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The God of 22 yards

An entire nation came to a standstill as the Little Master reached the score of 99. Nobody cared that elsewhere, closer home, Pranab-da had just declared another disappointing budget. All eyes were glued to the score at Dhaka. Not the Indian team’s score mind you but his score. This was the big one. The one that mattered.

After a couple of very tense dot balls, the moment finally came when the Master clipped a slower ball to square leg and jogged across the 22 yards that he has owned for the last 22 odd years. The subdued celebration said it all. There was relief and humility in equal measure. The measured cadence that comes from experience mixed with the tiredness that age brings. In the post match presentation, Sachin, while speaking to Ramiz Raja, mentioned how everybody went on about his 100th International ton while he tried not to think about it. Truly, the nation and the cricketing world had been wound up tight in anticipation of when the historic moment would arrive. There was no doubt that it would, just when it would was the question. Today, a lot of us can proudly say “We were alive when HE scored 200 as well as when he got his 100th International ton.” Albeit, the former was against a much more accomplished opponent and a more assured one, a hundred is still a hundred.

And then India went on to spectacularly lose the match with their bowlers failing to defend a target that should have been easy to defend. Faster than the year-old special columns in newspapers and websites, the “nay sayers” crawled out of the woodwork to complain that he wasted too much time and cost India at least 20 runs, conveniently forgetting the 18,000+ that he has accumulated for the country in the past years. But this article is not about that. This is about what defines the man, Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, and elevates him from a man to a role model, an idol, a God.

Sachin had humble beginnings and no trappings of grandeur when he broke into the national side more than two decades ago. Not much has changed today. While his technique has matured with age and his game has mellowed and slowed down, there are two equally important things he has never lacked – the urge to deliver and his humility. In spite of being considered as one of the most accomplished batsmen in the game ever, he remains with his feet firmly on the ground, gleefully rejoicing a match-winning catch and showing dejection at a lost match as he did 22 years ago.

For years, Sachin Tendulkar has been the backbone of the Indian batting lineup. It is hard to forget the 90s when Sachin’s dismissal meant the end of the Indian batting. Even today, opposition bowling attacks know not to take him lightly and have a set gameplan to get him out cheaply, or at least keep him quiet. The last year has been particularly painful as India negotiated the English and Australian tours with abject failures. Every failure with the bat resulted in a call to axe one of the seniors. In fact, I am pretty convinced that it was this that took a toll and made Rahul Dravid announce his retirement when probably he still had a year or two more in the tank. But that is a story for a different day and post.

Sachin’s failures became even starker when others around him were still scoring a century or two while he trudged along with paltry scores and a few hopeful 80 and 90 scores along the way. His own greatness had become his burden for everybody expected him to do the impossible. Just as he had rescued India from batting failures for 22 years, everybody expected him to get past his own demons and get that 100.

Sachin has been like any other man in his career. He has seen success (plenty of it), he has seen failure (plenty, as well), pain – both physical and emotional. What sets him apart from most others is his willingness to get up and try again. Often his perseverance more than anything else has got him out of a tight spot. Whether it was his recovery from the back injury or the tennis elbow, he has exemplified courage to not only take on the odds but best them. And the results are for everybody to see. 100 International centuries, over 33,000 international runs in all formats, the list is quite long and would take some time and space to mention in its entirety. Suffice to say that he holds almost every major batting record conceivable. And some, like his century of centuries, may never be broken.

Sachin has been a role model for an entire generation whether as a cricketer or as a human being. He has taught them the value of performing when the chips are down, the importance of sticking it out and the humility to gracefully accept the accolades when the job is done.

And for that, his greatest reward would be when he retires. New idols may be born and temples may be built in their name but the day HE retires, an entire generation will end its relationship with cricket, for no religion may exist without its God.

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Categories: Cricket, Sports
  1. Ninad
    19 March 2012 at 20:16 IST

    Good one SKS..

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