Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sachin Tendulkar : The Miracle Man!

 
February 24th - 2010

In my last blog post called Crocin, Vicks and Shahrukh Khan I made a statement about cricket stars in comparison with Bollywood stars.

“Cricket comes a close second, but the stars there are fewer and uni dimensional”

Now I am searching for a cane, to whip myself. For having forgotten that the game has this miracle man called Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. He slapped me on my face today. I forgot that he existed until he reminded me to dare not forget him ever.


The Eventful 200*

Today the world witnessed an event. An event about which we are going to talk for a long long time to come.  I was super excited while it was happening. Fortunately or unfortunately, I had taken an off from office because my son was not well, and wow, did this day count. I had a tough time though convincing my four year old to let me watch Sachin’s innings instead of Chota Bheem on Pogo. I finally won, and didn’t waste any time in catching the action live. I was also reaching out to people on Facebook and Twitter to tell them to stop everything that they were doing and catch the making of History Live. Am glad that my messages reached a few people and helped them catch the moment just in time.

While I was excitedly tweeting, someone wrote back asking me why and how this event would help him in his daily life. Hmmm!!! I was amused. I promptly replied saying that one cannot measure everything in life by the benefits or profits that one derives from acts like this. What Sachin achieved today is something that cannot be measured by just numbers; History when created is plain History. A moment in time; frozen for the collective consciousness to savour and retell for the rest of their lives - like the people who would have witnessed the first man to land on the moon or the first to scale Everest.

Achievers

Talking of the achievers, there are many who have achieved great feats. Yet, we only remember the first ones to do it. Hence we remember only a Neil Armstrong  and to some extent Buzz Aldrin to be the first to step on the moon, Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary to scale Mount Everest, Nadia Comaneci to score a perfect 10 in gymnastics at the Olympics, Roger Bannister to be the first man to run the Mile under 4 minutes. Sachin joins this illustrious league today and is immortalized because he is the first man on this planet to score a One Day International Double Century. First man in 39 years since the inception of the One Day Internationals. And to top it all he is already a legend many times over due to his exploits in the field.

What more can I write about Sachin that you do not already know? Yet I am tempted to write about a few of my personal experiences while growing up watching Sachin deliver his magic. So let me start with the start. The time, when it all started.

Change of Guard – The late 80’s

Before talking of Sachin, let me take you to the year in which he made his debut and the world that existed then. The year was 1988-89. I was still in high school. Cricket was already the heartbeat of the nation. It had its share of iconic players. Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev were household names during the 70’s and the 80’s. Sadly Gavaskar retired by then and Kapil’s magic was on the wane. The next set of superstars were all fading away. Ravi Shastri was being booed away from stadiums. Dilip Vengsarkar, my favourite batsman of that time was in bad shape with a disastrous tour of the West Indies where he was captain. Kris Srikkanth, the flamboyant batsmen, was forced to captain the team to Pakistan and was also reaching the end of this career, Mohd Azharuddin was the last among the generation of the 80’s that seemed to continue the baton and he was alone. The nation was badly in need of a new hero.

Those were the days when we watched cricket on Doordarshan, and only a lucky few who had access to DD2 could watch the matches uninterrupted by regional telecasts. Commentary on radio was the other popular option. Cable TV, internet, mobile phones etc did not exist back then. The best source of detailed information was the daily newspaper. And the only reason why I read The HINDU newspaper everyday was to catch the sports columns on cricket with the scorecards and statistics. I used to file cuttings of the scorecards during the 1987 world cup in India. I still have them stored somewhere in my attic, which my mom says I should clear out soon, as if I would ever.

I had another addiction, which made me sleepless every Wednesday night. The latest issue of the Sportstar magazine would be out on Thursday. I have a collection of every single issue of the Sportstar from 1985 to 1991 in the same attic. It was the most colourful and nourishing piece of sports information with brilliant colour photographs and articles. Not just to read about cricket but to savour every other sport like Tennis, boxing, Formula 1, etc. I used to wait eagerly to see what the centrespread would be. Would it be Ivan Lendl, Boris Becker, Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf, Mike Tyson, Carl Lewis or Gabriela Sabatini. Remember Sabatini? I guess, many who are reading this article were not even born then to recall any of the names above. Anyways, those were the times.

First Impressions

So, one fine day, I don’t remember correctly if it was in The Hindu or Sportstar that I read about two school boys creating a world record. I still remember the black and white photograph quite well. The names, Sachin Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli were being talked about quite highly. There was an upcoming tour of West Indies and talk was that Sachin would be picked for the series. Later I read that Sunil Gavaskar adviced Sachin not to take up the tour of West Indies and instead concentrate on his board exams and  make his debut in a less hostile setting compared to the pace attack of the Windies.

The Indian team got a royal pasting by the West Indies and the next tour was that of Pakistan. Whew! No less hostile a setting with pace bowlers like Imran Khan, Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram, but the discontent was growing with the existing Indian team, new blood had to be infused. This was Sachin’s turn to join the big league.

Packing the Pakis

Pakistan. The name stirred so many emotions back in the 80’s, many people of today’s generation would fail to understand what it was like then. The team had the most destructive and savage players. Who can forget Javed Miandad and his last ball six at Sharjah, Imran Khan the maverick captain or Abdul Qadir the magician leg spinner. They tormented the Indian team for the most part of the second half of 80’s. Indians were sorry losers. The aggression was missing and the intent was totally lacking. No one even expected Sachin to do any miracle. He was being seen as a potential candidate to slowly take on the mantle from Gavaskar, the little master. Big shoes though to fill in. Gavaskar was known as more of a master craftsman who earned his runs, single by single. But where was the aggression?  The mantle of the original Master Blaster lay with another man, Vivian Richards of the West Indies. He was the most explosive and destructive batsman of that era. No bowler could look him in the eye and he terrorised every attack he faced. Little did the people watching Sachin in that series suspect him to do what Richards did as his daily bread and butter, ie to eat the bowlers alive.

The test matches of that series were quite uneventful but there was an exhibition match later, where the world witnessed for the first time what Sachin Tendulkar was and how he transformed into a combination of both the Little Master as well as the Master Blaster. It was just a single over that completed this transformation. The bowler was Abdul Qadir, the most feared leg spinner. Sachin stepped out to Qadir and hit him for 4 sixers in one over, overall scoring a solid 53 runs from just 18 balls. He stunned the opposition, almost finishing off Abdul Qadir’s international career. He showed an aggression laced with technique that was rarely showcased by any other cricketer in living memory. I was extremely fortunate to witness this event on TV. That day, we fell in love with Sachin, and continue to do so 21 years later with the same jaw dropping awe.

Wonder Boy to Superman

After the tour of Pakistan it was the memorable trip to England that enhanced his reputation where he became the second youngest player ever to score a test century. He was hailed as the Wonder Boy of cricket. He was just a teenager, curly hair and chubby cheeks all in place. I wondered how different he looked from a typical flamboyant cricketer. He has retained the same humility and boyish charm even after so many years of continuous cricketing action.

The first time I saw him in person was at the Secunderabad Gymkhana Grounds where he was playing a domestic match shortly after his successful tour of England. There was no stadium and all that separated us was a simple wire mesh. During the lunch break I even managed to climb onto the wall and peek into the dressing room window to see the team eating samosas with tomato ketchup. Sachin was a real person. On TV, cricketers look like supermen, but in reality they are real people like you and me and it takes extraordinary ability to make one believe that one is superman, leave alone being compared to GOD. That realization dawned on me when I breathed the same air as Sachin on that hot Sunday afternoon.

There is a lot that he has achieved after that, and it would be humanly impossible for any one person to talk of all his exploits. With all humility, I will only mention a few more experiences that I cherish the most.

Just two, of his many

The year was 1998 and he was playing against Australia at the M A Chidambaram stadium in Chennai. This was the first time I had a chance to watch him live in a test match at a stadium, I had seen him earlier in a few one day matches too, but this was a special knock. The Australians were dominating but the way he built his innings and toiled to win the match is stuff of legends now. I was a witness that day and am damn proud of being there. One should see the excitement and anticipation in the crowds when he is on the field. Watching a cricket match in a stadium is one of the most exciting feelings and seeing Sachin in flow is like watching a Michael Jackson Concert live. Don’t miss the chance to see Sachin play in a stadium at least once in your lifetime in case you already haven’t. You will thank me after you do that.

The more I write about Sachin I want to keep on writing, finding it hard to stop and I know I haven’t started yet. Hmmm. Let me talk of another exciting match that reiterated Sachin’s genius. The match was again with Pakistan, but this time it was in 2003 World Cup at South Africa. The world had changed a lot since the late 80’s. I was in Bangalore then, working in a building right across the road to Carlton towers that was sadly hit by fire yesterday. That day in 2003 though, the excitement in the air was very high. We got used to following cricket commentary on Cricinfo. Internet and mobile phones became a new part of our lives. Cable TV was already a household thing for a decade by then. I had gone to office that morning only to be told that it was going to be a half day so that we can watch the match at home. We jumped with joy, it was going to be a festival. India was on a dream run that time, would Pakistan throw a spanner in our party?

I quickly reached home and sat glued to the television. India was to chase a good score. Out came Sachin and Sehwag, the dream openers. Heartbeat was racing high and the anticipation was killing. Everything was put to rest when Sachin hit that now famous Six over third man of Shoaib Akthar’s bowling. The psychological battle was won at that moment, and India was on a roll. Sachin being the architect of the entire innings yet sadly missing out on a well deserved century. From the first ball of the match till the last I remember not getting up, not moving even one inch from my seat, not touching the remote, and not doing anything else, lest something goes wrong in the match. I just sat there watching, that’s all, and made my wife do the same too. And we won - we all declared that Sachin is God.

Fast forward to 2010

I am still sitting in front of the TV with my wife and two kids this time and still wishing for more miracles from the same man. The world around has changed a lot since 2003, leave alone 1989. We have moved on from the days of Doordarshan to Twitter and Facebook, yet still look up to Sachin for salvation.

He indeed is GOD!