Twenty years of pure joy

Posted: November 13, 2009 in Pakistan, Wankhede Stadium
Tags: , ,

“When I die I’ll see God, till then I’ll see Sachin Tendulkar”

These were the words on a poster in Sharjah during the back-to-back hundreds Tendulkar made in 1998. But isn’t that what the Indian cricket fan thinks, anyway, about Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar?

The world’s greatest cricketer (please step back, Sir Garfield), has just completed 20 years in international cricket and it’s been a helluva ride – for him and his fans. It’s been a ‘Tendulkaresque’ two decades of joy that can never be replaced for another millennium. No human being has so overwhelmed us with so many different emotions as has Tendulkar in these two decades since he made his debut in 1989 against Pakistan.

Along with Tendulkar, we’ve gone through his highs and lows on the cricket field; felt his pain and joy; winced every time the ball hit him somewhere; shed silent tears every time the umpire’s finger went skyward; sighed in frustration every time another dubious decision sent him back to the pavilion; cheered every time another ball was sent soaring into the stands; raised our imaginary bats every time he scored another century.

I watched him on TV that day, like a million others with a prayer on my lips, as he faced up to Waqar and Wasim. He carried the hopes of millions and he could not have failed. I swore when he was hit on the face. Then something happened that has remained etched in my memory. Imran Khan clapped to his fielders to stay put. He wanted to see how this kid would take the blow. It was trial by fire. The kid stepped back, wiped the blood away, stared down the wicket, fixed his helmet and got down to the business of cricket. And he’s been doing that ever since.

It’s funny, and I don’t know how many of you noticed, but in the early days every time Tendulkar got hit, he would stare down the wicket (whether at the bowler or just to get back his concentration), adjust his cap and go after the bowler! So it was “uh oh” every time the ball hit him and a pitying look at the bowler thereafter.

Chandu Borde, twice chief of selectors, told me an interesting anecdote of that historic 1989 tour to Pakistan. One night, after everyone had retired to their rooms, Borde heard a strange ‘thump, thump, thump,’ from one of the rooms below. He walked down to investigate and found Tendulkar holding a bat, hitting the ball against the wall! He told the boy to go to sleep and was surprised to hear “Sir I can’t sleep. I’ve never slept alone in my life.” Borde says he sat next to Tendulkar and patted him to asleep. I guess that’s the image that all of us have of Tendulkar – at least those of us who have followed his career since his schooldays – that vulnerable, schoolboy look, that makes us want to reach out and pat him on the head reassuringly every time he scores or fails.

There was another side of him I saw in Pune at the Blue Diamond Hotel when the Indian team was there to play a one-day match against England sometime in the 1990s. While the rest of team went up to their rooms, Tendulkar walked up to a lady seated in the lobby and hugged her. She tousled his hair, stroked his cheek, and teased him like an elder sister would and he looked visibly embarrassed. It made an interesting picture. Here he was, even then the best batsman in the world, completely at sea when dealing with the affections of an elder sister!

At a World Cup group match in Mumbai at the Wankhede Stadium in 1996, against Australia, Tendulkar scored an 84-ball 90 but India went down by 16 runs. I remember the match for the only six scored by India and it came from Tendulkar’s bat. From the all-glass air-conditioned press box, I saw him lift the ball and it soared, high…higher. For a second we lost track of it and then we realized that the ball was coming straight at us. Quite a few of us ducked as the ball thudded into the glass of the Press Box and fell to the ground. Forget us greenhorns, I don’t think even the veteran scribes had seen a shot like that in a long time.

He’s redefined the game and rewritten records, statistics, & figures of most of the bowlers in international cricket in these two decades. But I’ll admit that two years ago I was one of those who felt it was time for Tendulkar to end his one-day career because I thought he was losing his touch. My reason for saying so is because I wanted to remember the genius of Sharjah rather than someone who was found, quite often, searching for his off-stump. I am glad I was wrong.

Sometimes one feels that he ‘gifts’ his wicket away to an innocuous bowler, something his childhood hero Sunil Gavaskar rarely did. Experts believe that his concentration tends to lapse, whenever there is a stoppage during the game. But his peers say that when he is in the “zone” nothing disturbs him. Almost 29,951 international runs, 87 centuries, 198 wickets and 234 catches later, one wonders whether the ‘zone” will soon be rechristened “Sachin Zone” in his honour!

What more can one say about him? Like the days of Bradman, there will come a time when cricket will again be divided into two different eras – BT and AT — Before Tendulkar and After Tendulkar.

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Comments
  1. Nilesh Sane says:

    A veey fine article. The Sharjah hunderds were probably the best ones which he scored. Though the century which he scored during an exbihition match between queens 11 vs worlds level at Loads was awesome too.

  2. Anuth Sidharth says:

    Amazing article . . from the eloquently put Imran Khan incident to hilarious AT and BT ….pure genius !!

  3. Mohan says:

    Thanks! I just thought that for a change I'd be a little less cynical. Easy to criticise, lot more difficult to heap praise!

  4. Naman Saraiya says:

    501. Smelly room. Just out of bed.Remember the class when you said."If you want to be in the profession of journalism. You have got to be cynical."I swear by that.But, I agree to the fact that it's more difficult to be praising someone.My favorite cricketer's been Ganguly.Always had the Sachin vs. Sourav debate thing going on with most of my friends. For ages.Even danced when Ganguly was not in the team, but Dravid got bowled out.But, of late, which is a few years now.I've realized. Greats are greats.Immeasurable. Incomparable.As one of the posters said."Commit all your sins when Sachin is playing. The cops aren't watching.Neither are the Gods!"

  5. Sana Memon says:

    I dont really like discussing cricket or cricketrs but your posts have built this curiosity in me to know more about the game..I seriously want to know why has cricket become a religion in India?

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