NEW DELHI // As Indian batting great Sachin Tendulkar heads into his record sixth cricket World Cup, a nation of 1.2 billion are hoping he can cap a phenomenal career with a win for his country.
Tendulkar is the holder of virtually every major batting record in Test and one-day cricket, including most runs and most centuries in either format, and most believe a World Cup win will complete his career of achievements.
Vivian Richards, the former West Indian batsman, said during a World Cup promotional event last month that "the World Cup would be the icing on the cake for Sachin Tendulkar".
Just as Tendulkar's consistency has been credited with India's superb recent form, runs from the Mumbai player's bat have had a direct bearing on the team's fortunes in the World Cup.
This time around, home conditions are expected to help India, which boasts of a prolific batting line-up.
The likes of Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni and Yusuf Pathan may be capable of turning any match on its head with big hitting, but Tendulkar remains the bulwark.
The 37-year-old played for India when they got to the 2003 World Cup final and the semi-finals in 1996. He played a major role in both those campaigns, establishing the record for most runs in any single World Cup by accumulating 673 in 2003, and was the highest scorer in 1996 with 523.
Tendulkar's absence from a match against Zimbabwe in the 1999 World Cup, when he returned home briefly after his father's death, resulted in India losing the match and spoiling their finals chances despite consistent performances from players like Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly.
Tendulkar, who also leads the aggregate table for most runs in World Cups at 1,796 in 36 matches and shares the record of four World Cup centuries, will now be tied with Pakistan's Javed Miandad in terms of cups participated in. Brian Lara, the only modern-day batsman who has been consistently compared with Tendulkar, says the Indian's records will not be easily broken.
"I believe that the entire world appreciates Tendulkar still playing cricket," Lara said on a recent visit to New Delhi. "His records will not be surpassed, especially with more Twenty20 cricket being played. Winning the World Cup or not, Tendulkar's achievements are enormous," he said.