I wrote this post on 24th Feb 2010, a date that fans across the world would remember as history being made. A day when the Little Master slammed the first ever ODI double ton. This was written in unbelievable excitement and pride in my heart as a solemn, little, tribute, to the best cricketer the planet's ever seen.
Some years ago, perhaps some time in the early nineties, in the beautiful island town of Port Blair, a young school kid was being reprimanded by his angry father, for his low marks in his Maths exam. His father, a cricket fanatic himself, pointed to an old, black & white 'Solidaire' TV and told the boy, pointing his finger to his hero on the tiny screen and told him - "Look at that boy. Look at his guts. You know he was probably a little older than you when people were bowling at him with murderous pace and he stood there unfazed. And you cannot handle a few maths problems?"
I will not say that that comparison was a turning point in the boy's life. The boy grew up to be me, and I am still scared of numbers. :) But me and my father, have grown to realize, that the comparison he made, to get me studying Math, was very very unfair. Dad, you would have been better comparing me to the next door Sathish, or your friend's daughter Swetha, or anyone else for that matter.
You see Dad... I am no God.
Now before you dismiss this as a sheer glorification of a cricket player who has been hitting cricket balls with a piece of wood, all his lifetime, let me tell you, perhaps, it is. :) You may even call it a piece of madness and euphoria that the entire country seems to be engulfed tonight, given the ocassion. But I choose to call this, a very personal, very emotional tribute, to a man I've worshiped as a hero from childhood. A man, they call Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. A man, I've grown up with. A passion, I'll never grow out of.
Every child needs a hero, and having fed a staple diet of superhero comics and animated cartoons on TV, I did have a few of them alright. Caped crusaders, masked outlaws, muscled he-men, there were scores of them. But Sachin Tendulkar was as real, as real could get. I've spent a lot of my afternoons, watching the guy bat on TV, and then tie a tennis ball to a string suspended to the roof and imitate that straight drive, time after time. I have painted my cricket bat, and have written MRF in bold on its face, just to imitate him. I've spent a lot of time, standing in front of a mirror, raised my bat and acknowledged the crowd, just like Sachin did. I bet, lots of you guys like me, would have even tried adjusting that Ab guard, like he does. :D I've cheered every century he has hit as if I had scored one. I've shouted on top of my voice (and woken up the neighbourhood sometimes) whenever I've seen him oblige the crowd and look towards the sky.
I've seen the rise and fall of the man. I've seen so much, that sometimes statistics seem irrelevant. I've seen him punishing Henry Olonga, first ball for six. I've seen Operation Desert Storm, and Shane warne's expression of utter disbelief. I've seen him face unrealistic pressure in his short stint as Captain. I remember vividly, the last over he bowled against SA in the Hero Cup, and the boyish expression of joy when India won by 3 runs. I've googled all about 'Tennis Elbow' when he was down with his injury. I've sweared at all those bowlers who've sledged at Sachin, and have gone berserk when he let his bat do the talking in retaliation. :) I've got into arguments, which have grown into fights, whenever someone would remark that Sachin was past his prime, or that he was not a team player. I've switched off the TV many a times when Sachin got out. I've skipped many dinners, when Sachin got out in the nineties. I remember playing Chumba Wumba's 'Tubthumpin' number, that ESPN-STAR put together as a montage for Sachin's shots (most would remember it as the 'I get knocked down' song) over and over again on my tape recorder. Simply put. I am a FAN. And even after so many years, I am still in awe.
And all this good, will come to an end some day. One day, the little master would take pity on the bowlers of ODI and Test cricket, and will decide to hang up his boots and retire into sunset with the entire world wanting to watch him one more time. And like every cricket lover anywhere in the world, I dread that day, and wish, like a little kid, that it does not come, atleast for the next five years. The man deserves a World Cup, and I hope his team does that for him. I sure do wish in my heart, that the next generation gets to see him play, and watch God on earth, with a piece of willow in his hand.
A lot of wonderful, and overtly brilliant pieces have been written in glory of the man. This does not come within even miles of those. But this immensely personal tribute is just a release of outrageous excitement, that has somehow found an outlet through the keyboard. I must confess, I am so excited tonight, that I honestly don't know what to write. I can go on and on and on, but I know, that this already cheesy, fanaticism filled post would turn even cheesier if I go on. I know, that a man's passionate obsession for his hero, can make for quite some funny reading at times. But for a legend like Sachin Tendulkar, I am more than willing to take that. ;) For every time he raises his bat to thank the crowd, he resembles a magician waving a wand, and dispatches a sense of joy, that would be immensely difficult to put in words. And today, when he has boldly gone, where no man has gone before, only reaffirms the fact, that he is, truly, the God of all things.
I've seen God, he currently plays for the Indian Cricket Team. :D