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Sachin Tendulkar may have quit international cricket, but his story is unique and may blossom into an awe-inspiring fairytale in the years to come, writes Nishad Pai Vaidya.
“He will always be a legend and long after he goes, people will say, ‘Sachin jaisa hoga toh.’ (If it is like Sachin) ‘Sachin ne aisa kiya tha.’ (Sachin had done this),” said the veteran advertisement film-maker Prahlad Kakkar when Sachin Tendulkar called it a day from international cricket. Kakkar meant that Tendulkar had sent the benchmark for the generation to come and he was the ’standard’. It wasn’t a statement in cricketing terms alone as Tendulkar has transcended the realms of the cricketing fields and entered public life with his unparalleled aura. As Tendulkar turns 41, less than a year since he last donned the India jersey, his aura hasn’t reduced: it has only grown bigger.
Unless you’re talking golf or chess, sport stars have a short life in the limelight. They dazzle spectators and entertain them in their youth before leaving the hallowed turf to pursue a life more normal. Yet, some sporting legends have remained in the public conscience long after their farewell and continue to evoke awe. Needless to say, Tendulkar is still the most loved cricketer in India. For 24 years he has been a symbol of a nation’s dreams and hopes, a country where a growing middle-class were inspired by this young boy, who rose from amongst them to challenge the world. He isn’t a cricketing figure alone as his career has been an example for millions of Indians.
In pure statistical terms, you can summarise a great career and his contribution to the sport. But, to know his real impact, one had to soak in the emotions when he walked out to bat, or even during his final Test when his emotional speech brought a nation to tears. When he played well, India slept well and when he cried, India cried. It was a 24 year long dream and once that dream ends, it becomes a fairytale. And, fairytales aren’t forgotten, they only grow as the years go by.
Visit any neighbourhood in the country where young kids play the sport. The best player is still called the Tendulkar of the galli. It is a coveted title for which they battle even today. For the generation under the age of 10, who have witnessed the master only in his final phase, he still remains their favourite cricketer. This at a time when T20 cricket is sweeping the world and young stars like Virat Kohli have brought in their own brand of cricket.
That brings us to the next question: Will Kohli emulate Tendulkar and become that figure for Indians? For starters, if one compares his record in One-Day Internationals (ODIs) with Tendulkar’s numbers at a similar stage, Kohli is ahead. He has already crafted a few memorable knocks in ODIs and is gradually making a mark in Tests, stepping into those big shoes at No 4. At this stage, Kohli is amongst the best batsmen in the world across formats (AB de Villiers is perhaps the only competition he has) and is certainly India’s most dependable.
As Tendulkar had personified India’s rise in the world market in the 1990s, Kohli symbolises a young India that is maturing in the modern era. Kohli’s generation forms the majority of the population, one that hasn’t seen life without Tendulkar. This generation is irreverent, fearless and confident — qualities Kohli exudes on the field of play. At this stage, Kohli is a youth icon. To become a Tendulkar-like national icon would be a monumental task. Even if he does emulate Tendulkar in terms of numbers, Kohli may not become that legend.
In the years to come, when people will recall the Tendulkar legend, they would wonder: was he even human? Children would be narrated his tales of hard work, struggle and ultimate victory. It may rank alongside an epic where godly figures ruled the earth and were the ultimate figures inhuman imagination. Perhaps, this beautiful story hasn’t ended just yet.
Some names stand the test of time. The birthday boy is going to be one of them.
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