The most popular alias for Sachin Tendulkar has been the “The God of Cricket”. A bunch of fans will just pop up from one side of the spectrum to endorse this vastly used synonym to Tendulkar. They just don’t say it as a name; they preach it like the loyal worshippers of this “human being”. Read carefully, I said human being which a lot of his formerly mentioned worshippers might not take very sportingly. They may call other fans like us on the other side of the spectrum as mere atheists. Atheists we are if that is what it takes to be the actual fans of this great man and the supporters of this beautiful game.
When Tendulkar knocked off his 100th hundred at Mirpur, Dhaka a month ago, the most astonishing yet not the most surprising statement that came out of the great man’s post match transcript goes something like this – “I feel I have lost 50 kilos”. If that would have actually happened, God knows what would have transpired. But, on a serious note, the most relevant inference from this statement is something for the Tendulkar fans or I dare say “worshippers” to draw.
We have had an equivalent contribution to what the phenomena Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar actually is today, and therefore we have all the rights in the world to be addicted to this dope free high. But, in the process of making Sachin what he is, we have made what we like the most about him, that is, his outstanding batsmanship take a rather benign back seat. What’s more is that in the age of the internet and live scores, we have lost the need to actually catch the glimpses of the Maestro’s batting but have instead assigned ourselves with the new task of scrutinizing his scorecard and the statistics emerging out of it. Growing use of jet age statistical tools has been the perfect stimulant for the aforesaid.
When I see those videos of an eighteen year old baby faced individual beating the living daylights out of Merv Hughes, Craig McDermott, Angus Fraser and Chris Lewis, which I’m sure were not baby faces, I can’t help but get nostalgic in more ways than one. Even when I backtrack to the videos of the master’s 169 at Cape Town in 1996 or the 100 at the MCG in 1999 or a vastly popular thunderstorm hundred at Sharjah in 1998 or the World Cup match against Pakistan in 2003 (Centurion), there is a sense of happiness that rushes through my bloodstream. When I tried to decode this happiness, I found out that obviously Tendulkar memories will always be like those cheerful stimulants in a routinely stressful life but there was something more to it. There was a vein of emptiness or a missing link I felt while watching those magnificent knocks, which is quite surprising considering Tendulkar has not called it a day yet. Then I realized it is not because of Tendulkar that the links were emptied, rather I realized that there was a change in me as fan in the way I watched cricket then and the way I watch it now.
There’s a hell of a lot mentioned in the previous paragraph about a common syndrome that has struck the “Tendulkar Fan” (I really don’t want to get down discussing about the syndrome that has struck his visibility hungry critics). We have become too obsessed with his dominance of the world game which has ultimately started to backfire. We don’t watch with the innocent joy any more, rather we watch to prove a point or to be proven a point, we don’t enjoy the visuals as much as we enjoy following live scores, we don’t applaud the terrific stroke play, rather we applaud a figure. All this is an ironical symphony with a statistic oriented or a rather statistically obsessed society of ours which by no means has been helped by the daily stress levels.
There was streak of nostalgia that paid a visit during India’s first two tests in Australia in 2011-12. There was an admirable freedom with which the great man was batting and some golden signs just made their presence felt. But, after Sachin missed his hundred twice in the first two tests, once due to a Siddle scorcher and once due to an odd awkward bounce from Clarke, the psychotherapist in us woke up like never before to decode the reason behind his so-called failures (73 and 80 coupled with a 30 and 40 odd in the 4 innings he had played) resulting in the master actually becoming prey to his billion prospective shrinks. Counting a hundred from zero to three figures instead of 90 to 100 by his fans didn’t help matters either. What followed on the remainder of the tour is history. To be able to pin point one reason for that will be unfair, but it will be highly responsible on our part to take some ownership of the whole scenario that took place considering we have occupied a huge place in his life.
With his hundredth ton complete, we saw a much more relaxed Tendulkar against Pakistan in the following game of the Asia Cup. There were some glimpses of Tendulkar of the old and I guess the fans also made an exception on that day from the norm in the manner in which they saw the maestro go about his business. What we can hope here is that this exception becomes the order for the future or else the 50th ODI hundred can be another elusive landmark or I may say obstacle.
A very happy and a prosperous birthday to the greatest the game of cricket has ever seen – “Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar”. As much as his 39th birthday evokes happiness in our minds and hearts, let us realize that this reminds us of the fact that the great man is definitely at the twilight of his career. Let’s act with a bit of responsibility and I dare say with maturity and watch the remainder of his career with the same explicit ease and freedom like the earlier times. Whilst his cricketing numbers point towards his immortality, this chronological number (39) shows that SRT is also mortal.