Sachin Tendulkar's and his generation's sense of dread

Sachin Tendulkar’s impending exit will create a sense of huge emptiness, especially for the vast generation of young Indians who have took to the game because of him and for whom the maestro has been omnipresent for India right through their lives © Getty Images

By Karthik Parimal

In her masterpiece Atlas Shrugged, the American novelist Ayn Rand, talks about a ‘sense of dread without reason’, while describing a phase one of her protagonists, Eddie Willers, goes through. “There’s nothing to fear: just an immense, diffused apprehension, with no source or object,” she writes in her own prodigious way, giving an insight into the character’s state of mind.

It is a feeling that resonates with most Indian cricket followers today; a jittery feeling that first stemmed on the morning of December 23, 2012, when news of Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement from One-Day Internationals (ODIs) filtered through channels and the social media, and then again on October 10, 2013, when the wunderkind-turned-maestro announced his decision to call it quits from all forms of cricket after his 200th Test. Despite its inevitability, a sense of emptiness engulfed many who slowly absorbed that bit of information. For some, he was the last link to their childhood. He was perpetual through life’s crests and troughs.

For Tendulkar, cricket has been a constant the last 25 years, and his crests and troughs have always hovered within the sport’s perimeter. None can therefore fathom his trepidation at not being able to don the white flannels, ever again, in a few days’ time. In spite of assurances from the likes of Michael Schumacher — another stalwart who knows a thing or two about longevity — a sense of emptiness must consume Tendulkar, too, especially during days leading up to his final showdown on a stage he’s graced the most. The detachment is going to be painful, like forceful separation of twins conjoined at birth, and a piece of him will want to trade places with a Shikhar Dhawan or Rohit Sharma — two stars at the start of their Test careers. Such is Tendulkar’s obsessive love for the sport.

He will crave for that buzz on the night before a match; for those innumerable practice sessions; for the unknown that lies ahead; for the adrenaline that often accompanies success and anxiety failure generates. Coming to terms with the fact that he will no longer be a part of the dressing-room — one that’d been richer in his presence, and its camaraderie, or offer his two cents on the opposition or the game in general as a player, will be excruciating. Despite having nothing left to prove, he will pine for the little things that constitute any professional athlete’s life, apart from wanting to give his best for the team time and again. Yet, he will have to walk away from it all.

Imagine no longer having to turn up for a job you’ve always done. And what if it was one you dearly adored; one which you’d dreamt of and lived that dream for 25 years? And now, it’s scheduled to come to an end, definitively. A routine, or ritual — an apt word in this case, will cease to exist. Tendulkar had his in place from the age of 16, and soon it’ll no longer be, although he will not want to be reminded of this fact till the Mumbai Test — his 200th — concludes. However, with the hullaballoo ensuing, thanks mainly to the administrators, it’s a far-fetched wish.

Nonetheless, if there’s anyone capable of circumventing all the commotion and shouldering boundless pressure, it’s the man himself. Yet, despite his accomplishments, despite the fact that his illustriousness is sure to pave way for a comfortable future, a ‘sense of dread’ will pervade the virtuoso’s thoughts during this emotional phase. Just like a ‘sense of dread’ will engulf the millions who will watch him walk out to bat for one last time at his home ground come the third week of November. What next for Tendulkar? What next for a generation that has been a part and revelled in his journey for almost quarter of a century? In spite of India’s cricketing vault oozing with flair and in good hands for the foreseeable future, it’s difficult to see how the wizard’s disengagement from the sport quells this faceless apprehension.

In that same book, Ayn Rand talks about how an oak tree inexplicably had a calming effect on Eddie Willers. “He felt safe in the tree’s presence; it was a thing that nothing could change or threaten; it was his greatest symbol of strength. [But] one night, lightning struck the oak tree. Eddie saw it the next morning. It lay broken in half, and he looked into its trunk as into the mouth of a black tunnel. The living power had gone, and the shape it left had not been able to stand without it,” Rand writes. For his unwavering followers, Tendulkar perhaps embodies the oak tree. And for Sachin Tendulkar, needless to say, it’s cricket.

(Karthik Parimal, a Correspondent with CricketCountry, is a cricket aficionado and a worshipper of the game. He idolises Steve Waugh and can give up anything, absolutely anything, just to watch a Kumar Sangakkara cover drive. He can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/karthik_parimal)