It’s approaching a week since Sachin Tendulkar announced his retirement from one day internationals. When the news broke out last Sunday, social media went into over drive over the news. Most of them understandable, but quite a few of them I felt were a bit of an over –reaction. Do folks who said “that’s it, will not watch one day internationals any more” really mean it? Possibly they do, but I won’t understand the reasoning. My reaction to the news itself was fairly simple “463 and out. Too many memories to recollect”. In fact I had to check the actual number of matches he had played. That in itself to quite a few would be blasphemous – wouldn’t surprise me an iota if the reactions range from “what you don’t know how many matches he has played! How is this even possible??”to being questioned if I indeed followed the game. Sachin Tendulkar provokes such reactions and it’s one I’ve seen quite often. The news itself came with a sense of “finally he’s made the call”. Sachin playing one – day internationals post the world cup win last year wasn’t one which made too much sense to me. It’s one I raised in a piece I wrote end of last year.
Following the news came a range of tribute pieces. The one by Siddhartha Vaidyanathan on Cricinfo summed up the mood amongst millions quite brilliantly. Equally well written is the piece by Aashish, simply titled “I believed”. The Cricinfo piece resonated well with me, as I related to the events as it panned out, since I had lived through the moments myself. I kept nodding to a few of the instances that were brought up. I remembered those matches, but not for Tendulkar specifically. Considering he’s played in the format for over two decades, it is but expected that he would be part of the changing landscape but he didn’t define ODI cricket for me. For me, it wasn’t a case of Tendulkar = ODI cricket (or just cricket itself), it has never been. Now this would seem fairly incredulous to a lot, even unfathomable but that’s how it has been for me. My cricket viewing and memories start a few years before Tendulkar made his debut, and that has undoubtedly played a part.
I’ve never invested emotionally with Tendulkar or even had the connection that millions have. The closest I’ve come to be emotionally attached to any cricketer, it’s with Shane Warne. So I do get the part about emotional investment and completely understand it. It’s also a fact that during the 90’s I was more interested in Shane Warne’s exploits rather than Tendulkar’s. The only reason I can recollect Tendulkar’s first one day hundred is because it came against Australia and the double to get to the hundred came of Warne’s bowling. Many folks will recollect Tendulkar’s 90 at Wankhede during the 1996 World Cup, even recollecting the strokes he played. That match is remembered by most for Tendulkar’s 90 and the stumping of Mark Waugh’s bowling. Warne’s 10 overs are hardly mentioned. What I remember, in addition to Tendulkar’s 90, is Warne conceding 9 runs of his first over to Tendulkar, including one mistimed shot on the off side. In the next 9 overs he conceded only 19 runs and got the wicket of Mongia, just as he and Manjrekar were taking India closer.
It was the conscious decision on my part to not get swept by the Tendulkar mania that had gathered steam during the mid-90’s which has also played its part. When I eventually did leave India for higher studies in 2000, this insulation only got stronger. By then the internet and the media were starting to go into over drive with Tendulkar, but being away from home helped. I wasn’t bombarded on a daily basis by Tendulkar either on TV or in the print media, and it had to be a decision on my part to read about him, if I so wished. I didn’t do it. So I pretty much missed his every knock dissected to the bare bones by the media and analysed to death. I also missed the birth of tag lines like he is the God of Indian cricket and beyond. To a mid-twenty year old it all seemed a bit silly and over the top. I enjoyed his knocks but it wasn’t anything beyond enjoying a knock by Dravid or the occasional good knock by Laxman or Ganguly, or later on by Sehwag. To me Sachin never became greater than the Indian team. He didn’t become the face of the Indian team. He was just another member of the team. That without doubt stemmed from my support for the Australian team. I cringed when the Indian tour of Australia in 2003/04 became the Steve Waugh farewell tour, even though I admired what Steve Waugh had achieved in his career. To me that wasn’t what the Australian team stood for or meant, and to have his impending retirement as the centerpiece of the tour, didn’t sit well with me.
Sachin Tendulkar has played 463 one day internationals, and I’ve only really been involved emotionally with him during the World Cup match at Centurion in 2003.Yes that day I did cheer like a maniac with every boundary he struck, along with the other Indians in the hostel in Germany. I even had the moment of doubt when he got out for 98 and India were about 100 runs away from a win – would this be another Tendulkar gone, India gone moment again I wondered ? I had reasons to think that way, since I had witnessed the 136 at Chepauk, four years earlier. Once the game against Pakistan was won, I went back to seeing Tendulkar as one among 11 Indian players, nothing more, and nothing less. It is also the reason why I remember moments from that knock against Pakistan, and go as far as saying that defined Tendulkar’s ODI career for me. Not for me the knocks at Sharjah in 1998, or the various other knocks folks will recall at the drop of a hat. They are all memories, yes, but the Centurion knock is my one single definite “where were you/what were you doing” moment when it comes to a Tendulkar innings. The 175 at Uppal, Hyderabad, and the 200 at Gwalior are two other knocks of his I’ll remember years later for sure, but I didn’t see either of those knocks live. So beyond appreciating the mastery of those two knocks, I have very little to attach myself to them.
I’ve never grown into the Sachin Tendulkar story, got influenced by and now in a state of living with the impending doom and gloom when he does call it a day from Tests too. As and when that day happens, it will be another career I salute. Nothing beyond it.