PAUSE AND APPLAUD
So an era has come to an end. All things come to an end as they should.
To borrow from a famous Al Pacino speech ‘when you get old in life, things get taken from you.
You only learn that when you start losing stuff’. We have just lost the chance to see Tendulkar bat ever again in a one day match. We all may have had strong opinions on when he should have retired. Some said he should have gone immediately after winning the world cup. Others said he should have hung up his boots after scoring that double hundred against South Africa. Most of us were convinced that it was time to go after his 100th century in Bangladesh. How arrogant of us to chase somebody out who had given us immense hope, joy and unforgettable moments.
My first memorable moment of Tendulkar interestingly was not as the prolific batsman; rather it was the slow leg spinner bowling the ultimate over against South Africa in the hero cup semi final. The game was at Eden Gardens and we in our Kolkata home were baffled when he was given the decisive over. He bowled well and got us home. Eden gardens was lit up by burning torches of the ecstatic fans and in my heart admiration for Sachin was lit; the team man who repaid the trust shown in him and made India win.
My second distinct memory of Sachin is again linked to Kolkata. India was playing Pakistan with the feared Waqar Younis and Wasim akram in their side. It was a Saturday day- night match with a post lunch start. As was my dad’s habit in Kolkatta, he worked for half a day on Saturdays and usually came back home by 4pm. That particular day he was home by 3 pm because a certain Mr Tendulkar was scorching the stadium with scintillating shots that had caused the markets to shut. Dad was forced to down his shutters too and come home. That was the power of this twenty something ‘chokro’ which we had realized and begun to adore.
Third and the most exciting one would be ‘that’ match at Sharjah against the Aussies. Day night matches in Sharjah meant that matches would end around mid- night in India. We were in Pune then, cable television was bringing us live English telecast of the Tendulkar sandstorm. Warne; the punk looking, best spinner in the world; was getting spanked all around the park. We lost that match, but qualified for the finals on a higher run rate. In all the excitement of the big hitting, mom, my brother and I were clapping, high fiving and screaming in joy. That caused a very annoyed dad to wake up from his slumber and quiet us down. We pleaded him to stay and watch the miracle of India chasing a high total, rarer in those days than finding honest politicians in the country. He refused to indulge in our mad belief. Alas, he missed what would become a historic moment.
Fourth is a bitter sweet memory. Tendulkar shouldering the burden of an Indian chase as was the norm then, against Pakistan at Chennai in 1999. Tendulkar was in control, India was in control of the test match. With victory in sight, he developed a back strain. He played through the pain barrier, until he couldn’t bear no more and decided to hit big shots to get India as close to victory as possible. He got out in this endeavor, the Pakistanis finished up the rest of the batsmen and recorded till date their narrowest win over India. The crowd in Chennai gave a sporting standing ovation to the Pakistanis, Tendulkar was teary eyed behind a towel in the dressing room and we agonized on what could have been. Somewhere we feared our hero was also a mere mortal. A reality which was difficult to accept.
From the turn of the millennium, things began to change in Indian cricket and sport in the country. Tendulkar began to regularly get injured, began to miss games, Indian cricket team discovered some new talent that gave us improbable victories in improbable distant lands where Tendulkar didn’t play a big part. We believed for the first time that we could win without Tendulkar contributing, the game got shorter, six sixes were hit in an over, new cricketing heroes developed, cricket began to slowly lose its sway, football grew stronger, even more new heroes emerged, sport pundits mushroomed on TV and we thought we were knowledgeable enough to know which player should get benched and who should play. I admit that I myself have called for Tendulkar to be dropped for not performing in 2004 and again in 2008. I opined that we could never become as professional as the Aussies because we kept players on reputation, not on form. I was so wrong.
My fifth and best memory of Tendulkar was to see him in the Chinnaswami Stadium at Bangalore, like a phoenix raised from the ashes of bad form and injuries and mesmerizing the world all over again. No one in India would have argued against his inclusion in the team, as he was in the form of his life since late 2010. The crowd went mad every time he took strike, scored runs, scored yet another century and touched the ball during fielding. It was Sachin mania like I had imagined since I was a boy. I would count myself extremely fortunate to have witnessed a world cup century scored by Sachin in a campaign that eventually won us the world cup. And I was so happy that after nearly 22 years of playing, India had won the world cup and dedicated the victory to him.
There won’t be anymore moments like that. No more classy straight drives, cheeky paddle sweeps, one day man of the match wards and his boyish voice during presentation ceremonies. To borrow from the Times headline, ‘Colour has gone out of our one day cricket’. Numbers and statistics will be used to debate his greatness but numbers will never tell how he touched our lives and how often he made us smile.
For that let’s stand up and applaud the little genius. He deserves it after all.
Watch Harsha Bhogle's video blog on the achievement of Sachin.
ARTICLE BY : SHABBIR M LOKHANDWALA - PUNE
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