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Sachin Tendulkar - A Legacy that will live forever

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – FEBRUARY 26: Sachin Tendulkar of India signs autographs during his last match at the SCG, the One Day International match between Australia and India at Sydney Cricket Ground on February 26, 2012 in Sydney, Australia.

Every great story needs great characters. Heroes, villains and sometimes an audience too. Sachin Tendulkar‘s story is one of the greatest in sports history, and his rivalries with the likes of Akram, Donald, McGrath, Warne and Murali early on, coupled with his continued ones with Lee, Akhtar and Malinga, span one of the greatest periods in men’s cricketing history.

I come from a family of cricket aficionados. My father regaled me and my brother with tales of how he had witnessed Kapil Dev lifting the 1983 World Cup. Thus, my interest in cricket was nurtured since my childhood. Although I don’t think I was genuinely excited about following the sport keenly, it was Tendulkar that kept me intact. The sheer elegance of his game would have been a good enough reason. But then we are talking about Tendulkar here. He does not just surprise you.

He leaves you awestruck.

I distinctly remember the discussions in our school after he broke the record of 34 hundreds in 2005. It took him almost a year to do that. Up until then, most people just watched the World Cup; they didn’t even bother to watch the other major tournaments. It is to Tendulkar’s credit that through his bat, that he almost wields like a magic wand, he has not only managed to create tremendous popularity for the sport of cricket but also made people more interested in the entire ICC calendar.

There are numerous articles that speak about Tendulkar’s greatness, his records, the statistics, his strengths, his weaknesses and his opponents. But you cannot measure the impact a sportsman leaves by being merely quantitative in your analysis. In my humble opinion, what makes Tendulkar so great is that almost every time he walks out to the ground, he is creating history. He is either breaking a record or better still, making one. This is testimony to his perseverance and consistency. It is rare to see someone perform at a high level throughout a season. Kohli did it in 2011, Dhoni did it before that.

Tendulkar has been doing it for the past decade.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – FEBRUARY 26: Sachin Tendulkar of India looks on with a bust of Sir Donald Bradman before his last match at the SCG before the One Day International match between Australia and India at Sydney Cricket Ground on February 26, 2012 in Sydney, Australia.

He is 39 years old, and yet his passion for the game and his hunger to compete at the highest level show his commitment to the sport and to his fans. Cricket as a sport has become increasingly physical with almost all matches going the distance and pushing the boundaries of human stamina. In spite of that, Tendulkar, who is not the youngest on the tour, has been always in the running at the big events. Tendulkar has never been lackadaisical (even when it comes to a charity match) and it is this commitment and level of professionalism that has endeared him to crowds all around the globe.

If money or fame were the motivation, Tendulkar could have retired or taken it easy a while back. Contrary to that, the increased competition and the physical and/or mental limitations of his own have spurred him on to work harder and smarter. This is where I see a similarity between him and Roger Federer. Both are legends in their own right, universally loved and respected.  Both understand the pressure of expectations and have dealt with it better than anyone else. Both play because they love and respect the sport. Both play because they are true sportsmen, who compete fiercely on the court, but once the contest is over, realize that it is over. They are statesmen, icons – they are larger than life.

Roger Federer has been a voice of reason for several years now when it comes to various aspects of the men’s tour. He is the darling of the media, not just because he can speak multiple languages, but also because of his conduct. He is refined, dignified and humorous. He is also human, and does not shy away from giving way to emotions when it matters to him the most. His emotional breakdown after his loss to Rafael Nadal at the 2009 Australian Open was more so because of the context of the entire match.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – FEBRUARY 26: Sachin Tendulkar of India looks on during his last match at the SCG, the One Day International match between Australia and India at Sydney Cricket Ground on February 26, 2012 in Sydney, Australia.

In similar fashion Tendulkar broke down after India won the 2011 World Cup. He’d waited for it since 1992, his first World Cup. His reaction, to me, shows how much cricket, the legends of the game and the legacy of it all means to Sachin. Cricket is considered a gentleman’s sport and there could be no better ambassador of that philosophy than Sachin Tendulkar.

From Old Trafford to Wankhede, to Eden Gardens, to the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium, Tendulkar has entertained and enthralled us all. We are a privileged lot. We are all a part, albeit insignificant…

…but still a part of the great story of Sachin Tendulkar.

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