Thursday, February 25, 2010

Tribute to the Master by an unknown Mediocre…

In the year 1989 I was very excited about a young Indian Prospect by name Sachin Tendulkar. The reason for my excitement during my no different very limited reasoning prowess was the amazement that surrounded the fact that a boy aged 16 can face pace bowling at the highest level. His debut was anxious for me and there was no coverage on DD at least for the first test. When I heard India were asked to bat and were bailed out by Kapil Dev and Kiran More, the folks around me put water on my excitement asking what happened to the young prodigy the arrival of who I was so enthralled about.

I very patiently waited till next day to read R Mohan’s write up on Hindu and I directly looked at the scoreboard which read Sachin Tendulkar b Waqar Younnis 15. My joy knew no bounds. If a boy aged 16 can put bat to ball against the most fearsome attack then in world cricket and survive for 30 minutes and make 15 and also had the power in him to score two boundaries, then this kid should really be something. He did turn out to be something in the very series when he clocked 59 in a match saving effort along with Sidhu. He had a sensational ODI debut a match that turned to be an exhibition encounter when he took apart Mustaq and Abdul Qadir to score 50+ in 20 odd balls. Started his ODI career with a duck (much in the same was as the Don ended his Test career with a blot), Sachin Tendulkar was becoming an integral part of the lives me and close to billion other Indians.

I remember England Texico Trophy again courtesy the BBC Radio when Sachin sealed the win for us with a 30+ knock which had 6 boundaries in it and the BBC commentator saying immortal “We don’t have words to describe the talent of this man”. His match saving effort at Old Trafford when he hit 119 to save India from a certain defeat. His twin centuries down under, the second of which at Perth has been described by some Aussie Journalist as the best knock after Second World War.

As Sachin grew in stature so also did the expectations and the inevitable green eyed comparisons mostly from the proverbial friendly neighbors. My Favorite cricketer from the Paki Land, Imran Khan at least brought six cricketers in the last twenty years as Pakistan’s response to Sachin Tendulkar (I appreciate the onus he took on himself to do this and my respect for the man only deepened as he struck to his task even though his own people mocked him and labeled him as a political misfit) & only Inzamam-ul-Haq came closest in terms of matching Sachin. I have great respect for Inzamam and I rooted and backed this boy wonder in the semis against Kiwis in World Cup 92 as I have seen him bat before and was quite destructive and Inzi never let me down. The others that couldn’t stand the comparison were Md Wasim, Hassan Raja, Taufeeq Omar, Imran Farhat Imran Nazir and so on.

He reached his predictable peak by the 1996 World Cup and had particular liking to annihilate the Aussie bound attacks led by Shane Warne and Glen McGrath. By the year 2002 it was quoted that Sachin Tendulkar reached his saturation and the hunger is not there anymore to continue. He silenced his critics by destroying attacks in the 2003 world cup. The critics say he misfired in the final, but the final was realistically lost even before the chase began, well what is the pursuit of 360 + against an Aussie attack in a pressure game.

Sachin’s form saw an apparent dip after the world cup and all the vultures that were waiting to crawl on their weakening prey started to site weaknesses and flaws in his technique.

Sachin had his share of short comings, the most prominent one being his Achilles heel, when we as fans need him most he is usually not there. We endured so much of a pain in those agonizing Sharjah afternoons when our old friend used to pile up a total of 250+ and the Master often gave a good start only to deceive.

We as fans also had to take inevitable comparisons with Inzamam saying Sachin is not a match winner. Well the stats do say otherwise and they do attest that when he makes a Century more than 75% of the times India wins, but for the cynics, a match winning effort only means taking a rabbit out of the hat and winning against all odds. He did so in Sharjah against the Aussies but such things don’t count and are written off as exceptions.

Then back home under the able pioneer-ship of “The Times of India” Sachin dusk was skillfully sketched by the local Media men when his failures in the 2006-2007 Pakistan tour was glorified as his lack of ability to counter express pace bowling and showed signs of aging as the main reason. Ironically one of the greats of Pakistan Hanif Mohammed, stood by the master and said that players like Rahul Dravid Ricky Ponting and Inzamam are great players, but Sachin is way beyond all of them. Then after a disastrous World Cup people were asking for Sachin to be sacked and even his beloved Mumbai crowd betrayed him and went thru the popular notions and booed him when he was out scoring very little after facing many deliveries.

Honestly that section of crowd present on that test match day let Mumbai and even India down by resorting to such an appalling act and makes me believe that the crowds in Chennai Bangalore and Hyderabad know their cricket and their players more than the crowds in some of the other cities. Am more than certain that Sachin would never have faced such humiliation in any of the aforementioned cities.

Then the inevitable resurrection of the Champion came and in all candidness I never expected a comeback of such magnitude even though I claim to be a diehard well wisher of Sachin. I did my bit of fire fighting against all the assaulters who joined the anti Sachin Bandwagon a little too early (probably to address their own insecurities from the more learned) and were mortal enough to write-off the Immortal God of cricket. It’s normally said nobody is bigger than a game, but I guess it’s fair to say that Sachin is as big as the game and Sunil Gavaskar rightly said on the arrival of Sachin that he is god’s gift to the game of cricket.

And as agreed upon vehemently by all of us, Indian’s are in awe of statistics and the BCCI being aware of this fact and the core constituents of that committee is full of uncompromising statistical minded Indians, am sure they will give Sachin a go ahead and allow him to play as long as he possibly can and make him not only break all possible batting records but preserve them in a way that nobody can even come close.

So Mr Ponting, you are playing a catch up game and never under estimate the might of the BCCI to influence the Aussie cricket board to get you even sacked if you continue to pose a threat to Sachin.

Normally I don’t watch cricket matches in India even if the opponent is Australia for the simple reason that Indian pitches are maniacally batsman friendly and it’s no fun to watch a 50 version game when the bowler gets smacked out of the park right from the 1st ball to the 300th. But I was glad that a super dear pal of mine gave a reminder about the game yesterday and once I was done with the call and had nothing much to do except to joyfully procrastinate the things I had to do. I switched on the TV and was overjoyed to see Sachin on 88 in 70 odd balls. I saw him get to his 100 and switched off the TV but given the earliness of the century I was mindful of the likely outcome if he stayed at wicket and as a fan of Sachin am for ever the optimist. When I saw him race to 139 in my next visit to the channel I knew something was on cards and on my third visit I saw him in the 170 range I knew this could be his day. So I was glued to the TV and waited till the 49th over as he crossed milestone after milestone and the most pleasing one being the Saeed Anwar Milestone more so because he did so in an unfair manner when Afridi ran for him more than 100 runs and incidentally Sachin was the captain of that Indian side and talk about generosity to allow such a gesture only to be knocked out in our own Independence cup much earlier than wanted. I was glad finally that it was Sri Lanka who won the cup and not the old foe.

Sorry for drifting, such is the nostalgia of Sachin Tendulkar and thank you Master and Salutations for all your hunger interest perseverance and I only have one suggestion to make, never take things for granted and consolidate your records as much as you can so that they can be cemented in your name for eternity. Simple reason being never in my life time can a cricketer debut at the age of 16 and play for two decades and I hope to see a silver jubilee in career years for you.

And the immortal words said about you by a blogger I admire most. Is the best way I can sign this off…

The old Sachin radiated heat. The new Sachin gives light. But he still remains the sun.