The final of the Champions League Twenty20 on October 6, 2013, was the last time the world saw Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid together on the cricket field. Arunabha Sengupta says that it was but an insignificant footnote in the colossal compilation of their classic collaborations.
All their battles fought together long ago, standing shoulder to shoulder against formidable opponents. The glory secure in the gilded pages of history documenting their deeds. The battle wounds long etched in eloquent scars, telling tales of endless valour and heroism. Twenty years of footsteps leaving in their wake success, sweat and blood. Few worlds left to conquer. Few paths untraced.
They have collaborated to score more runs in Test cricket than any other pair of batting partners. The two have conquered the highest of peaks that were unknown when they started out on their ascent. And on Sunday, for the last time, they met on the steps of a glossy, fancy ladder that seems to represent the limits of current day ambitions, imaginations and fanaticism. It was like two immortal thespians, having scripted the greatest acts on celluloid, teaming up together for one last time in a 30 second ad-film.
In many ways, the presence of Sachin Tendulkar (Mumbai Indians) and Rahul Dravid (Rajasthan Royals) in the final of the Champions League Twenty20 (CLT20) 2013 tournament resembled the last scene of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Harry and Ron, who have battled the forces of Voldemort side by side for ever so many years, meet again long after the days of their celebrated triumphs and gallantry. All the death eaters have been fought — most of them vanquished. No magic is on view, no spell, no charm, no incantation.
If we become a tad more generous towards the Twenty20 format, and underline its supposed utilities that most commercial commentators will have us believe in, we can take the analogy a step further. The elder men stand on the platform which will propel the younger generation into the magical world. There is little that they do themselves. No further magic is required in the current scene.
Yet, the full house looks on, at the two giants of their era, at the two magnificent champions, before they disappear for the last time, never to grace the ground together again.
Yes, most of Sunday’s action was enacted by others. Sanju Samson played the most riveting innings of the day, someone who was born five years after Tendulkar made his Test debut, almost four years after Dravid made 82 on debut in the Ranji Trophy. The two men many had turned up to watch did precious little. Tendulkar hit three boundaries, two off consecutive balls, before losing his off stump for 15. Dravid walked in at No 8, after all was virtually lost, and lasted just two balls before his leg-stump was flattened. But the fans did bask in the reflected glory as the two took field — revelling in the kind of serendipitous joy that strikes one when a much loved old movie is discovered being screened in the nearby theatre. The present did matter, as it was the final of a major money-spinning championship — but overall it was nostalgia that ruled.
The two masters were already sitting near the summits of their unparalleled achievements, mere observers when India triumphed in the T20 World Cup in Johannesburg, thus kick-starting a new tidal wave of commercial appeal of the format in India. And since then, their forays into the form have been sporadic and understated at best. These two gentlemen have for long held aloft the great arch of Indian batsmanship. They have scripted eternal epics in the history of run-making. They don’t need to prove themselves by trying to outdo the new upstarts in the raunchy raps of T20 cricket. Their class is timeless, steps unmatched, styles diligently recorded to enhance the books, manuals and standards of cricket. They need to borrow neither steps, nor style, nor stardust from the neologisms of instant cricket or even Gangnam.
Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid’s appearance together on Sunday was one last opportunity for spectators to see them together on the field — at best a tiny footnote in the gigantic compilation of their classic collaborations, little more.
(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twiter.com/senantix)
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