Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Sachin's Score

The world (my world) was shaken a few weeks ago when Sachin Tendulkar finally announced his retirement. Yes, everyone knew it was coming and everyone has been talking about it for a while, but no one expected it to actually happen. As I said to a friend ‘It’s like someone broke up with a whole country.’ There is a mad scramble for tickets for both the Kolkata match and the Mumbai match (I’m scrambling taoo!) and tributes are popping up left right and centre. It’s only fitting that I too write my own. I actually know Sachin – I worked in cricket for a few years and have had the privilege of spending time with him during the IPL and the Cricket World Cup 2011. He is a warm, wonderful person who, while mindful of his elevated status (of God) amongst us, is always polite, always smiling and capable of putting anyone at ease. He recognizes the people he has worked with, and always has a smile ready for them.

This is a resurrection of something I wrote 4 years ago, when we celebrated his 20th year in cricket. I meant it then, and I mean it now, and it’s with a heavy heart that I bid the greatest cricketer in the world adieu.

My first meeting - can you tell my knees are shaking?

Sachin's Score

“Thieves- steal anything you want you wont get caught - because when Sachin plays, even God is watching.” – A quote at Lords Cricket Ground

Twenty years. Twenty years in international cricket!

Drive through Mumbai, see people gathered outside shop windows watching tiny screens inside, and you know that Sachin Tendulkar is batting. No one else gets the kind of devotion he does. Take a walk down memory lane when it comes to Sachin, and it’s not just a lane, but a road crowded with a nations memories and voices. There’s no way to count how many books have been written about Sachin, he inspires a new one every time he creates a record, which happens often enough. Posters, t shirts, websites, you name it, he is on them.

It is impossible to outgrow him. Whether at 16, 26, or 36, the experience of watching Sachin Tendulkar bat at the crease is an exhilarating one. The emotional reaction of an Indian cricket fan watching Sachin is different from when watching someone else. The identification a fan has with Sachin is a singular experience.

While my perception of Sachin is different from yours, it doesn’t matter- at the end of the day he’s the same Sachin, and will evoke the same emotional reaction from everyone. We celebrate his successes with screaming enthusiasm and bemoan his failures with the same seriousness we would our own; one billion people- one billion perceptions of the same man, and one billion identical reactions to him. How much better can it get?

There are so many Sachins- the anchor, the front man, the aggressor, and the calmest cricketer. Each molded to the situation needed by the team. I have seen him as the last man standing, I have seen him step out of the crease and hit, and I have seen him unblinking in the face of aggression. There are times you see him walk away from the wicket, shake his head and go back to face a ball. That is Sachin in his element. Maintaining his calm, preparing for the next ball, and getting ready to face the opposition.

Sachin is a man who faces an amazing amount of pressure. How can he not, when he is Sachin Tendulkar? He has the hopes of a nation pinned onto him and it is quite often that he realizes these hopes when he guides us to a winning position. He is capable of being there for India when others are not. When the batting order fails, Sachin is there to pull the team up, as he has shown countless times.

He has been injured on and off over the last few years. He has opted to sit out of international Twenty 20 cricket, bowled less to save his elbow, but not once has the possibility of retirement cross our minds or his. What would an Indian team without Sachin Tendulkar be? There can never be another Sachin Tendulkar. Calling someone the ‘next Sachin’ merely means that you’ve spotted new growing talent, because let’s be honest- who can be everything that Sachin has been? Who has the consistency, passion, drive and technical excellence that he has shown over the last 20 years? Who can inculcate the same fanaticism the world over that Sachin does. I often wonder what would happen if you put a Bollywood star and Sachin Tendulkar in separate places, who people would go to?

In spite of the adulation of an entire nation, and people around the globe, Sachin has remained a humble person. He is a role model for the new generation of cricketers, one who has not allowed fame and fortune to affect him or his sense of values and family. He does not get into controversies; he keeps himself under the radar and makes headlines the right way- through his batting. It is his unassuming attitude that has served him and the game of cricket well over the last twenty years.

When asked to measure his best innings where does one start? How do you narrow down achievements that have spanned 20 years and are far from done? Just when you think you’ve got Sachin Tendulkar figured out, he undergoes a metamorphosis that frustrates bowlers all over the world. He is an enigma unto himself, and our admiration for him increases with every innings he plays. His range of strokes, grip, and balance are things that make him uniquely ‘Sachin’. His signature shot- a straight drive – is one that everyone identifies him with. Of course it’s always better if he hits it for 6, straight over the bowlers head!

As Sachin begins his landmark 21st year of cricket, a wealth of sayings and quotations come to mind. To adequately describe Sachin Tendulkar would be to write continuously, paying homage to every run he has scored, every ball he has bowled, every match he has played. Many have tried, many have succeeded. It is easy after all to sing the praises of the great. Summing Sachin up is a mammoth task, but I have heard a few that make the mark. As the saying goes –

                                            “If cricket is a religion, then Sachin is god”

Gotta love the internet

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