisted they learnt a lot from it. Paaji said the team spirit within the dressing room helped them deal with the situation well and they had resolved to emerge stronger,” Sunil said.
Revenge on Bangladesh
The forward said Tendulkar added that when the teams met again in the opening match of the 2011 World Cup, they were determined to avenge the defeat. “He said it was a big-pressure match for them. Bangladesh were playing at home and the defeat they suffered four years ago was still fresh in their memory. Only this time, they stuck to their game plan and won the game,” Sunil said.
India, who had crashed out of the group stage in 2007 following the defeat to Pakistan, won the 2011 World Cup, which was Tendulkar’s last. “Paaji said the spirit within the dressing room in 2011 was the key to their success. Perhaps he wanted to tell us that we shouldn’t be disheartened by failures; instead learn from them. We had a poor outing during the London Olympics, but this small story has changed our outlook and we are determined to make amends at the World Cup,” Sunil said.
Tendulkar is also believed to have advised the players that they shouldn’t allow complacency to creep in, no matter who the opponent is. Goalkeeper PR Sreejesh added: “He told us not take failure to heart as everyone fails. But with those failures and experiences you will learn and grow. We all are here because we have a passion for what we are following.”