One can write and write and write without stopping about Sachin and won’t ever get tired. Perhaps that’s why there are numerous articles on him and still there is no stopping.
Lot of things have been written about him, a lot of people have adored him and made him if not God but somewhere near him, a lot of people/experts even turned him down and advised to call it a day but “like a soldier who possesses a nerve of steel and a rock like determination to die for nation until the job is finished, he shushed them with a rather paradoxical combination, a gentle smile following a brutal knock.” It’s been more than 20 years since he first donned Indian colours and it’s still going on.
Cricket was not always India’s most adored and loved game, if Kapil and Sunny were responsible for the beginning of that then its Sachin who actually turned it into a religion and that’s why public raised him to its God. It was after Sachin’s fantastic showing at 1996 world cup, where Indian team succumbed to the pressure and the expectations of the crowd and the nation, on which India rode to the quarterfinals, the cliché was made, “Cricket is our religion and Sachin is our GOD.” This was reiterated by a legendary South African cricketer and very famous commentator Barry Richards in 1998 after the demolition of Australian attack single-handedly by the Maestro. After that many have resonated with Barry and echoed the same.
There is no exaggeration in saying that when he is battling for the nation on field, he arouses the feeling, the emotion and the intensity which is elusive while he is not around or anyone else is playing. Such emotions can be seen either in a football match between very close rivals or a football world cup final match or when he is batting. The enthusiasm and the emotion is so evident whenever he is nearing a milestone, another century, another 1000 run barrier be it tests or ODIs, that the whole crowd rise up with every delivery and if it’s not reached then sit down with hope of him achieving the feat in next delivery. They get enthralled and jump and yell out of joy whenever he has reached anything worth commenting for. It’s not only the joy and record the crowd cherish, they are equally sad perhaps sometimes more sad then even himself when he gets out, narrowly missing on any milestone or leaving team stranded on the door of victory. The sighs, the oohs and the ahhs are very loud and apparent when such things happen, crowd can’t believe they have lost their most beloved soldier. Few such occasions which jolts my mind every now and then and make me sad, which immortalize the concept of “so close yet so far” show how much the emotional can crowd get, how much sad they can become just by a mere dismissal and how painful and cruel the destiny can be by denying a person of the result for a true hard work.
In Sharjhah, came a Tendulkar who had become a nightmare for the Aussies. In the knockout match against Australia, just prior to the final, India needed to score more than 5 runs per over to secure a position in the finals. Wickets were tumbling at one end but he stood his ground firmly and unleashed his one of the most brutal knocks where he hammered Warne and Kasprowicz like some club standard bowlers. No one could stop him, even the nature itself intervened in the form of a rather bizarre sand-storm but, it could only halt him for some time but could not put a full stop. When the play resumed the already reduced overs were further reduced to 46 and the asking rate went beyond reach with only few overs and fewer wickets remaining. But, it didn’t impact Sachin; in fact it made him to score even faster. He unleashed few lusty straight lofted hits, which were as stunning to behold as to hit and ensured India’s berth in finals. It made Tony Graig jump out of seat yelling, “Tendulkar wants to win the match, he is unstoppale.” But soon it ended and there was only one person who could do it what no one else could, “the Umpire.” There went the Maestro after a fearsome knock, which couldn’t secure a highly improbable win but ensured India’s final match dream and raised hopes to even win. Again in the final match it was him who almost single handedly tarnished Aussie attack to all corners of ground and almost took India through until “the Umpire” came in Austalian rescue once again. But it was too little too late. He had already won it for India and also the hearts of everyone who saw him batting.
In Chennai against Pakistan when India were crawling at 82 for 5 Tendulkar battling with a back spasm brought arguably his best test innings, a blend of great caution and much needed aggression. But, when the victory was only a few steps way, the tantalizing pain broke through the nerves of steel and the Master perished while trying to wrap up the things quickly, just to see Indian tail gifting a hard earned victory to the rivals who couldn’t manage to score mere 17 runs. Next three wickets fell for just 4 runs. The anguish on every Indian face was visible, the eyes were all wet but no one could stop clapping for such a master class.
In a very recent home series against Australia, India were down to chase 350 from 50 overs. Wickets stumbled but Sachin was on high ride scoring at will. It was an innings full of control, passion and aggression. Whenever wickets fell he reciprocated with some attacking cricket. When Dhoni fell, required run rate had already crossed 7.5 mark and India were 4 down after 23 overs. But it couldn’t tame him; he unleashed two lusty blows down the wicket of Hauritz to set the chase up. In Raina, playing the second fiddle, he found a capable partner and ushered every shot ever described in a cricket book, even more than that. Be it a paddle scoop or paddle sweep, hook or pull, straight drive or on the rise, a powerful hit down the ground or a gentle nudge behind the stumps, everything was exhibited masterly and executed perfectly. No area was left and no bowler was spared. When Tendulkar played a delicately executed drive between short third man and backward point, Robin Jackman was left awestruck and could manage to say only one thing, “how much do you open the blade, just enough to avoid the fielder, that's how much.” That shows the perfection and control of the master. But again when 19 runs were required off 18 he couldn’t finish it off and got out, leaving everyone standing still in stunned silence. Again Indian tail salted his wounds by gifting their wickets and not scoring a comfortable victory. It left everyone devastated and sad. No one could believe how harsh fortunes can be. No one would have approved such result for such batsmanship and hard work, even the Australians.
All these innings suggest the passion and devotion he carries for the nation and the emotion people carry for him. Whenever he is daunted he came back strongly to silent them. These innings were the prime examples of such situations. In current form, nothing stands beyond him. 200 in ODI came and now you never know what else he is gonna achieve. But, till he is batting, no record is unbreakable but Sir Don Bradman’s test average.
I heartily congratulate him for being first non IAF member to be awarded as honorary Group Captain. It’s another feather in his highly illustrious cap. May you live long and lighten this world up with your more lusty knocks.
©Avinash Singh Bagri