Photo credit: Getty Images
This is the one thing every cricket fan in India has missed yawping while watching the Little Master play. The 5.5 inches tall, curly-haired, humble Maharashtrian who needs no introduction, entertained India with his prodigal skills for 24 years till he finally retired from all forms of cricket, a year ago.
16th November 2013, saw the most majestic farewell any cricketer has ever received. 34,000 people in attendance and 1.25 billion people present in spirit, were hooked onto their television and radio sets hoping to see one last fairytale ton from the master. The 74 he hit in his last test innings against West Indies was nothing short of magnificent. He lived up to his name and showcased some great cover drives – the ones he is well-known for.
Tendulkar’s farewell speech left everyone extremely emotional; with a void that has been impossible to fill; an overwhelming feeling of discomfort and reality that hit them hard, really hard – we will never see our dear Sachin play cricket again. “I can imagine cricket without Sachin, but I can’t imagine Sachin without cricket”, said his wife Anjali on his magical bond with the game.
In his unbelievably long career panning over more than two decades, Tendulkar went on to break many records. With a whopping 34,357 runs in his kitty, he has made 452 One Day International appearances and 200 Test match appearances – the highest by any cricketer in the world. His record of 100 centuries is also one that will remain unbroken for a long time.
Tendulkar made his debut against Pakistan in the year 1989. He faced fierce players like WasimAkram, Waqar Younis and Imran Khan. He proved his worth and from thereon there was no stopping the Little Master.
In the 90’s, when India was suffering from a huge economic and political crisis – globalization, assassinations of political leaders, the demolition of Babri Masjid, stark chaos all around – it was this humble man who, somewhere on the 22 yards was subtly creating magic; it was when Sachin came on the crease that people longed for him to stay longer. When he batted, people switched on their television sets and switched off their lives.
Back then, most of India’s batting pressure invariably went onto the shoulders of this petite man. Probably this is why people thought he would do miracles with his bat each time he would get onto the crease and raised him to the status of a ‘God’. It was only in the middle of the 90’s that his burden was reduced with the entry of the remaining triad of ‘The Fab Four’ – SauravGanguly, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman. These three were made heroes and Sachin thus became the ‘God’.
Tendulkar’s most memorable match still remains his devastating 134 against Australia in Sharjah. A close favorite by consensus is his fabulous innings at Gwalior in which he made a double ton. The first man to do so; no surprises there!
One of the best moments for any Indian has got to be when India won the World Cup in 2011. “It is the best day of my life!” Sachin exclaimed with the trademark childlike smile of his.
Virat Kohli rightly put all feelings into words by saying, “Sachin has carried the burden of the nation for 21 years on his shoulders, it is time we carried him on our shoulders now.” It is quite a weight to have expectations of 1.25 billion people on your tiny little shoulders.
Each time India won, it gave us a reason to celebrate; a reason to forget that we’re a land which thrives on divides based on caste, class, gender and religion. Cricket became a religion of its own that united each one and made them ‘Indian’, at least for a day.