“One of the joys of growing up was to debate the various aspects of Tendulkar….There are so many aspects to his batsmanship, his career and his larger-than-life persona. He is a wonderful case study from many standpoints”
writes Siddhartha Vaidyanathan in his latest blog post here (in case you are one of the three people who have not yet read those articles he has linked in the first para of that post, please do yourself a favour and read them first).
I used to indulge in those debates. But all that stopped one fine evening, a few years back, when it dawned on me that the only other instances when I ended up transfixed, in the same place without moving an inch, for over 3 hours while watching an ODI, placing all hopes on a single individual and rooting for him to win the match for his team and even getting a bit emotional about the outcome were during these twingems at Sharjah. To get you emotional about a cricket match – one that has almost no relevance to your life – when you are a teenager, is one thing. To get you to repeat that all over again, more than a decade later, when you are an adult whose priorities in life have changed significantly, is totally another.
Everyone has their favourite Tendulkar anecdote. Mine doesn’t even involve the man. In fact, this was probably the last of such an instance and some kind of a turning point in our expectations from the ODIs India played from then on. And here it goes…
Imagine you are a 22 year old cricketer coming from a small town (relatively, from Indian cricket perspective), who has just recently got a chance to play for your national team. You’ve got a chance to play today in what’s known as the ‘Home of Cricket’, in the final of a tournament. Now imagine your team needs 326 runs to win an ODI, something that has been done only once ever in the 1,855 ODIs till then and even that happened just a few months before this match. Now you are going out to bat with half the side gone, for not even half the required score. And then you (along with a peer) start playing an innings of your lifetime, in a thrilling finish, winning the match for your team – its only win in 10 consecutive attempts at tournament finals.
Has this feeling sunk in yet? Do you feel the sense of pride and achievement of a dream of sorts surging in you right now? Don’t you want to dedicate that Man of the Match award to your team and all those people who have supported you and placed faith in you? More than anyone or anything else, don’t you want to dedicate that award to your parents? Now hold on. Where are your parents?
So, those hounds from the media did knock the doors of your house and asked your parents where exactly did they watch the match and how they felt watching their son play the knock of his lifetime and win a match like that for the team. Wouldn’t you be disappointed if their answer was “hum nahin soche the ki India jeetega…. jab paanch wicket gire toh hum TV band kar diye aur sab theatre chale gaye ‘Devdas’ dekhne ke liye…humare padosi log bole ki humara beta match jitwa diya” ? (We didn’t expect India to win…when 5 wickets fell, we switched off the TV and went to the theatre to watch ‘Devdas’…our neighbours told us that our boy won the match for the team).
In normal circumstances, you would have been a tad disappointed with your parents. But, for Mohammad Kaif, his parents’ reply would’ve made perfect sense and he would’ve probably even given an understanding smile. For, the words that preceded what was quoted above was, “jab Sachin Tendulkar out huye…”. (When Sachin Tendulkar got out…)
For me, nothing describes better, an entire decade of cricket in India, like that anecdote. But then, nothing will probably ever be able to explain, in mere words, the phenomenon that Sachin Tendulkar was in the ODI format for more than two decades.
I will probably use the ‘greatest ODI batsman of all time’ tag for him with a small disclaimer of ‘along with King Viv’. But prod me a little and I will gladly admit that it’s just the unabashed King Viv fanboy in me that’s talking.
Thank you, Sachin, for all the memories, the countless hours of entertainment and the sheer joy you have provided to millions over an exceptional ODI career.