Thursday, October 17, 2013

Sachin Tendulkar - A Nonpareil genius

Sachin Tendulkar

– thought of many titles for this article, but could never do justice for it to meet the great man’s contribution

Well so here we are, at a juncture where we all knew one day we will eventually reach (sadly so). As much as it is hard to say goodbye to “The Greatest student” of the gentleman’s game, it is important to savoir every bit of joy he gave us! The 2 greatest pupils of the game have chosen this year (2013) to bid adieu and experience life off it (Sachin and Dravid). While Dravid’s exit was emotional and heavy, Sachin’s feels gruelling to say the least. After all for a major part of his career, Indian team was only as good as how good a form he was in. We are in a country where Cricket is like a religion without a doubt and so it is quite natural to feel sad that Sachin is retiring. Like in the “Master card” advertisement they say – “there are things that money can’t buy”, one such precious treasure is Sachin who could never be bought over by anything else but just his sheer joy for being on the field.

Sachin is cricket’s Ryan Giggs about whom Sir Alex Ferguson mentioned – “he played like a man when he was a boy and now he plays with a boy’s passion when he is a man”. Tendulkar showed maturity beyond his age when he started his career and has always been a step ahead of everyone else around him ever since.

What do I remember Sachin for? The numbers, they tell a story don’t they? But as good a picture the numbers tell, its only his contributions peripheral to the statistics that are more romantic and essential. The way he made millions of kids rush to the stadium to watch test cricket, the way he brought an entire nation to a standstill whenever he batted, the mega serials which for once took backstage when Sachin was at the crease, the modesty he taught all of us while he represented millions of his countrymen, he made us cry, he brought joy to all of us, he made everyone believe that it is possible to play hard tough cricket and still remain a gentle sportsman, and so on. It seemed like forever he carried the hopes of an entire nation on his shoulder until the time Saurav, Rahul, Sehwag and Laxman gratefully agreed to share and let him entertain the cricketing world with freedom. While his days of burden were adventurous, his days of freedom have been sumptuous!

Which are the innings I remember of Sachin’s?
1.    The first one that comes to my mind is the 169 he scored against SA at Capetown just for his sheer arrogance in stroke play and yet maintaining a beautiful shape while playing them.
2.    Who can forget the back-to-back hundreds he scored at Sharjah against the Aussies. Tony Greig’s words still ring through my ears “Oh it’s gone high, it’s on the roof. What a player! What a wonderful player!!” Individual brilliance that won India the tournament.
3.    The 150 he scored at Chennai where he just counter-attacked Shane Warne like no one ever had done before.
4.    Another 155 he scored against SA at Bloemfontein where in the process he also introduced Sehwag to this world.
5.    115 at Perth which in the words of Ian Chappell is the best he ever saw anyone ever played.
6.    There are just so many of them, but to me these are the very best of his I can list down. Others will include the 193 at Headingley, 95 at Trent Bridge the match prior to that (to help India draw the match), 98 against Pakistan at Centurion (2003 World Cup) and the list will go on.

Like how the TV quiz hosts play a game which is like “I tell you a word and you tell me a relative word in reply” (something similar to the top of the mind recall as illustrated by Philip Kotler), what is that one word(s)/phrase that would strike our minds when we hear Sachin?
  1. -          Humble giant?
  2. -          Modest gladiator?
  3. -          Exemplary professional?
  4. -          Epitome of discipline?
  5. -          An emissary sent by the gods to enrich the world of sport?
  6. -          Wow or is it “All of the above”?

The answer is “everything good about being a professional is all Sachin is about”.
Mathew Hayden said in 2003 when India toured Australia – “it feels like I am attending a class room session on batsmanship while I am standing at the slips watching Sachin, VVS and Rahul bat”.

100 international hundreds - Very good players go on to make 20-30 test hundreds in their career, think of a 100 international hundreds!! Just let those numbers ring softly through your ears (100 hundreds), and it would feel like the most commendable feat and so it is. This does not make Sachin any greater just because he has scored this feat, but what it will do is put him up on the list that will include only himself ever.

Sachin has had Lara, Ponting amongst other greats play in the same era as his. While everyone felt Ponting can go on to beat Sachin’s records (numbers), you could never relate to a Ponting as how great a sportsman Sachin is. Like how a decade from now when AB Devilliers and Virat Kohli will go on to have exceptional records for their respective countries, AB will surpass Virat in terms of being a better sportsman (by the looks of it). When Sachin was put under the ugly “Ball tampering” radar and eventually cleared off saying he is innocent, Kapil Dev spoke to the media saying - “nobody can give back Sachin the 2 painful days he would have gone through”. Probably it was only destiny that Gods decided to showcase the world that he is after all human, for him to go through these bad phases in what has proven to be the cleanest career ever known.

Sir Harold Dickie Bird said “in terms of the technique Sachin’s is the best”. This came from a man who witnessed players like Sir Gary Sobers and Sir Viv Richards. Now that’s the USP Sachin has had all through his career. In being an aggressive stroke maker he never lost his balance and foot work. This enabled him to play aggressively even when the conditions were daunting, he would just keep out all the good balls with his solid technique. I have seen this ability in Inzamam when it felt like he had a day’s time to play every delivery because of his footwork.

2011 world cup victory – If Sachin did not get to lift the world cup even once during his career, it would have been the most incomplete story in the history of sports ever. Destiny had it written and so it came. I was moved when on the next day at a press interview, Kapil Dev broke down to tears while expressing his satisfaction for Sachin. You could see the happiness in the man who helped shape Sachin’s early days in international cricket. It was only fitting that it happened at a time in his career when he could afford to play with freedom and not when he was over burdened (1st half of his career). This allowed him to savoir the achievement and the satisfaction derived from it.

Indian Premier league: IPL has not proven to be a successful venture for Sachin however, watching him play all these seasons I almost felt that he was playing himself down. It was evident that when he chose to get hard on, even Steyn could not get through his defences. Such is this great man’s prowess that he simply is the best at whatever he does on the cricketing field with passion.

The Legacy that Sachin leaves behind  -- for the current generation of cricketers, it is never about the amount of runs they make or the number of wickets they take. It is the way they carry themselves as ambassadors of the game that will be essential. The story of Sachin, Dravid, Chanderpaul, Hussey leaves these current crop of players with the path which is laid for them to excel at their own pace and capture the hearts of millions of true sports lovers around the world.

It’s only fair to say that it has been a wonderful journey which has really entertained and enriched people along the way. Sports psychologists say “Sport uplifts people” and how true has it been in this case? Not just his own life but it really has uplifted the life of a cricketing purist like me to have followed his career all the way. Feel like telling him – “If there’s anyone who deserves a break after a strenuous journey, it’s you Sachin. You have earned this right to retire with the entire cricketing world pouring their respect for your acheivements!!”.

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