The entire nation was moved when they witnessed Modern Cricket’s greatest sensation, Sachin Tendulkar, finally calling quits to a romantic affair that lasted for over two decades. The fans were in tears, the rest were overwhelmed with subtle respect and a sense of wonder at how a 5 feet 5 inch man, who looks so naïve and childlike even to this day, commanded this level of magnificence and reverence.
If we talk about records and statistics, Sachin Tendulkar has plenty to flaunt. But is it just the records that make the difference? 200 Tests. Over 50,000 First Class Runs. 100 International Centuries. Disregard all of them. Sachin is still the very same person. It is in this reverse argument where the greatness of the Little Master lies. All those who know Sachin accede to the fact that the success, glamour and level of command he possesses today has made no difference to the kind of human being he used to be when he started his career. There is a famous story that goes around in the cricketing circle of Mumbai. Once in his youth, Sachin was denied selection in the U-16 national team. Sachin’s coach and mentor, Mr.Ramakant Achrekar was furious at this decision. He was just about to go and exchange a few words with the selector(s), when Sachin requested him not to do so. Achrekar asked him why, to which Sachin replied that the incident might turn ugly and the selector(s) might carry a grudge against him in the time to come, and that he might be denied selection then as well.
Patience. Perseverance. Excellence. Sachin can be synonymous to any one of them. Every sport has their respective commanders who make the common lot of fans and audiences identify themselves with the sport. Be it Bjorn Borg, or Muhammad Ali, Pele or Michael Jordan, each of them has had the ability to make their sport look as sublime as art. Each of them has gifted their patrons and fans some great memories to cheer about. But none of them has been successful enough to maintain such a stance for over a decade. Hamstring, toe, ankle, knee, shoulder, and the most famous of all, the tennis elbow, Sachin’s humane “abode” has been subjected to all sorts of extremities over the years, keeping him out of action series after series. But every time he came back, it was a “come back” showing the odds their place. Even on the eve of 14th November 2013, the last day the world witnessed him in action, he looked as fit as he was a decade back.
In India, Cricket is as important as any religion, perhaps it is one of them. As every religion has it’s share of devotees and atheists, Cricket also has its share of fans and “haters”. But seldom do we come across someone who knows about the cricket but has not ever felt a little respect for the Little-Master. When the grim incident of 26/11 took place, the country felt abused. Mumbai was witnessing a “Blacker” day. Then it was Sachin who reached to the common man through the Media, requesting them to keep their calm, instilling in them a confidence for their country and in his ever-subtle way promising that the attack would avenged. With this gesture, Sachin not only proved his stature as a national icon, but also as one of the greatest statesmen the country had witnessed.
One feels sad, rather, angry, to see political parties deliberating and debating over conferring Bharat Ratna to the Little Master. I say the award is no parameter to even try to measure his level of excellence. The fact that people cried with him in his farewell speech is. Most people of my generation grew up watching him play, making milestones with stones people threw at him. He was an inspiration that limited itself not only to cricket or any other sport, but to all departments of life. There is a shoe which is not filled, and I would like it to remain that way.
I was proud I saw God play a frivolous sport and make it look like opera.