Losing faith in the God that is Sachin Tendulkar
Friends, Indians, cricket fans, lend me your ears. I come to bury Sachin, not to praise him. Okay, that may have been a bit dramatic, but you’ve been warned for what’s to come. I know what you have to say. You shall call me blasphemous, you shall call me a heretic, you shall banish me to the depths of hell. And I welcome it. I have held my tongue long enough, and it is time I speak.
I know what you have to say. Two hundred test matches. Has anyone ever come close? Over 34000 test runs. Can any other mortal dream of such feats? And of course a hundred hundreds. Forget mortals, can the Gods themselves fathom such brilliance. But wait, he is God. Rather, he was God.
Easily, the most written about cricketer in history, possibly even one of the most written about of all sportsmen, I present to you Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. He is a man that needs no introduction. Yet I shall bore you with one. Please bear with me.
Standing just shy of five and a half feet, Sachin Tendulkar became a household name at a very young age. He was destined for the stars they said. More importantly, he was one of the few destined ones who managed to touch the stars. He accomplished just about everything there was to accomplish in international cricket, the only accolade that did not belong to him that comes to mind is highest individual test score. Well, there had to be something didn’t there? Surely even he can’t be that perfect.
Most people think he is though. He may have retired half a year ago but the internet is still flooded with posts about his brilliance. And there’s no denying it. He was brilliant. Was. Brilliance fades, as it does with all those that are burdened with the tag. However, what the brilliant men and women of the world need to remember is how they want their brilliance to be remembered.
Do they want their brilliance to take centre-stage, being their ghost stealing the spotlight long after they have strutted off the stage, a rapt audience sitting at the edge of their seats, happy simply replaying the memories time and time again. Like Harper Lee. Or do they want the brilliance that they slowly and painstakingly accumulated over a career that spanned over two decades to be relegated to a footnote by greed in the home stretch. Because that is how I remember Sachin Tendulkar.
I wasn’t always like this, trust me. I was with the teeming masses that shouted his name over and over and over and over, watching him decimate the best with such elegance that the bowlers themselves stood in appreciation (you might want to throw in a touch of anger there as well).
In 2009, I started a chorus of “SACHIN, SACHIN” while everyone else at the Feroz Shah Kotla were distraught at him being run out by Mitchell Johnson. I was a fan, as (possibly even a little more) devoted to him as any other. Was.
On the 2nd of April, 2011, he, by his own admission, had conquered all there was to conquer in the cricketing world. He lifted the elusive World Cup trophy. I half-expected him to organize a press conference the next day, bowing out on a high that I doubt Bob Dylan would have experienced. He didn’t. Mind you, I still wasn’t hoping for it at this time. We had to head over to England and then Australia, and at this time he was still an invaluable part of the team.
Then the tour of England happened. Let’s not go into the details. No Indian cricket fan wants to delve into that particular chest of nightmares. Long story short, it was bad. Again, not horrible for Sachin himself. 273 runs at an average of 34 when the rest of the team (other than his long time partner in crime, Rahul Dravid, of course) was crumbling around him. Understandable. One bad series. So what. He still warranted a place in the team.
In between this and the next treasure trove of nightmares, he averaged 43 in five innings against the West Indies at home. Nothing to either extreme, nothing to set of panic buttons for either team. Then the team took a trip south of the equator, got thoroughly walloped and came back with its tail between its legs. I think now was time. Averaging 35 against one of his favourite oppositions? You know it’s time to go when you can’t live up to your own expectations. Well, you should know. Some people don’t. VVS Laxman and Dravid did. Doesn’t seem like he did, though.
He continued to play, though he retired from ODIs soon after. I think this is when the resentment began to set in. If I’m not wrong, he once said that it would be greedy of him to retire. Resentment was at an all time high. I used to view him as a selfless player. Safe to say, I didn’t any more. You can’t say something like that. You just can’t. No player is bigger than the team. From then on, every time he stepped on to the field, I was no longer a fan. I was still a fan of the Tendulkar that was, but not of the Tendulkar he had become.
He didn’t do much to prove his critics wrong. In the three home series that India played prior to his retirement, he scored 367 runs in 16 innings, averaging a lowly 23. Far from meeting his own standards, these performances weren’t deserving of a spot in the team. But then again, this is Sachin Tendulkar we’re talking about.
I’m guessing everyone expected me to be overjoyed at him announcing his retirement. Well no, not really. For two reasons.
First, I didn’t hate him. He was still Sachin. I just wished he had gone out on the high that he deserved. Second, (you can call me irrational for this) I will always hold him accountable for our tour of South Africa getting cut short. He wanted to retire at home, in front of his home crowd. Most people would think that to be fair. After all, he was the best player the world had seen, wasn’t he? Surely he warranted this. Possibly, but the point of serving an institution such as a sporting team is that you serve without expecting anything in return.
You take the goods along with the bads. And you don’t try to manipulate the system. You don’t have the BCCI organize a tour of the West Indies simply so that you can get what you want. It isn’t fair. Not to the rest of the team. Not the West Indies. Not to the fans.
I was a diehard fan of Sourav Ganguly. So much so that on Facebook I changed my middle name to ‘Dada’. I cried the day he retired. On that day I remember thinking; God, if I’m like this now, what will I feel when Sachin retires? I’ll tell you what I felt.