By Nishad Pai Vaidya
Growing up in the 1990s in India, Sachin Tendulkar instantly became ones idol as his cricketing charm and general innocence was truly captivating. Such was his dominance on the field of play that he assured his countrymen that nothing was impossible and that insurmountable odds can be overcome. For children, he was the ultimate hero — one they all wanted to grow up to become. In many ways, Tendulkar symbolised the generation that was born around his international debut and those that grew up parallel to his career. His time at the highest level has symbolised the lives of today’s youth on a much larger scale.
Tendulkar’s entry into international cricket was one of the most beautiful happenings of life. A baby-faced 16-year old walked into the Indian dressing room to face some of the most fearsome fast-bowlers of the modern era. Described as the baby of the team — he showed the courage of a man. Waqar Younis felled him with a bouncer on that tour, but a determined Tendulkar got up and went on to save the game. As the children born around the year 1989 took their formative steps into life, Tendulkar worked his way around international cricket.
The early childhood years of this generation coincided with Tendulkar’s days as a youngster growing into the mould in the Indian team. He displayed that childlike enthusiasm and was adventurous in his strokeplay. In a way, it was reminiscent of how a child grows up in those early years. There is that element of fearlessness and the uninhibited enthusiasm to discover the world around you. As the years progress, it mellows down and a sense of responsibility sets in. The same could be seen in Tendulkar’s first decade at the highest level.
With his image of being the boy next door and his super human feats on the ground, the generation of the 90s automatically associated with him. He became their hero and inspiration for almost everything. Every kid playing cricket in his “gully” wanted to be called “Sachin” — a title accorded to the best player of the group. It was a coveted title with many fighting tooth and nail for that honour. That made these little children feel closer to their idol with the dream of wearing the blue jersey and emulating his feats some day.
As time passed, Tendulkar graduated to become a respected senior player and the children grew up to mature. As this generation approached a teenage — they faced a new phase of life and their idol was also stepping into the role of a senior statesman. However, Tendulkar came across heavy weather as injuries — the tennis elbow in particular — dodged his charge from 2004-2007. That was the time the said generation focused on their crucial examinations, something that is of utmost importance for the majority in India.
Tendulkar fought and struggled, unable to replicate his previous successes. His body wasn’t responding to his calls as the strain it had taken over the years was acting up. Meanwhile, the teenagers battled the extreme competition, pressure from teachers and parents etc. who demanded nothing but success. Even as Tendulkar seemed to lose his youthful exuberance, many knew it was packed away somewhere, much like the joys of life being kept away from those writing those exams.
However, there was an encore in store — with the return of the Tendulkar of the old. The early exit at the 2007 World Cup saw the great man take a new approach and return rejuvanated. He brought back his previous strokes and mixed it with his temperance. That phase also saw the kids of the 1990s move into their college life, a time that is memorable and exciting. Tendulkar too enjoyed the same phase as he conquered new peaks and set new benchmarks which included the one-day double hundred, the 50th Test century and of course the World Cup in the bag. Nothing could go wrong one felt — a mindset that dominates today’s youth in their late teens and early 20s.
The honeymoon always has to end for it is the bitter truth. As the youngsters in their early 20s move into the real field — with cutthroat competition, jobs, family etc. they face the harsh realities of life. The other harsh reality is that they would have to live without Tendulkar on the cricket field. His glorious run has ended and it wasn’t going to last forever.
A part of this generation just died! The joy that he gave with his talent was priceless and one would only realise a few months down the line when it sinks in. They have not seen life without Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.
They do not know what it is to dream without his shining example before them. How will they fight the bigger battles of life without his inspirational touch? The symbol that defined them will no longer wield his willow and the void he leaves in their life is unmistakable.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_44)