When Sachin Tendulkar did an eagle-like act to soar again in the skies and enjoy a phenomenal high

For a flamboyant stroke-maker like Sachin Tendulkar, to desist playing the cover drive from 0 to 241 not out was something unusual © Getty Images

By Madhav Krishnan

How often does a part weigh more than the whole? How often does a clock tick properly with its dials imperfect? How often can one win a tough game of chess without moving the knight or the rook?

It’s quite tough to fathom. But, certainly he did it there. Sachin Tendulkar, New Year’s Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) from January 2-6, 2004. That was a different Tendulkar in the first innings. At the back of poor umpiring decisions, and shot selection that got him out in the previous three Tests, he came up with a pièce de résistance — mainly because he exercised restraint of the highest order. For a flamboyant stroke-maker like Tendulkar to desist playing the cover drive from 0 to 241 not out is something unusual. No one would have taken that in 2003. The batsman who had the world at his feet literally, for a good part of the last seven years till then, was struggling for runs when the series already had seen big runs from the other big names.

The straight drive maybe his signature shot, but the cover drive is his percentage stroke — not just him but, for any in-form batsman who plays long innings. Throughout the innings, he was the kick boxer down in a fight with one of his limbs tied. Without the cover drive, he limped through to a spirited 100. The relief was writ in his face and his innings thereon. Ably supported by a VVS Laxman, who was doing what Lord Hanuman once did in Sri Lanka, that innings of his wrests itself close to the best of hundreds he had made, and to me, it hasn’t depreciated in its worth after many more hundreds.

That was one innings that made me go past the point of no return of being a Tendulkar fan, and all the more in hindsight when I understood the gravity of the same (Perception and wine get better with age).
I am compelled to quote the late Peter Roebuck who wrote, “Greatness cannot be small. It does not exist to score little points or cheat or hover in the fringes. It has the fearlessness to confront any opponent, tackle any situation, and look itself in the eye, often the most painful examination of them all.”

Amidst the wide canvas of a career full runs and tons, his second period of ascendancy is something that speaks volumes about him. After reaching a plateau where his batting was punctuated by poor form and a series of injuries, how he managed to wriggle out of those dark alleys into his second green phase and once again coming back into the team, remaining its vital cog for a few more years to come is worth a few pages of prose, quite like the bald eagle, which goes through a rough patch, just to soar again in the skies in its second ‘life’.

The feeling is just sinking in. We all knew it was coming but when it did come, it is a tough, tough pill to swallow. The last two years have not been what we all would have wanted it to be. The law of averages has caught up with Tendulkar for one last time.

The last two years have undone a bit of that moniker of his — God. For once, he seemed fallible, with the dirty ‘R’ word gaining more ground with every mounting failure. Finally, destiny has restored parity and more weight those two adages: “No one is perfect” and “Nobody is bigger than the game”. But, in hindsight, he was the reason the game grew bigger.

Records will be shattered, but his eclectic memories shall stay on forever. Along with the cherubic 16-year old boy from Mumbai, a nation has grown, and so has a generation of its denizens.

With Tendulkar approaching his dusk, his 200th Test, a vortex of emotions ensues, so does my captivity in it. It will be tough to see Tests without that small frame making its stride forward and pause in defence, assuming a near-spherical petite posture. If Roebuck taught me what sports-writing was, Tendulkar taught me what single-minded devotion to work can create — monuments. Ones that will not get consumed by time, but those which shall become writing on walls, with epochal constancy.

Here’s to the boy through whom I got acquainted with the game of cricket, and beyond; the man that we all want to be: Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.

Thank you, Sir.

(Madhav Krishnan is a student from Birla Institute of Technology and Science (Hyderabad), pursuing M.Sc (Chemistry) and B.E. in Mechanical Engineering)