By Abhijeet Adatia
For a long time, it was the exploits of the Indian hockey teams at the Olympics that kept India’s flag fluttering at the international level. Hockey was considered the national sport and Dhyan Chand was to the game what Sachin Tendulkar is today to cricket.
Cricket today has occupied the collective consciousness of the entire country and a legend like Dhyan Chand is a name few in the younger generation of Indians would know.
The emergence of players like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman took the interest level for the sport to hitherto unknown heights. These guys set a benchmark for a generation that followed like Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli.
But there will be no doubt in any mind that if there is one person who singlehanded energized the game in India, its Tendulkar – aka “God”.
It’s not easy being an Indian cricketer, given the expectations of such a huge population. India has a population of 100 crores, of which at least 50% are cricket enthusiasts. When 50 crore people are watching you and expecting you to perform at your best every time, even if 1% of those are critical of a player, it means 50 lakh-plus critics! If Tendulkar scores anything less than a hundred, he is considered to have failed!
One player who has almost placed himself beyond all criticisms with his fantastic performances over two decades is the God himself. For me, Tendulkar ranks above Sir Don Bradman. Tendulkar plays under the huge pressure and expectations of a 100 crore people. Sir Don played 52 Tests in nearly 20 years, while Tendulkar has played 177 Tests in 21-plus years. The Don played most of his Tests against England while Tendulkar has played against every cricketing nation.
No batsman has taken on the famed Australian bowling like Tendulkar. He has given nightmares to such world class bowlers like Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan. No wonder it’s said that Tendulkar has singlehanded reduced the number of atheists since his arrival on the international scene in 1989.
Tendulkar may or may not get the Bharat Ratna – the nation’s highest civilian award. But from Kashmir in the North to Kanyakumari in the South and Mumbai in the West to Kolkata in the East, millions of stressed Indians who have derived countless hours of happiness, Tendulkar is - and will always be – the People’s Ratna!
(Abhijeet Adatia, 19, is an avid cricket follower and photography aficionado as well. His dream is to meet God - Sachin Tendulkar)