A timid BOY, a little taller than 5 ft, made his way to the 22 yards, amidst giants of the game towering over him. And the rest, as they say, is history.
The reality is still taking its time to sink in. Perhaps the truth will not come to bite me till I watch the next Test match played by India. Before I proceed with my love for the little Master, let me tell you that I am a girl. And if I get my silly point, gully and slip mixed up, kindly forgive me. But a few things I will never get wrong- the master’s scintillating straight drive, his magical cover drive, his magnificent upper cuts, those innumerable sixes and those uncountable fours. Now what can a girl have to say about the master that the experts, or the boys have not already spoken about? Well, it is my story of growing up in the late nineties in India. Growing up with cousins who would watch cricket and make you watch it over cartoons, not minding that you were too little to understand the game or make out the difference between the two teams, I had enough knowledge to know that it was a game where there was someone called Sachin Tendulkar, who as my cousin used to say back then was his Living God! I knew little else but that if I let him watch his GOD play, I would get to play cricket with the neighbourhood kids with his SACHIN bat, which was nothing but a battered down bat with an MRF sticker on it! I didn’t even know my cousin’s birthday, but I remember him celebrating Sachin’s birthday with cakes and chocolates, and I got the best chocolates on those days! And I had enough understanding back them to realise, if someone made my cousin celebrate their birthday more fervently than his own, that was just no normal person, but someone who was just above all others. Maybe Sachin Tendulkar is a LIVING GOD.
Now, the most scary thing for a child those days was not to be included as part of a group of friends because you didn’t share anything in common. For a girl, who had to move very early in life from a part of India she had grown up in and been accustomed to, to an entirely new region where she did not even know what the native language of the region was, let alone speak it, fear can definitely reach new horizons. Those days, you didn’t know spoken English when you were 5 or 6 years old. I was barely 6 when we moved. And the place where I went to, people had grown up watching Shah Rukh Khan movies. For me, at that time, I didn’t even know who he was. (No offence, King Khan, perhaps I was too lil to know about you). That was when I began to appreciate that I knew something about cricket. In a place where I knew not the local language, knew not how to speak English comfortably and without basic errors, I was able to talk about Sachin, and that helped me break the ice. And no matter what language they spoke, everyone in my new school knew about Sachin (and cricket, of course)! I made friends in a completely new place. That was when my interest in cricket actually started! I started watching the sport. And I began to understand why Sachin is GOD! I didn’t know what the opposing team was, or who the bowlers were, watching him bat was just sheer magic to me. I may not be good at describing his game as good as guys, but I sure started following all his games with so much interest. And suddenly, the MRF bat, looked like the best thing that was “handed-down” to me! I of course didn’t play a lot with it, just cherished having a version of something that Sachin uses. And slowly, as I grew, the interest in me turned to fervour. The days when I finished my homework early to watch him play, the scolding I got from my parents for watching him play and not studying, being grounded in my room, and staying as silent as possible inside the room to hear the snatches of the commentary outside for every run he scored, the nervous 90s, the eve before the annual exams in school and the semester exams in college, when instead of studying I watched him play in spite of being scolded by my parents. There is just so much to mention. Sachin was my childhood. The many times when I’ve cried at night when he missed his century, the occasions when I sat in a particular spot for the entire duration of his batting so that me changing my place would not bring bad luck to him, keeping my fingers crossed all that time! I was that crazy! And every time he got out, I’d switch off the tv. There was just no cricket without him. Of course, Sourav, Rahul, VVS and Anil have their special places in my heart. One cannot deny the credit that is due to them. But there is just something about Sachin which makes him go above all of them.
When the “Superman from India” retired from the ODI arena, there was the comfort that he would still play in the tests. But when he announced his retirement from the sport as a whole, it was just too numbing. Of course I knew it was coming. Who am I kidding when I say I thought he’d play forever? But was I ready to accept it? No. Definitely not. A part of my childhood died when he made that farewell speech. I cried when he spoke, and I wept when he touched the 22 yards for one last time, along with every other Indian. For me, whose age is less than his life between the 22 yards, it is difficult to imagine cricket without him. We may have our Dhonis, Kohlis, Sharmas (the R, not the I), the Rainas, but we will never have another Sachin. Even now, with an exam tomorrow, I decided to pen this down. Such is the power he wields over me. Not just over me, over every Indian. SACH is life. Will I follow cricket after this? Yes I will. Will I watch cricket after this? That is a different story and a question to which I do not know the answer yet.
You may have retired, but to quote Alfred Lord Tennyson, “For men may come and men may go, but you go on forever”. You will live in our hearts forever, as the little man who conquered the world.
To the GOD who gave me, a girl, a memorable childhood- from the Sachin labels, the number 10 jersey, not to forget my cricket trump cards (you were and always will be the first in the pack), to the newspaper/Sportstar clippings and pictures that covered my room (yes, i’m a girl with Sachin clippings over my wall), to the magic that kept me spellbound, to the tears of joy you brought whenever you hit a century, the tears of agony when you got out in your 90s, the sadness over your various injuries, especially the tennis elbow which threatened to end your career early, I have this to say- THANK YOU. Thank you for everything. You will be missed. Dearly. Love you Sachin. Hope retirement gives you the life you want.
Here goes Sachin. Will there be SACH another??
P.S.- for all those people who think that Rahul or Sourav didn’t get the farewell they deserved, I have this to say- Sachin didn’t ask for it. It came to him. Allow the man to retire peacefully. Please.
P.P.S.- Yes, he is the youngest to receive the Bharat Ratna, and yes, lots deserved it but never did get. But please.. Give the man a break!!
P.P.P.S.-This is MY personal opinion!