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Master of Puppets

I will occupy
I will help you die
I will run through you
Now I rule you too
Come crawling faster
Obey your master

These words from Metallica’s legendary single “Master of Puppets” kept popping in my mind yesterday.

The reason – Langeveldt to Tendulkar, bowled short of length and moving away from the batsman. At the last moment SRT gets his bat in to steer the ball behind point for THE single. As Gwalior erupted in joy, the little master made another milestone his own. He had done what no man had ever done in the 40 year history of the limited overs game – score a double hundred.

A day which started in countless different ways for a billion people ended in a collective feeling of joy. As Sachin became the first man to reach 200 runs in an innings in ODIs, it was almost like it weren’t his own achievement – every one of those one billion people felt it as a personal achievement. And yes, the feat has taken a long time coming. 20 years, over 400 matches, nearly 17000 runs and 46 triple digit scores later, there still stood one record that eluded him – the one missing laurel in his perfect ensemble – the highest score in an innings in an ODI. Saeed Anwar’s record had stood for close to 12 years when it was equaled by a little known batsman, Charles Coventry, from Zimbabwe a year ago against Bangladesh. Sachin came agonisingly close on a number of occasions but somehow or the other was always denied the top honour. But now the record rests where it rightfully belongs – in the cupboard of Sachin Tendulkar. And while at it he also managed to shatter a couple of more records on the way. The highest number of fours in an innings and a double century to boot. While his record of highest runs in an innings may be overhauled, he will always be the first man to score 200 runs in a single innings in an ODI.

As Sachin took guard in Gwalior to face the premium South African bowling attack, little did anyone suspect the drama that would unfold in a couple of hours. Everybody who had the fortune of watching this match should feel themselves blessed, yes the South African team too. We all probably witnessed one of the best innings ever played in the history of the game. As Sachin broke out of his self-imposed shackles of the past few years and tore into the hapless bowling attack, memories of yore came flooding back. Sachin cut, pulled, slashed and drove with venom, but then that was something he did even on his debut. What made the difference was the intelligence gained from playing two decades of cricket at the highest level. And all this experience was enough to overwhelm Dale Steyn, Wayne Parnell and the rest of the bowling attack as they all got carted around the park. The fact that all the bowlers returned economy rates of more than 6 was a tribute to this legend – of how he treated all bowlers equally not destroying one but mauling all. While his protege Sehwag walked back to the pavilion pretty early, Karthik, Yusuf and Dhoni provided ample support to the Master as he went for the kill. Seldom have bowling attacks been dismantled so, seldom have the spirits of 11 men been crushed by the willow of one! As his belligerence rubbed off on the others, the fielding side was reduced to chasing leather. Karthik and Yusuf effortlessly put the ball across the line and Dhoni with his trademark scoops nearly made the bowlers cry out in agony. Perfect length deliveries that on ordinary days would have made the woodwork tumble were heaved to the short boundaries with a vengeance. The masterpiece of them all was the penultimate ball of the 35th over when Sachin, having played and miss the previous two similar deliveries, walked across the stump and flicked Dale Steyn past midwicket to the boundary.

The greatest thing that happened though is off-field. This innings has, probably forever, pushed into retirement all the people who ever even raised the debate of “Who’s the greatest of them all?” It has made the atheists believers.

There is something special about Tendulkar. How, you ask? After all, there are greats in every game! Yes, Michael Schumacher, Tiger Woods, Roger Federer and Michael Jordan are all great sportsmen and masters of their games – nay, legends. But that is where the similarity ends, for none of them has to perform with the aspirations and, sometimes unreasonable, hopes of more than a billion people. When the whole stadium emits an agonising “ooh!” after you miss a close call, you know what you’re playing for is much bigger than victory. Every time Sachin takes guard at the crease, he sets out to achieve the aspirations of a nation to prove itself through the performance of one man who is the master of his art. Playing with such tremendous pressure and delivering year after year is something that very few are capable of. Countless people from my generation have grown up with the habit of switching off the TV once the man called Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar begins his dreary trudge back to the pavilion.

But today all comparisons are put to rest. As one of my friends pointed out appropriately, you compare equals. Man vs man – never Man vs God – because everyone knows who’s winning that one! Cricket, indeed is a religion unifying people of India across religions, castes, social status, everything.

And HE is their GOD

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  1. 25 February 2010 at 15:17 IST

    Liked the way the post ended…well written…nice post.

  2. Sarath
    25 February 2010 at 18:28 IST

    well written boy! words are never enough to describe something of this magnitude, but you have done a very commendable job!

  3. Sujit
    25 February 2010 at 21:33 IST

    Good one!!

  4. V2K
    23 April 2010 at 12:42 IST

    very nicely written.. words are not enuff to describe this legend..

    btw.. its a pity u didn’t put this talent of writing to use earlier.. u r really good dude..

    keep up the good work..

    • 23 April 2010 at 23:49 IST

      And I would have put this “talent for writing” to use earlier where? 😉

  1. 4 May 2010 at 12:54 IST

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