The Tendulkar Opus

y day today started by waking up very late and was soon engrossed by the mob violence at India Gate and the Super Sunday that followed that when I heard Sachin had retired from ODIs, I was starting to take it in a much more easier way than I had thought, I would.

Maybe it was the fact that there were more disturbing events happening in the country, maybe it was his indifferent form and the constant calls of retirement (including mine) to avoid what happened to Kapil Dev – somehow it all seemed way too easy to be believable.

And after sundown, I was sitting down calmly, reading through the dozens of eulogies that have already cropped up on the master and I realize, I am not going to see him bleed blue any more. Not even once more, for the series against Pakistan. I am sure many of my friends had booked their tickets in the intention of seeing the master and they would all be gutted by now. We have just seen the last of Sachin Tendulkar in a Team India blue jersey. No, it doesn’t sink in so easily.

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This was supposed to be a colossal event. There was supposed to be a statement saying that the Pakistan series would be his last and wherever he went, cricket fans were supposed to get one final chance, one final glimpse of the little master in action. Cricketing greats would have flown in to see him, one last time from across the world. “The Don” himself, would have risen from his grave and grabbed the nearest TV screen. One last time. Even the BCCI were supposed to make money out of this event as well – raising ticket prices and asking for tax exemptions for the Pakistan series. Because in India, people would give their own life to see the man take the field. Only in India would the railways stop to see him get his 100 and then continue their journey. Only in India would life come to a standstill and would keep the citizens stand in front of a little TV screen in bated breath, gaping, their mouths wide open, in anticipation of a Tendulkar special. Only in India would then people carry on with their lives, shutting off their TV screens in anguish when he got out (despite 9 more wickets remaining), because he has always been the synonym of hope for them. He had that golden chance to arrest a billion hearts, all over, once again, one last time.

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Instead, there were no such grandstand finishes, no standing ovations, no commemorative speeches or felicitations – just a small press conference where everything was revealed to a shell shocked cricketing fraternity. In his own words –

“I have decided to retire from the One Day format of the game. I feel blessed to have fulfilled the dream of being part of a World Cup winning Indian team. The preparatory process to defend the World Cup in 2015 should begin early and in right earnest. I would like to wish the team all the very best for the future. I am eternally grateful to all my well wishers for their unconditional support and love over the years.”

I am sure many of the cricket fans in the country have given up on the game today. Many believe that One-day cricket will always be synonymous with him and it would be almost impossible to see Team India without Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. I do not agree to the last statement personally, although I am still of the opinion that my passion to the game has surely gone down a few notches today. It started being on the decline when Gilly (Adam Gilchrist) hung up his boots. That was followed by dada (Sourav Ganguly). Warney (Shane Warne) and the Prince (Brian Lara) had already decided enough was enough 2 years ago and they had moved out. Murali (Muttaiah Muralitharan) followed up soon and then recently did Jammy (Rahul Dravid) and Punter (Ricky Ponting). I grew up watching them. I adored the game for what it is today, watching them and keeping them as my cricketing role models. Who could possibly impact me more than any of them? MS Dhoni? Alastair Cook? Dale Steyn? Though all these names have been remarkable in their own right, none like those mentioned apriory.

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Like most successful business models from across the world, the journey of Sachin Tendulkar – from being one among the 1000s playing the game to being the epitome of perfection in the game hasn’t been anything like bread-and-butter. Its been a constant re-invention process – identifying the chinks in the armour and doing away with them by bringing on newer innovations. All successful people and businesses have constantly been involved in a learn-unlearn-relearn process and he has not been left behind there as well. Another important word I would like to emphasize is customization. In cricketing terms, acclimatizing to the alien conditions and managing to give out the most desired results. There is no continent where he hasn’t scored a century, no opposition against whom he doesn’t have a world record. And thus, seeing his exploits in his domain, people in India call him GOD. For it is felt that only god could be the epitome of such colossal awesomeness.

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What I and most of India would miss the most with this retirement would be the ability of a man to single handedly influence the decisions of a billion strong cricket – obsessed audience. To lift the spirits up with one glorious cover drive or the trademark straight-past-the-bowler drive. To electrify any cricket stadium and television screen with the traditional Tendulkar style, bat-in-one-hand-helmet-in-the-other reverence to his father and god (his usual pose once he reaches a landmark). To shut up a sledging bowler and make him regret for sledging the master – not by sledging back at him but by dispatching the next ball out of the stadium.  To have that re-assuring presence of a man, short in stature, yet with a massive heart, whose presence in the middle has a calming influence on most number of people alike. India breathes well, when Sachin is playing well.

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The day is not far when we shall forever lose him to retirement. The day is not far when he will, through another press conference decide to tell the world by way of his soft spoken demeanour that enough is enough and he feels the need to leave the stage forever. My only wish is that he decides to take it upon himself to bow out rather than giving the onus onto the selection committee and the captain to decide on his fate. Champions like him and all those names mentioned above have taken it upon themselves to decide their fate and it would be a shame, if it happened otherwise.

Ask me who was the best cricketer to have ever graced the planet was and I will point you to this man. Ask me where you want to keep a cricketing yardstick for defining greatness, and I will mention this man’s name, show you his records and tell you to wake me up when somebody breaches them. Because for me, there is Tendulkar…then there is daylight…and then there is the rest.