Sachin Tendulkar: An icon for whom an entire nation stands still

There were rumours that Sachin Tendulkar would retire after playing his 200th Test in South Africa. The probability of his retirement is higher if he plays the landmark Test in India © Getty Images

Sachin Tendulkar is more than a sportsman in this cricket crazy nation. Nishad Pai Vaidya looks back at things that people can do for the special man with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in motion to organise his 200th Test at home.

In this cricket-crazy land, anything can be done for the darling of the people — Sachin Tendulkar. The iconic cricketer has been worshipped in this country for well over two decades and became a symbol that permeated through the fabric of society. As he grew in stature, he became a part of every Indian’s life, spreading happiness through his stupendous exploits on the cricket field. A whole generation grew up alongside his blossoming international career, looking up to him in awe and in search of inspiration. Today, that symbol is nearing sunset and there is a clamour to give it one final bright farewell.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India’s (BCCI) is trying to organise a two-match Test series against the West Indies before the South African tour and this move has made it clear how much Tendulkar is valued in this nation. For the sake of one player, the board is willing to host an entire series, which would allow him to play his historic 200th Test match at home. In the past, the board may have conferred awards and honours on the champion batsman, but this is intangible when compared to the physical or monetary gifts.

Of course there is an opportunity to rake in money through the games built around his milestone, but the board’s move does have the fan’s thoughts. Instead of playing the said game at Newlands, Cape Town, wouldn’t it be more fitting to see him complete it at the Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai?

Time and again, we have come across these special gestures for Tendulkar. Each one of them only went on to signify his value to the people of this nation. In 2003, a man named Sudhir Kumar Chaudhary cycled all the way from Bihar in Eastern India to Mumbai (which is in the western corner) only to meet his idol. Gripped by his story, Tendulkar offered to arrange tickets of every game for this dedicated fan.

To this day, Chaudhary is seen at the grounds, typically painted in the tri-colour, blowing his conch and the name ‘Tendulkar’ unmistakably etched on to his body. That is not all. As a sign of gratitude, he sends 1000 litchis to the Tendulkar household every year. This is a great example of what the fan is willing to do for the Little Master. Chaudhary may be on the more extreme side, but it is proof of Tendulkar’s appeal and aura.
On every milestone, newspapers are dominated with stories on Tendulkar. Pages are dedicated to enumerate past records, interesting incidents from his life etc. If he travels to any city for a game, there would invariably be one felicitation organised to decorate him. God alone knows where he stores all those mementos! As Peter Roebuck once mentioned, that this man can literally bring the country to a standstill.

Throughout his career, Tendulkar had only one dream and that was to lift the World Cup. Even before the mega-event commenced in 2011, the Indian players were unanimous in saying that they wanted it ‘for Sachin.’ Winning the World Cup is about the nation and a team, but a billion strong fan base laid its eyes on the 37-year-old veteran. The dream was achieved and it was quite fitting that it came at the Wankhede Stadium — where he was chaired across the ground after victory. Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was the real hero of that night, but understood the value for Tendulkar. Gulu Ezekiel, Dhoni’s biographer, wrote in the book Captain Cool, “When some pointed out that he (Dhoni) should be hoisted by his teammates, he gestured towards Tendulkar and said, ‘It is his night!’”

Isn’t it interesting that a nation’s crowning glory was all about one man? To top it all, the International Cricket Council (ICC) had announced Tendulkar as the brand ambassador or the 2011 World Cup. A batsman playing a tournament and is its icon. Where have you seen that before? But, when it comes to Tendulkar, there are no boundaries or limits.

If the West Indies do come over for the Test series, there is a high probability that Tendulkar will play the 200th Test in Mumbai. India’s busiest city would await its favourite son’s entry on the field of play for that occasion. More than anything, they would hope he is chaired around the ground after the game — a picture that should leave a lasting memory as it could be his last Test on home soil. All his woes and struggles over the last two years would be forgotten with that picture etched in mind for years to come.

What next?

Karsan Ghavri, the former India cricketer suggested that Tendulkar would quit after his 200th Test. He was expected to play the game in South Africa, but will he call it a day if it happens at home? India have crucial away tours lined-up in the following months. They would embark upon a campaign in New Zealand after their sojourn in South Africa. Later in 2014, they will engage in a tough battle against England in the British Isles. If Tendulkar does retire after the possible 200th Test at home, it would then leave India with inexperienced youngsters for that tour. That is one big question: Does he stay on to tackle those foreign conditions or allow a youngster to come in?

Tendulkar’s mind is strong and hungry. Will the body answer its call?

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)