Disclaimer: An episode in a biography of Sachin Tendulkar I skimmed through recently spurred my emotions and hence I decided to share it with my beloved sportskeeda readers and fellow Sachin fanatics.
Beneath the curly hair, the sheepish grin and those eyes that lit up when into those shots, there is an organ that pumps vehemence, inquisitiveness, zealousness along with the red liquid. Talent needs to be complemented with the tenacity, grit, resilience and to sum it up, attitude to raise up the ranks. In Tendulkar’s case, longevity and endurance are the words that would fit like a glove. So, barring ‘Boost’, what has been the secret of his energy? The answer is right there starring at you. In his own parlance, love for the game. Unlike the current day love stories, this is love that has come of age, standing the test of time and cruising past many a barricades that rolled by this illustrious journey.
An exhibition of such passion and love was in the 1999 World Cup in England. Fixtures had it that India would take on Kenya in the group stage. Uncharacteristic of an India-Kenya encounter, this one assumed significance as India were routed by the Proteas and Zimbabwe in the opening group stage games and this contest was supposed to be a do or die dual for India. Preceding the match against Zimbabwe, there was a sour news that came by from Mumbai which conveyed the sad demise of Sachin’s father, Ramesh, a retired professor. This shook the master and he flew to Mumbai to complete his last rites, forcing him to miss the Zimbabwe game.
Back home, Sachin was in languishing in deep grief and a cloud of gloom had surrounded him. He was shell shocked and even in the longest stretch of his imagination he didn’t ponder over the thought of joining back the squad at England. Twists and turns aren’t new to the master’s career and akin to it, his mother, Rajni Tendulkar was under the presumption that if his father was alive on the planet, in all his breath, he would enjoyed seeing his son at the crease, battering the bowlers all over the park. This thought induced Tendulkar and circled the master’s head. Convinced with his mother’s conception, he decided to fly back to England and feature in the next encounter against Kenya.
Having reached Britain, the master was no where close to his usual self. Silence loomed, but the intensity of practice that goes into every game wasn’t eaten into even though he had reached the squad just about 24 hrs before the game went on its track. Visibly, the master was struck by grief and that had taken a toll on him, cricket being the mind game it is, the support staff and his teammates had their apprehensions on the master’s mindset. Yet again, he isn’t hailed as the master for no reason.
When he made his way to the center, amid the usual rapturous applause and the haywire cheering, there was something unusual in his eyes. The enthusiasm was missing but it was replaced with some resolve and valor. Even with his partner, the conversation was limited. The moment the master took guard, he came to his own and the usual scintillating shots were churned out. This time it was controlled aggression, yet, the shots flew from the sweet spot of the bat. The autograph straight drive and the cheeky paddle sweeps were all in place and just that the shots were selected with a surgeon’s precision. Every shot had a message pinned with it, that could be sensed in his eyes. The back lift was a bit more than usual and the shots were completed with extra care. The ball wasn’t hit very hard, but with every delivery the underlying point was that, he din’t want to concede his wicket.
His best usually surfaces when he plays by his instincts. This innings surely wasn’t according to his instincts, he wanted to prove a point or two and provide his mom and family back home with some respite and more importantly seek some solace for the departed soul. Much to his reckoning, he made a masterful 140 off 101 balls. After reaching the three figure mark, the master took off his helmet, looked up to the skies, raised his bat, waved it hard, tears rolling down his cheek, his eyes shutting, much alike his father who was up there watching this innings, holding his last breath and waiting for this century, so that he could fade off happily. Finally all the grief that was buried deep down, had come out in the language that is well known to him, Batting. Eyes moistening the first time ever since he heard the news, from that day, till date, after every century of him, he looks to the skies thanking his father and attributing it to him.
Cricket is our religion and Sachin is our God.