16th of November, 1989. India limping at 41-4 in reply to Pakistan’s 409 when jogs in a schoolboy. A tiny, lean 5’5” with long curly locks and sporting the white jersey with a calm face, had dared to make it to Pakistan. Surely he was being forced into the Valley of Death; facing Imran, Wasim and Waqar on the green tops of Karachi wasn’t child’s play. He didn’t score many but the way he handled those lusty blows showed that the boy was on the brink of adulthood. 24 years later, the little man still stands tall, still drives with the same finesse, still cuts with the same authority, still sweeps with the same class, still slogs with the same power. So when LORD bids adieu on the 18th of November, 2013 does sport remain the same.
Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar- the name says it all. His rise from a ball-boy to the greatest architect of India’s World Cup triumph, from a raw talent to a national obsession, from a school prodigy to a national deity has been less fascinating than none. The man expanded boundaries, redefined excellence and completely transformed the manner in which the English sport was followed in a nation.
It isn’t everyday when a 16 year old slogs Qadir for 3 sixes, a match saving knock at Old Trafford can’t be an aberration and hundreds at SCG and at the WACA signaled that a legend was in the making. Just as the Lords had conspired to fabricate Goddess Durga; it seemed that Gavaskar’s technique, Richards’ panache and Don’s finesse had been merged into a single individual who maraudered bowlers across generations. Akram’s swing, Akhtar’s pace, Mc Grath’s line, Warne’s spin, nothing could unsettle this Mumbaikar. By the end of the twentieth century, Tendlya was India’s most wanted asset.
Warne had nightmares of Tendulkar slogging him over long on for huge sixes, Don found Sachin closest to him and who can forget Hayden’s bold declaration-
“I have seen God; he bats at No.4 for India.”
The unchallenged champions of that era, the Aussies saluted the master. He was a one-man-army. If his dazzling 143 against his favourite opponents famous as the Operation ‘Desert Storm’ displayed class & excellence; his painstaking ton against Pakistan in Chennai was an epitome of determination and patriotism. Ironically on both these occasions he couldn’t take his side home but it was enough to carve an everlasting niche within millions of cricket lovers.
This was the time when Indian cricket went through one of its darkest phases. Top players were accused and the nation faced humiliation on an international stage. But as destiny would have it- this great adversity gave rise to the great Trinity who moulded and laid the foundation of a champion side. Nurtured by an inspirational commander, shielded by the Great Wall and boosted by the Master Blaster, Team India was a force to reckon. The ‘Tigers at Home’ had begun to roar and hunt overseas. With daunting performances in England and Australia the pocket sized dynamite gradually surpassed Don and inched slowly towards immortality.
But from here, started a lean patch. Although his numbers were quite decent they weren’t up to his own standards. Speculations about his retirement steeply rose only to be catalyzed by a series of never ending injuries. The disgraceful exit from the 2007 World Cup should have been the end. It seemed as if the world had seen the best of Sachin Tendulkar. After all he had achieved almost everything. Maximum hundreds in both formats, leading run scorer in ODIs by far- these were quite daunting numbers.
But when the going gets tough, the tough get going. The aging horse suddenly seemed to have got fresh, new legs ready to gallop, ready to leap forward and ready to conquer incredible frontiers. Tendulkar demolishing records had become a daily affair. First it was Lara’s Test aggregate, then the inhuman task of a double in an ODI, 50 Test tons and then the truly unimaginable 100 international hundreds- Gavaskar, Richards and Bradman had managed a total of 99. And not to forget his dream- the World Cup at his home soil.
It’s hard to imagine Sachin without cricket. Or precisely saying, it’s hard to imagine cricket without Sachin. If cricket is a nation, Tendulkar is its undisputed Emperor; if cricket is a thicket, Tendulkar is the ferocious lion roaring handsomely with his willow; if cricket is a religion, Tendulkar is the most worshipped LORD.
Debates are high on whether Sachin should be honoured with the Bharat Ratna, whether Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar should be Sir Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. But what I feel is that the tag Sachin in itself has become an honour- an epitome of excellence, a synonym for perfection. The day isn’t far away when extraordinary sportsmen would be honoured with the title ‘Sachin.’ Owens ignited the tracks, Anand puzzled the chessboard, Dhyan Chand cast a spell with a stick but only our LITTLE GENIUS stamped his sole supremacy over a sport.