Banner by Rituparna Chatterjee, a woman with the potential to make it big. It's not that she can't: she just won't.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Et tu?


Cross-posted on CricketCountry.com. I do not usually cross-post CricketCountry URLs, but I simply could not miss this one.

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There were two Sachin Tendulkars.

One of them was for the world. He scored thousands of runs and truckloads of hundreds. I know exactly how many, and even if I forget my birthday, these are numbers that will never elude my memory, these somehow take a backseat today. What stands out today is the other Tendulkar. My Tendulkar.

This doesn’t even begin with ODIs. This was an ODI curtailed to an exhibition match of twenty overs. India needed to score 43 from the last two overs. Krishnamachari Srikkanth, the Indian and a happy-go-lucky slogger himself, did not look too keen on chasing the target. Abdul Qadir, champion leg-spinner with a mysterious, somewhat tangled run-up and a legend from my school days, ran in. The boy, my Tendulkar, took him for 27 runs.

I had later heard that Qadir had baited my Tendulkar before the over, challenging him to have a go at him. The kid had accepted the challenge. He was still a schoolboy: I was still in shorts, and he was of the age that, in the 1980s, had merely migrated to trousers.

People are not supposed to face the fiercest attacks in their teens. They are supposed to stay at we affectionately refer to as hotel-de-papa; fight with their parents in the incessant struggle for extra pocket-money; bunk tuitions to watch movies; chase up girls and borrow money for Valentine’s Days; and perhaps consume copious amounts of paan-masala to cover up the odour of tobacco.

They were not supposed to take on the best bowlers in the world at that age. That too in their own den, thousands of miles away from the security of their home; representing their country; carrying the hopes of a billion on their shoulders; at the biggest stage of all.

Remember the 1990s? India were often set 250ish targets; we all tucked in (or had tea, depending on whether it was a day match or a day-night one) and waited with bated breath – for the batsman whose face emitted innocence and determination at the same time. We waited. We watched as the ball was overpitched; my Tendulkar’s elbow bent at an unmistakable angle as the familiar backlift happened; the bat came down in a menacing arc and bat met the ball, resulting in the sweetest sound possible; not a fielder moved; the ball sped past the bowler and crashed into the sightscreen.

We didn’t shout at that stroke. We smiled. We nodded. We looked reassuringly at each other. He is there, we thought. He batted on. He counterattacked in an era when we merely succumbed to the mightier opponents from all over the world. They had the advantage of ruthless batting and superlative fielding. We had a single weapon to stand up against them.

And when my Tendulkar got out, mostly because he needed to score fast as the opposition had succeeded in bottling up his partners, we changed the channel; or probably gathered at a friend’s to play carrom; or even studied. Because nothing else seemed to matter. Nothing. The match had slipped.

Remember Sharjah 1998? Remember how my Tendulkar took on the mighty Australians by the horns and sent them packing amidst an intimidating desert blizzard? Remember how we had read that half a dozen or so Australian cricketers had lined up outside the dressing room to take his autograph? Have you ever seen batting like that? Has anyone?

Remember World Cup 1999? When my Tendulkar had missed the Zimbabwe match (that we promptly lost) to cremate his father, and then came back to score that hundred that melted the hardest of hearts, moistened the driest of eyes? Would you lie today and say that you could hold back your emotions that day? I doubt.

Remember Nairobi 2000? Remember when my Tendulkar suddenly took Glenn McGrath’s aggression a tad too seriously and hit him over his head for a six? Remember how Harsha Bhogle, for once, could not hold his emotions back and gave a clarion call to all the viewers to ask their friends to turn their television sets on? It wasn’t a big innings – but have you ever seen such ferocity hidden behind that smiling disguise?

Remember my Tendulkar’s fairytale 175? Remember the day when my Tendulkar scored that 200, when Mahendra Singh Dhoni – then Indian captain (and a much popular one than his stature in recent times) – was booed for hitting a six in the final over, because it simply meant that Tendulkar was deprived of strike?

I know you do. All of you do. You see, he was the only one who had united all of you, across religions, languages, states or even countries. You have probably not helped your classmates before exams or backstabbed your colleagues up the corporate ladder; have belittled people on the grounds of money or caste; or worse, have shed the blood of your neighbours during riots; but when he batted, you became mates, hugging each other as every milestone was achieved. You certainly did not check the religion or financial status of the people you celebrated with on the streets when he won the World Cup for us.

Was it because the national flag never looked as apt as it had on his navy blue helmet? Perhaps. Or perhaps there was more to it.

He isn’t there anymore, though.

The earlier generations had cleaner cricket, involving less money and glitz, and thereby more unadulterated passion for the game; the future generations will probably lift fitness levels to new heights, break and set new records, and take technology and commercialism to new altitudes.

But our generation will always have the final word. We had a Tendulkar. TENDULKAR.

19 comments:

  1. The Mayans did get it right, then - an age has come to an end in late December 2012.

    So long, Sachin, and thanks for all the fi- er, memories.

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  2. the legend## we salute for your greatest contribution to the indian cricket.!!!!! when these two thigns happen it was clear, he is god's gift to indian cricket 1. he scored 200 2.he is in world cup winning team eventhough am not greatest fan of him.. i admired him always...

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  3. All these memories will remain with us always!! We the generation of 'Fab Four'!!

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  4. Beautiful. you have managed to express what we all feel, through this write-up. Yes, our generation will always have Tendulkar.

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  5. He wears his success lightly

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  6. Tendu has taken his sweet revenge on ppl by not letting them watch him in ODIs for one last time.He gave in to critics though we all were aware that retiremnt was imminent.I don't think he'll like to appear as a critic on tv
    Inglorious end to a glorious career.Question is,will you still watch crixket?

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    Replies
    1. Yes, I will. The show will go on. It has to. The greats come in cycles, of span however large.

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  7. Very well-written Sir. Take a bow!

    I remember it was sometime in mid 90's, where I strongly believed that the best batsman, best bowler and best fielder in the Indian cricket team were all rolled into one person. I can also identify the feeling, this too during the mid 90's, when the departure of Tendulkar signified a lost cause. But I'd like just two more innings to my Tendulkar (who, I'm sure is the same guy as your Tendulkar)...
    1. A gutsy 136 in Chennai, Indian tail folding up within 4 runs after he was claimed
    2. A thoroughly entertaining 98 in Centurion, cut short of a well-deserving 100 by a pulled hamstring

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  8. I did not mention the Test innings here.

    The 98 should definitely have got a mention. And that outrageous six off Caddick.

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  9. You pointed out the very first incident that made Tendulkar fans of many of us.

    I remember that before the West Indies tour of 1989, there was talk about this boy being selected for the Indian team ... he was just a little older than me, younger than some of the friends I would be playing cricket with! I knew about his school record, but wondered how that translated into international cricket. And I remember wondering what I should be expecting? Should I be expecting him to go in and out of the team at an age much younger than current members? Should I be expecting him to play as well as these seasoned players at his age? Both of these would be quite remarkable. But was it that, or was I to dream that he would be better than them, that he would be the answer to all our dreams becoming the greatest batsman and bringing India glories singlehandedly ?

    I recall that first test series, but test cricket is perhaps a story for another day, but I believe that it would be right to say that while he impressed, he did not do anything unheard of. In other words he was remarkable in the sense of the first two questions, and showed promise for more, but the best batsman on current performance in the Indian team remained Sanjay Manjrekar. And perhaps he was outplayed by a batsman on the other side. The first sign that Tendulkar was different in the sense of the last two questions above came in that exhibition match. The situation was so bad, that the only good thing about the match was that it was not an official one. It was time to forget about it, as the result was clear. Suddenly all of that changed with Tendulkar. He was not willing to accept the situation and almost changed it.

    "I had later heard that Qadir had baited my Tendulkar before the over, challenging him to have a go at him."

    What I recall from an interview of Quadir was that this happened after Tendulkar hit Mushtaq for a six. Quadir apparently said something like
    ... Bacchon se kyun muqabla karte hon, hum se karon. Coming from Quadir this actually sounds like an acknowledgement of Tendulkar's greatness. And then riot ensued. Never before that had I imagined anyone going after Quadir and Tendulkar almost took us to victory.
    (Quadir later said of him: "Woh to Champion that")

    Some of my best memories of Tendulkar in ODI are before he turned opener, when he did not have enough time to score centuries and yet played so beautifully. He would have a score of 35 or 40 , but those runs were scored as though scoring them was trivially easy, when the rest of the team trudged along. Sometimes, this would even be enough to win if it was at home, coupled with the magic of Kumble! Then of course, he became an opener and scored hundreds so often that people feel that he has failed when he does not score a hundred.

    He was the force for us in the world cups in 1996, 2003, and then finally in 2011 we finally won! The next world cup we play in will be only the second world cup I recall without Tendulkar!

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    Replies
    1. Amazing recollections, rgb. Took me straight back to 'that' Qadir match and through the early 1990s.

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  10. Wonderfully expressed. His greatness and humility will always reign our hearts.My admiration for him also lies in the fact that he bowed out when the show was still on.He is truly iconic and will remain so forever.

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  11. tony graig dead...give him an obituary

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  12. I honestly believe you are the most passionate cricket lover I have ever seen, with a photographic memory to boot. Salute :)

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