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Please don’t go just yet, Sachin!

The man, the master, the legend

Many reports have suggested that the great Don Bradman got out for a duck in his last test innings since he had tears in his eyes when he went out to bat and couldn’t see the ball clearly. While that may or may not be true, it is likely that he was too emotional to be able to score those 4 elusive runs that would have taken his career test average to exactly 100. (Bradman later admitted the standing ovation stirred up his emotions but he denied shedding tears and gave the bowler credit for getting him out.)

I can’t imagine what frame of mind Sachin Tendulkar will be in when he straps his pads on, puts on his helmet and walks on to the pitch for one last time. When an ordinary cricket fan like me can’t bear that thought, I don’t know what will go through the mind of the little master himself. And yet, no matter how much millions of cricket fans in India and around the world dread that day, it is not too far away. Finally, even Sachin has admitted that he doesn’t have a lot of cricket left in him.

While we watch Sachin in the twilight of his career, it is hard not to look back at his illustrious career and all the records he has set but what Indian fans will remember him for are all the memories he has given us. No one (and this includes no exceptions though I have a feeling Rajnikanth fans might disagree with me!) has taken India through so many highs and some lows as Sachin has over the last 23 years.

I don’t know anyone who saw a 16-year-old Sachin taking on Abdul Qadir and Mushtaq Ahmed on his debut tour to Pakistan in 1989 and didn’t fall in love with him. That Sachin was 16 was definitely a sub-plot in the main story. That Srikanth, the then-India captain and the most explosive batsman India had produced until then, was struggling and played a maiden over at the other end was another sub-plot. That Qadir the veteran had a few words with Sachin the rookie was yet another.

But more than all these, the key takeaway for the Indian fans from that game was that this was someone who wasn’t overawed by anyone. Someone who just didn’t want to compete with the best in the world but wanted to dominate them. Someone who wouldn’t choke on the world stage unlike many others in his shoes had in the past. Someone who hated losing and had the talent to do something about it.

They didn’t know just yet whether this was a flash in the pan or whether a genius was born that day but it gave them hope for future. They followed the fortunes of the young man closely and slowly that hope turned into confidence.

Since then for the last 23 years, for tens – possibly hundreds – of millions of Indian cricket fans around the world, cricket and Sachin have been inseparable. They have rejoiced every time he hit a four or a six and have switched off their TV sets when he got out. They have watched him from the comfort of their living rooms or standing in a crowded barbershop if they had to. Before 2011, every time India failed to win the world cup they didn’t just feel disappointed for themselves but for Sachin as well.

Now that these fans prepare for the inevitable, there is no better way to describe what they feel than the words from the old famous Hindi duet “Abhi na jaao chhod kar ke dil abhi bhara nahi”. It roughly translates into “Please don’t go just yet, my heart yearns for more”.

My nephew thinks Sachin is a great player but can’t see what the fuss about his retirement is all about. He is 13 and represents the cricket fan of the younger generation. While I feel sad that he didn’t get to see Sachin’s batting for all of last 23 years, I also feel happy for him that he doesn’t have to suffer the pain and agony of Sachin’s retirement in the same way that the older cricket fans will have to.

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