“Zindagi aur kuchh bhi nahin, teri meri kahaani hai.”
I was six years old when Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar made his debut for India. I was 8 when he scored his first test hundred and 10 when he scored an incredible hundred at Perth, possibly the best innings by an Indian abroad. I was 11 when he scored his first test hundred in India. Three years later, when I was fourteen, he emerged as the leading run scorer in the 1996 World Cup. Six months later he became the captain of the Indian cricket team. A year and a half later, when I was preparing for my 10th standard board exams, he was sacked as the captain of the Indian cricket team. That year as I went through the emotional roller coaster of giving my board exams, clearing them and entering college, Sachin Tendulkar scored 400 hundred runs in a test series against the best bowling attack in the world (Australia), scored two incredible hundreds at Sharjah (again against the Australians), scored hundreds in three one day finals and emerged as the undisputed king of international batting. A year later he became captain again and oversaw one of the worst phases in Indian cricket history. India lost six test matches in a row and as I came out from my 12th board exams, I heard that Sachin Tendulkar had resigned as the captain of the Indian Cricket team. He never led India again.
As I entered law school, Tendulkar scored a hundred at Port of Spain to take his test century count ahead of Sir Donald Bradman. In 2003, when I was 21 years old and beginning to enjoy an odd drink of whiskey, he played the most incredible one day innings against Pakistan at Centurion in a game that the country so desperately wanted to win that had India lost it, perhaps a great depression would have engulfed us. Between 2004 to 2007, as I stepped out of law school and tried to find my way in this world, Tendulkar’s career stuttered along due to a serious elbow injury, which many felt would end his career. In December 2008, when I was studying for my masters and two months after Mumbai had witnessed India’s most horrific terror attack, Tendulkar scored an incredible hundred at Chennai, taking India to an improbable victory against England. In 2011, two months before I got married, Sachin Tendulkar and the Indian cricket team gave this country its most cherished and celebrated sporting achievements- the 2011 ICC Cricket world cup. In March 2012, four months after I had started my 4th job, Tendulkar scored his hundredth international hundred. On Thursday, he begins the final chapter of his international career.
So while I was in the process of growing up, all this man was doing was smashing hundreds and bringing smiles to millions of Indians.
The above mentioned lyrics from a song from the movie ‘Shor’ may have been sung with romantic conations. However most of us can sing those lines to Sachin Tendulkar. I am perhaps not his greatest fan although I remain a great great admirer of his incredible batting skills. However like many many others of my generation, Sachin Tendulkar will always be a significant part of my life story.
A lot has been written by many experts about Tendulkar the batsman and Tendulkar the cricketer. I am not an expert and hence cannot contribute much to what has already been written. There are innings that will always stand out in my memory. There is his 165 against South Africa in Cape Town in 1996 when for three hours he batted gloriously and along with Azhar displayed batting that is worth going miles to see. There is his 90 at the Wankhade against Australia in the 1996 world cup which for me is his finest one day innings. For a man bought up on the maidans of Mumbai, to go to Perth and score a hundred against McDermott, Hughes and Whitney, when the rest of his colleagues were falling like nine pins was amazing.That was in 1992. 20 years later he scored another memorable hundred on a similar wicket at Cape Town against Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and others. If ever the game of cricket is endangered, the video tape of that innings by Tendulkar and his battle with Dale Steyn should be shown to the world and the world will re-discover the joy of this beautiful game.
In terms of skill and ability, Sachin Tendulkar was the greatest batsman in the modern era. For a period between 1994 till 2000 he was a ruthless destroyer of bowling attacks. Post 2000 he became a more careful and calculated accumulator of runs though the quality of his stroke play never deteriorated. But he never lost his amazing run getting ability and his batting constantly remained a source of joy.
But Tendulkar is much more than a batsman to this country for there is no disputing that Sachin Tendulkar for a period of twenty four years has had a significant impact on our lives. He has made people laugh and very often his failures have resulted in people crying. No other sportsman has affected the emotions of so many people. In the nineties, very often when Sachin scored, India won (meaning happiness) and when Sachin failed India lost (meaning depression). For two decades, he held a country together. Through bomb blasts, riots, scandals, corruption, match fixing etc he was the one constant positive element that bought a smile on the faces of India’s people. He carried us through bad times and very often he was responsible for our good times.
Of course like all great sportsman’s there were certain things he could have done differently. Perhaps he should have retired earlier, perhaps he should have stopped the farcical media obsession with the hundredth hundred, perhaps he should not have cried foul when Dravid declared on him when he was on 194, perhaps he should have taken a stand on certain issues affecting Indian cricket, perhaps he should have gone to the West Indies in 2011 rather than playing the IPL, perhaps he should have clarified certain selections during his time as captain, perhaps…..
But these are mere footnotes in the career of a great man. Tendulkar’s retirement ends a significant era of modern Indian sports, the reality of which will only hit us when once sees the score card on December 18 at the Wanderers and sees V Kohli at number four rather than S.R. Tendulkar. A nation will realize that the one savoir that this country had has bid goodbye.
He leaves the cricket field having entertained us and given us a lot of joy for twenty years. He has not left cricket, he has left our lives.