At the end of the day, I'm a fan - perhaps cynical, irreverent and bitter, but a fan nevertheless. And the first characteristic of a fan is to believe - to believe in his team, to believe that the team will beat the odds, to believe that despite all the indicators pointing to a mauling, his team will emerge victorious. So I'm going to put my head aside and use only my heart in writing this piece.
I'm a fan of the individuals in the team. I grew up around the lore of Sachin Tendulkar from my days on Shivaji Park. I was the insider in my college dorm, who knew Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli because I had seen them in the nets and seen them bat at close range. I knew from friends how the coach treated them differently than others and I used this insider information to gain credibility among my cricket-mad dorm mates.
We dreamed huge for Tendulkar. We believed he would break all the records. I wanted him to break the highest individual score – first held by Gary Sobers and then by Brian Lara. I wanted him to score more triple centuries than anyone else. I wanted him to bat like the cricketers I admired in those days - Alan Border and Steve Waugh. Rallying the team in a crisis and inspiring the rest of the team to raise its game. I wanted him to be the best, most ruthless captain that India ever had. In many ways, Tendulkar did more than just this, but I began to sulk because he didn't specifically do what I had dreamt him doing.
When he failed in Barbados chasing 120, I felt terrible. When he fell just short of beating Pakistan at Chepauk, I felt let down. When Shoaib Akhtar got him for a duck at Kolkata, I was sure there was some mistake. When he crawled to 194 with Virender Sehwag at Multan and didn't up the pace to help with a declaration, I was mystified. When Tendulkar was not shepherding the tail at Sydney in 2008 and going after the Aussies, I was downright angry. I didn't realise that Tendulkar was always himself and that he had done nothing wrong. He simply didn't fit into what I had dreamt about him.
But Tendulkar has done much more than be an individual great. He has inspired an entire generation of cricketers in India to bat big. Gautam Gambhir, Sehwag, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Cheteshwar Pujara and to a certain extent – Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman are all products of the Tendulkar inspiration. Not just this team, but every Indian playing in the Indian Premier League (IPL) is really batting like Tendulkar batted in his early days - with the freedom of a child. Sending the ball into orbit like Tendulkar did against Abdul Qadir in that festival match on his debut series.
This team is a product of Tendulkar's inspiration a team that has delivered the first 50-overs World Cup victory in 28 years. This team that held the No 1 ranking for a year and has won more away Tests without a genuine fast bowler than any other team. And yet, I am sulking because Tendulkar hasn't met my expectations.
What has happened recently to the Indian team is that normal service has resumed. Tendulkar and other seniors have done their job and it's getting close to the end of an era. Will there be another golden period like this? Most likely not in the next 10-15 years. We are likely to see a middling performance from India as it sorts out its future. As players make it to the team, flatter to deceive and are then dumped. Because we will judge them with the Tendulkar test, the Dravid test and the Laxman test. And no one is likely to come close. It will be another 8-10 years before we get over that. We didn't take too long for the next Sunil Gavaskar, because Sachin Tendulkar came along almost immediately. But another Tendulkar is not likely to happen.
So what's wrong if we want to make it last a little longer. What's wrong if we delay the sunset? And what's wrong if we hope for one more encore at Adelaide?
The odds may not be in favor of India winning or even drawing. The odds may not favor Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman turning things around. The odds may favor the Australian speedsters. But I believe that Tendulkar will get his 100th century in a win or draw in Adelaide. That he will deliver a giant rearguard and an inspirational swansong in Australia....with Dravid and Laxman in a great support act.
Here's hoping that Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman will leave Australia with their heads held high with an encore that will erase all the bitter memories of the recent past. The series is gone and I don't care anymore. I am hoping for one more great memory to treasure from the troika of India's greatest batsmen.
(Vidooshak is a blogger @ Opinions on Cricket . He was drawn into cricket by Golandaaz as a schoolboy. His bluster overshadows his cricketing ability. He played as a wicket-keeper in a college team but was promptly dropped. The college selection committee had slightly higher standards than Pakistani selectors. He did reasonably well in tennis ball cricket until he was benched for a final game by the team that he captained. To say some of it was due to his opinions would be an understatement of sorts. Regardless, Vidooshak finds time to opinionate relentlessly and lives a vicarious life by watching cricket teams make obvious mistakes. Good news for Vidooshak is that someone always loses a cricket game, someone always gets belted and someone always flops. Vidooshak always looks for an alternative explanation and rarely agrees with mainstream consensus. Needless to say he has no friends, only ‘tolerators’! While not throwing his weight around, Vidooshak does not run marathons or draw pictures, but reads voraciously on all topics, volunteers at local failing schools, is an avid but average golfer and runs an Indian association in mid-west America)