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22 yards for 24 years

By AI Vishal

TO WRITE ABOUT A BILLION MEMORIES IS ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE IN A FEW THOUSAND WORDS. WITH SACHIN, IT WAS ALWAYS THE UNIMAGINABLE.

The bat in his hand, the world at his feet and his world in between the 22 yards. That is Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar in a nutshell. The God of Cricket, Little Master, Master Blaster among many other titles that he has been christened with and the chants of “Sachin, Sachin” bellowing across stadiums everywhere he went sending tingles down our spines and were part of much of our life which was spent cheering the man all the way along.

Sachin’s insatiable desire for his craft took him on a journey spanning his entire life till retirement in 2013 which not many believe even to this day. That is the effect of delirious magnetism that Sachin wielded over the Indian public and world cricketing fraternity. 

His effect on Indian public is alluring, from people halting their daily jobs and queuing in front of TV sets in the streets to watch him bat, to walls being adorned with his posters, and school sessions being stalled. Even India’s stock market witnessed a downward spike when Sachin was on strike. 

The portly young man from Shivaji Park went on to inspire generations of cricketers having been inspired by the likes of Sunil Gavaskar and Sir Viv Richards. Well when you see yourself in the best, you end up being the best ain’t it? 

However dire the situation was, there would be a last ray of hope till the little fellow was in the middle. Sachin is not just a name, it is an emotion and the hopes of billions of Indians. Yes, cricket can produce many more great players, Many achievements can be broken. But the future will regret not being able to see another Sachin Tendulkar. 

What makes the journey even more intriguing and counting is that it always wasn’t a bed of roses, a smooth sailing. Let’s not forget, Sachin lived his life with cricket and we lived to be a part of it which made his presence so significant within our premise. The pain, the agony of defeat and missing out in the nineties, the incessant criticism of a billion people on defeats and ignominy can crush the best. But you still maintained those levels of consistency, class and vigour across all formats, all stadia and oppositions, Sachin always held his own. Not once berating at his team-mates, at umpires, at his failures, he just continued to play on through all adversities with an unflinching desire to be the best he can for his team in every situation to the level where it really became him against the world. 

After scoring piles of runs in school cricket and making history by becoming the youngest and only player to score a century on his Ranji Trophy, Irani Trophy and Duleep Trophy debut. On November 15, 1989, a 16-year-old sachin was handed his maiden Test cap in Karachi. A tender boy fast-tracked into the perilous world of facing Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Imran Khan one after the other. Phew, we can only comprehend nightmares. Sachin faced their deliveries. 

“I knew this was going to be my first and last match. First match to be honest, I had no idea. Waqar Younis at one end, Wasim Akram from the other end going full throttle. They started reversing (swing) the ball as well. I was completely out of place. I came to the dressing room and thought mere bas ki baat nahi (I'm not capable of doing it). Everyone told me to give yourself time. Second innings of my life, I got 59 runs in Faisalabad, second Test, first innings. I got back to the dressing room and looked at myself in the mirror and said that I have done it". – Sachin reminisced years later on a popular chat show. 

Sachin knew that he was at no mercy in international cricket despite his age and it was made evident when he got a piece of Waqar’s fury in the fourth test of his debut series. Going in at the scoreboard reading 4 for 38. A sharp mid-tracker rose awkwardly and whack, got a bite of his nose. Eeks, blood oozing out of his nose and everyone around him. As Sidhu paaji recounts it so well, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Sachin refused to go in to receive medical attention with the Pakistan players also trying their best to unnerve him. Out came a squeaky voice saying “Main Khelega (I will play)”. The next ball in typical heroic fashion, was smashed past Waqar for four. Sachin ended up with 57 runs and saved India from the blushes of defeat. 

That innings was going to be customary of Sachin’s characteristics over his entire career spanning 24 glorious years, from Australia to the West Indies. There wasn’t one place out of his dominion and no bowler experienced and new who hasn’t faced his wrath in the middle. 

SRT and the Desert storm

India needed a huge performance to qualify for the final of the Coca-Cola tri-series Cup and they were facing a dominant Australian side that had won all their matches in the tournament. Things were not made any easier after Australia posted 284/7. Tendulkar who was in the form of his life, made mincemeat of the Australian attack in the middle of a sandstorm that paused the match midway. Little did the Aussies know that it was just the beginning of the storm. 

Sachin ended up with 143 off 131 balls and single-handedly took India to the final which was to be his customary tradition in the coming years. Two days later on his 25th birthday, the Master treated everyone to another classic, scoring an unbeaten 134 to take India past the finishing line against the Aussies and win the tri-series tournament. 

The class moment was obviously his massive six over long-on as the ball landed on the roof leaving commentator Tony Greig gasping for breath and words considering all in attendance “privileged to see one of the best in action.” That was the class of his 143.

“I have scored many centuries. I have made many achievements. But I have walked in a royal manner only one time. After scoring that century against Australia in Sharjah, and helping India qualify for the final. I felt like Sir Vivian Richards in my mind at that time,” Sachin would proudly say about his herculean innings.  (Image from here)

Sachin's 25th birthday treat in Sharjah, his 114 at the age of 19 in the fastest track in the world at that point of time Perth and against the meanest bowling attack of the time, his 241 against the Australia at the SCG, the first ever double-century in ODI, his era-changing 98 against Pakistan, and his 100th 100 against Bangladesh. It wasn’t just a miserly accumulation of runs, it was beauty in motion. Every run of Sachin Tendulkar has a story to it, a beauty to it of ethereal proportions. 

He recounted his tough times while undergoing treatment on his potentially career-ending tennis-elbow injury, “Once the treatment was over, I started practicing. But, I couldn't play properly. That time the mind was broken. I couldn't sleep. At 3 o'clock in the morning, I took the car and started roaming around the streets of Mumbai alone. I couldn't stay in one place. God let me play cricket. If not, kill it. I could not have a day and a minute without playing cricket, I cried. I don't know anything except cricket.” He came to play immediately after the surgeries were over. With his trademark dogged determination, he came out of it, smashing every problem out of the park. 

His integrity, determination and unadulterated dedication to the game was the perfect example of sacrifice to the craft. The craft took him as its own and today, Sachin symbolises everything that is cricket. “Cricket is everything to me, it’s like oxygen to me.” That is all cricket was to Sachin. There are things people do, there are things people are crazy to do, and there are things people are born to do. Sachin was the embodiment of all qualities aforementioned. A class apart, an inspiration and an epitome of class, simplicity, humility and panache.  

Sachin who has played 200 Tests and 463 One-day Internationals (ODIs) scoring 34,347 runs in both the formats, 15,921 runs in Tests and 18,426 ODI runs, 100 centuries to his name in the two formats (51 Test hundreds and 49 ODI tons), and even today everyone feels Sachin’s silent swagger, holding his bat in his characteristic manner, on one leg, always as one against the world, it was the Super man from India.

TIME FLOWS BY RATHER QUICKLY… BUT THE MEMORIES WILL FOREVER REMAIN. ESPECIALLY SACHIN, SACHIN WILL KEEP REVERBERATING IN MY EARS TILL I STOP BREATHING.”

It still does for us paaji. We are still with you and you are forever in our memories. 

Happy birthday. Just a hit away from your 165th half-century.

 

 

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