Friday, October 11, 2013

Good Bye Sachin Tendulkar

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The one thing that all of us can agree on is that there will never be another phenomenon in our lifetime like Sachin Tendulkar. News of his retirement came in early yesterday and frankly it didn’t really make an impact at first. The slow motion movie started in 2011 with his labored gasp to a hundred international tons, eventual retirement from ODIs and the IPL with it now culminating in his retirement from tests after playing number 200. For a man that has consistently said that 100 is just a number, this seems a little hypocritical. But we understand that the modest little man must have bowed to pressure from the BCCI and others to delay his announcement until he got to the milestone. Nothing else explains the haste with which the West Indies tour was arranged and the crisis with CSA begun.

Our cricketing lives are forever intertwined with Sachin Tendulkar. As teenagers playing on Shivaji Park, we had the privilege and luck to know about him early in our lives and so track his growth through schools, domestic and international cricket for a better part of our lives. However, having witnessed Gavaskar’s non-descript retirement from test cricket as well as Kapil’s labored one, we had no doubt which way was the better way to go. Tendulkar, unfortunately, succumbed to the establishment and the fans vicarious need to turn a somber event into a spectacle. A meaningless test series that will serve no purpose other than create a needless tamasha for the great man to bow out with a little less dignity than would behoove his stature.

I guess that’s what we have criticized him about all these years. Not willing to stand up and be counted. Indian cricket is reeling from scandals and poor leadership. Unfortunately, the colossus that he is on the field, he is a mere aam aadmi  off it. The Rajya Sabha membership was probably a well –thought out way for him to speak out without fear of a BCCI backlash or to offer up ideas to clean up sports in general. This dream that we have of Sachin will probably remain unfulfilled.

However, many other dreams that we dreamt were fulfilled. Those of us who saw him early in his career feel he has underachieved. Yes, that’s right. Underachieved! But this rancor is misplaced perhaps. It only masks the disappointment of a generation of us who lived through regular humiliations meted out to Indian teams by Pakistan, West Indies, Australia, England and Sri Lanka. Throughout the nineties India really didn’t overcome those teams with any confidence despite Tendulkar’s frequent heroics. He gave us hope that we lacked in the decade before that.

His biggest contribution actually came in the 2000s with the advent of the new generation of cricketers starting with Virender Sehwag. A self-confessed emulator of Sachin Tendulkar, he epitomized the new kids who knew no fear. Dhoni, Yuvraj, Kohli, Gambhir and now Shikar Dhawan have followed this legion of kids who worshipped at the Tendulkar school of batsmanship. Fearless expression of talent! Unfortunately, the master himself became tempered and measured and a grim accumulator. Perhaps it was a response to age and the scarring suffered by being part of losing teams in the nineties.

Dravid and Laxman may have been better test batsmen when it counted. Ganguly may have been a better captain. Dhoni will be the most accomplished Indian captain and ODI cricketer when he retires. Sehwag will be the only one with two test triples for India. But the GOD of Indian cricket, the father of Indian batting expression will always be Sachin Tendulkar. Though he himself probably never overcame the nerves of a pressure-filled chase except on a few occasions, it’s clear that it’s his spirit that gives Kohli the temperament in an ODI chase. It’s his technique and discipline that fuels Cheteshwar Pujara’s desire to excel. It’s his entertaining shot-making that propels Yuvraj Singh. It’s his ability to stand-up to fast bowling that drove Sehwag. And it’s his wisdom that has built an Indian cricket team today that we are proud of.

The shot that really rang out for us was THAT six of Shoaib Akhtar in the 2003 World Cup. With that one shot, Tendulkar exorcised the ghosts of eighties and nineties forever. Indian batsmen had now stepped out of the stereotype of talented spinelessness. And the credit goes to one man and one man alone. Sachin Tendulkar. It’s time for him to let his baby go. It had already grown up when it won the 2011 World Cup. Good bye Sachin!

1 comment:

Rahul said...

Certainly SRT is no doubt the greatest cricketer India has produced. In fact one should really say he ranks among the top of all time great sports persons in the world. No one has served Indian cricket as Sachin has. He has truly been an Ambassador for India and Indian Cricket. He has been an inspiration for generations of sportsmen not just cricketers... Take a bow and salute master....