By Sarang Bhalerao
Who is Sachin Tendulkar? Does he need any introduction? Here’s something which you know about him, it is a cliche but needs a mention considering what he has been to the history of Indian cricket. You may say, he is the torchbearer of the country, cynosure of all eyes. Acres of news print space and megabyte, gigabytes of stuff has been written about him. Mellifluous metaphors have been written about him. His straight drives have been a compelling case study which is synonymous to exactitude. This is a story of 24 years; the time when he took leg-stump stance the heart beats of the nation would beat faster. The nation’s mood depended on the score that he got and more often than not he emanated joy. Welcome to the world of Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar: the entertainer, the world-beater and the blue-eyed boy of Indian cricket. At 40 he looks as fit as a fiddle: there have been speculations about his retirement for quite some time.
The views of the nations were polarized. Some wanted him to play as long as he can. Some wanted him to pave way for youngsters: but which youngster? They had no answers. The No. 4 slot has been Tendulkar’s permanent residence, if you may say. Now there will be a vacuum, a vacancy of sorts. Even the sternest of critics would feel bad for Tendulkar’s saga has been compelling. Put a hand on your heart and ask yourself: “Are you sad?” Have you got your answer?
Like William Wordsworth was born to write, Tendulkar was born to bat. The batting looked an art, for some it’s a science of complex movement which should follow a synchrony. Any delay in the movements would result in the downfall. For Tendulkar it was an art: a craft where the possibility of ball meeting the bat was done with rhythmic movements: beauty exemplified by the high elbow, the bent knee while playing the frontfoot drives. The backfoot drives were played with elan, as well. Recall, if you may, the Perth compendium. The Australian goblets of fire were dealt with consummate ease. An Olympian feat anyway, a superhuman effort considering he was only 18 back then. In literary parlance that effort was equivalent to Pulitzer Prize winning novel.
The 241 against Australia at Sydney in 2004 was a disciplined drill: no cover drives. It is as difficult as “no sweets” for a diabetic person. You always feel: I should have a little part of the chocolate or a jalebi. That is human tendency. Not to hit a single cover drive that was a superhuman effort. Even friendly full-tosses from Stuart MacGill around the off-stump went through mid-wicket. He batted for two full days but the cover-drive just did not come.
One wonders where does he find inner calm? He is a human: he will fail, he has had tough phases like the captaincy of the country. Tendulkar has not been a successful captain with four wins in 25 games. But he never let his priorities change. He has been the same gentleman with a boyish exuberance. The immense run hunger, the ability to absorb pressure from Karachi (1989) to Delhi (2013). The difference: In 1989 Tendulkar thought it would be his last Test in Delhi some wondered if it was his last ever appearance for India. Waqar just showed Tendulkar at Karachi with a fast delivery that Test cricket was real litmus test. At Delhi, off-spinner Nathan Lyon got Tendulkar twice and it was a litmus test again: to carry on his with his high standards. The crazy heights that he has reached. Fifty-one centuries and 15,837 runs: by no means a conceivable pursuit.
The last two appearances against West Indies will be tough: for both him and his fans. The memories will resonate. Time and tide waits for none, but for Tendulkar time might freeze. Tide might turn. He has made people sit up and take notice of him. The No. 4 spot will be vacant. Are we prepared for all this? The more important question, is the man himself prepared for it?
(Sarang Bhalerao hails from a family of doctors, but did his engineering. He then dumped a career in IT with Infosys to follow his heart and passion and became a writer with CricketCountry. A voracious reader, Sarang aspires to beat Google with his knowledge of the game! You can follow him on Twitter here)