It took him more than two decades to realise the dream of winning the World Cup, but much before the ultimate achievement happened in 201,1, Sachin Tendulkar remained India’s lynchpin at the biggest stage.
For the best part of five different ICC Men’s ODI World Cups (1992, 1996, 2003, 2007, 2011), Tendulkar set the cricketing world alight with his batting performances for India, ultimately helping his side to victory in the 2011 World Cup on home soil.
The Little Master might not have featured in the World Cups in 2015 and 2019 but he still holds most of the batting records there is to own for cricket’s marquee event. Tendulkar is the only man in the world to have scored more than 2,000 runs in the tournament’s history.
At the biggest stage, he was India’s main man.
Here’s a look at his record in the tournament over the years:
Most matches at ICC Men's ODI World Cup
|RT Ponting (AUS)||1996-2011||46||42|
|SR Tendulkar (INDIA)||1992-2011||45||44|
|DPMD Jayawardene (SL)||1999-2015||40||34|
|M Muralitharan (SL)||1996-2011||40||13|
|GD McGrath (AUS)||1996-2007||39||4|
No man has scored more runs at the World Cup than Tendulkar; or even come close for that matter.
He scored 2,278 runs at the tournament – more than 500 more than his nearest rival – at an average of 56.95. His highest score at the World Cup came against Namibia in 2003, when he hit 18 fours on his way to 152 from 151 balls.
Tendulkar’s closest competitor for World Cup greatness is Ricky Ponting and while the Australian will be revered for his match-winning efforts over the years and big-game mentality, he is still a distant second to the Indian. Among active players, only Shakib al Hasan features in the top 10 and it will take a miracle to overhaul Tendulkar’s tally in the future.
Top run-scorers in ICC Men's ODI World Cup
|Player||Innings||Runs||Highest||Average||Strike-rate||100s / 50s|
|SR Tendulkar||44||2278||152||56.95||88.98||6 / 15|
|RT Ponting||42||1743||140*||45.86||79.95||5 / 6|
|KC Sangakkara||35||1532||124||56.74||86.55||5 / 7|
|BC Lara||33||1225||116||42.24||86.26||2 / 7|
|AB de Villiers||22||1207||162*||63.52||117.29||4 / 6|
|CH Gayle||34||1186||215||35.93||90.53||2 / 6|
|ST Jayasuriya||37||1165||120||34.26||90.66||3 / 6|
|JH Kallis||32||1148||128*||45.92||74.4||1 / 9|
|Shakib AH||29||1146||124*||45.84||82.26||2 / 10|
|TM Dilshan||25||1112||161*||52.95||92.97||4 / 4|
On six occasions, Tendulkar passed three figures at the World Cup; a feat that was matched by Rohit Sharma during his scintillating run at the 2019 edition.
His first century came in his second tournament in 1996 as he scored an unbeaten 127 against Kenya. It didn’t take long for him to record a second ton, as he went on to score 137 against Sri Lanka two weeks later.
Kenya were the victims again in 1999 when Tendulkar struck 140 not out in Bristol. It was an emotional innings for the Indian legend as he scored it on returning from India after his father’s death.
His fourth century came against Namibia, which remains his highest score at the tournament.
And he showed he was no spent force in his final World Cup in 2011, hitting scores of 120 in a tied game against England and 111 against South Africa. The chance of scoring the 100th century at the biggest stage, however, eluded the Mumbaikar.
Most centuries at ICC Men's ODI World Cup
Apart from converting six fifties into centuries, Tendulkar also holds the record for the most half-centuries in World Cup history with 15. Three of Tendulkar’s fifties came in his first tournament in 1992, three more in 1996, six in 2003, one in 2007 before finishing with two in 2011.
His tally of 21 fifty-plus scores is another that is unlikely to be broken soon, with the next best at 12.
Most 50+ scores at ICC Men's World Cup
|AB de Villiers||22||1207||4||6||10|
Most runs in one tournament
It was during the 2003 World Cup in South Africa, Kenya, and Zimbabwe that Tendulkar further enhanced his reputation as one of the leading ODI batsmen of all time, as he hit 673 runs in 11 games – a record for a single edition of the tournament.
Across Africa, he put on a batting masterclass, posting an impressive 152 against Namibia, 98 against Pakistan (one of his finest ODI knocks) and 97 versus Sri Lanka.
He couldn’t quite lead India to victory, though, as they fell to against Australia in the final, but he would eventually get his hands on the prestigious trophy eight years later.
In 2019, it looked like Tendulkar’s record might be overcome by David Warner or Rohit Sharma, but with neither able to reach the final for their respective teams, the Little Master’s record stands for four more years.
Most runs at one ICC Men's World Cup edition
One of the key features of Tendulkar’s mountain of runs at the World Cup was that when he did well, India invariably won the match (and the vice-versa has been painfully true on a few times as well).
No wonder then that another feather in Tendulkar’s crown is that he holds the record for most runs scored in the World Cup in winning causes.
Most runs in winning causes at ICC Men's ODI WC
One of the counter-points to Tendulkar’s performances at the World Cup was his record in the matches that mattered. The final in 2003 is one occasion where critics point out his failure when India needed him to succeed the most. The defeat in 1996 semi-final is often attributed to one moment of carelessness by Tendulkar, who looked in prime form before getting out stumped in bizarre fashion. He also could not register a three-figure score in any of the seven elimination matches that he played in.
But, having said all that, he still is India’s most prolific run-getter in designated knockout matches.
Most runs in knockouts at ICC Men's ODI WC
Finally, the one aspect that signifies Tendulkar’s importance to India at World Cups is that he was country’s leading scorer in three of the five tournaments he played. Sure, 2007 came and went as a massive blur for many Indian fans. Sure, 1999 was a bittersweet experience for him given the personal trauma he had to face. But apart from being the tournament’s leading run-getter twice, he was arguably India’s go-to man every time the men in blue began a World Cup campaign.
When Tendulkar made 482 runs in 2011, Gambhir was second-best at 393. When Tendulkar amassed 673 runs, Ganguly was second-best at 465. And most significantly, when Tendulkar scored 523 runs in 1996, the second best Indian run-getter was Sidhu with.... 178 runs.
Sachin Tendulkar's record in World Cup editions
|World Cup||Matches||Runs||Batting Average||100s||Remarks|
|1992||8||283||47.16||0||Second best among Indians behind Azhar|
|1996||7||523||87.16||2||Most runs in the tournament|
|1999||7||253||42.16||1||Fourth best among Indians|
|2003||11||673||61.18||1||Record for tally in one edition|
|2007||3||64||32.00||0||Fifth best among Indians|
|2011||9||482||53.55||2||Second overall, best among Indians|
The triumph in 2011 was ultimately a team effort but for most of his career, Tendulkar led a one-man army at the World Cups. When India won, he might not have contributed in the final, but fittingly, he was his team’s leading run-getter again. That, more than anything, sums up Tendulkar’s World Cup legacy.