The word Sachin in Latin mean precious and in Sanskrit it means pure, however, in India it only means GOD. The only common religion in the entire nation of billions is Cricket and Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar is their Almighty! Sachin is not a person, nor a brand, he represents an era. He is the most revered individual in the nation after Mahatma Gandhi. Just like Mahatma, Sachin too has his share of Nathurams spread all over the world.
I still recall that day, 16th November 1989, I was glued to the radio at a Paan shop next to my high school, during recess, trying catch audio glimpse of his debut innings. It was a short stay of 24 deliveries. Occasion definitely got to him and he found out that test cricket at international level was an altogether different beast than maidans of Mumbai and domestic ranji. But Sachin showed how quick of a learner he was and right in his next innings he rescued India from a precarious 4/101 with a 143 run stand with then established Sanjay Manjrekar. This was grinding knock in trying conditions against a four pronged pace attack, where he gave up his natural attacking abilities to stroke out a 59 of 172 deliveries. He graduated in that series in only his sixth innings with a match saving half century, albeit taking a nasty blow on his nose.
Adaptability was his primary flair and it came natural to him. Some critics, baselessly, claimed that he didn’t remain the Sachin of old, duh? How can he? In this modern era of technology and support staff, he had to stay ahead of his opponent, thus changed his game several times, otherwise they too would have figured him out like they figured Sehwag out. His innings at Sydney in 2004 was another example of dedication, determination, and change of natural stroke play for the benefit of the team. The team demanded a big one from Sachin, who had been getting out one too many times while driving in the V and he responded with 241 not out with not even a single shot played in the V.
Contrary to the popular belief, he never played for records, otherwise he would have had 127 international hundreds by now, as he got out in 90s a total of 27 times in tests and ODIs. Yes he did chase his dreams, only to fulfill them, like winning the world cup for team India at the age of 38. Yes, I know he only scored 18 in that final, however, he scored 500+ in the tournament and got us to the final with Man-of-the-match 85 in that cracker of a semi-final. World Cups are not won just by winnings the finale, you have to first get there! He had gotten us there in 2003 with his Man-of-the-series efforts in 2003, only for our bowlers to give it all up and also gotten us close in 1996 almost singlehandedly, in a tournament labeled as “Tendu and Ten Don’t”.
This one man has given billions around the world so much joy over the last quarter of a century. He gave every Indian a hope when everything else looked hopeless in the 90s. Every time when chips were down he rose to the occasion. His bat always responded to the criticism, be it the media’s Endulkar? question in 2006 or Chappell’s Mirror in 2007. He defied injuries, played with a broken back in Chennai (1999), made successful come back after almost career ending shoulder surgery (2006), and played an IPL 2010 final with one hand.
The Nathurams around the world always found a “certain someone” to be better than him. The breed that amuses me is the one who comes up with names like Ganguly, Sehwag, Laxman, or Dravid to be better than “HIM”. Well, opinions are one thing and everyone is entitled to one, however, the facts (numbers and stats) never lie. Sourav could be his close competitor in ODIs for some of the Match winnings innings, however, the Dada era only lasted about 5 years in ODIs (1998-2003). If anyone seriously compares Dada with Sachin in Tests, then it has to be a joke, for dada’s average is only 40 in longer format, his technique was wanting, and he only produced two memorable knocks – debut ton at Lord’s and Century at Gabba. Sehwag had his moments in tests and ODIs, however, the gap between those mystical moments was filled with too many irresponsible outings.
Laxman was never a successful ODI batsman and Dravid only had limited ODI success (1999 WC and 2002-2006), thus overall there is none other than “HIM” with consistent success in both formats of the game over 25 years. To this, some Nathurams present an argument that Laxman and Dravid were better in Tests, really? Let’s look at the numbers. Dravid averaged 38 V Australia and 33 V South Africa, the two best bowling attacks of their era, while Sachin averaged 53 and 46 respectively. Even Laxman who brought out his best against Australia doesn’t average 50 against them while averaging 37 against South Africa. In fact Sachin is the only Indian averaging over 50 in Australia.
The theory about Lara or Ponting being better falls by wayside by simply analyzing their records aginst spin bowling in subcontinent. Sachin on the other hand has no such handicap. He had played in totally unfriendly conditions for an Indian batsman (Pakistan, Australia, And South Africa) before his 20th Birthday and had scored 3 tons. He was undeterred by the pace and bounce at WACA while scoring a hundred only at the tender age of 18 and neither had he any issues negotiating Dale Styen on fast South African tracks, on his way to twin centuries, at the age of 38. Sachin has scored 11 test tons in Australia and South Africa (one more than Sehwag, Ganguly, Laxman, and Dravid combined).
The 33,000 fans that showed up on day 2 at Wankhede, were not just Mumbaikars, but from all across the globe, just trying to get one last glimpse of their deity before he calls it a day. Sachin didn’t disappoint either. It was almost like God had written the script (maybe he did!) as Maestro almost took all of us down the memory lane and brought every single shot from his book, almost like a highlight capsule of 25 years! The icing on the cake was the speech that came straight from the heart and made November 15, 2013, the day when every Indian Male cried. To every fan he has given plenty of memories to last for the entire life and beyond, I do feel sorry for Nathurams though as they are left empty handed now.
It will be a game of cricke from now on as “t” has retired with Tendulkar. I’ll no longer see the number 10 on any blue cricket jersey anymore, would no longer witness a Panama hat at mid-off, and will have to settle down for some mere mortal to walk at number four in white clothing for India. After all, only humans will play this game from now on!!
-Nikhil Sharad Jadhav