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Sachin retires: Is it the end?

Feature 24 Dec 2012, 11:53 IST

The only constant and persistent attribute in my protean life has been the honour and regard I have had for a gentleman who has the capability to pull masses to any stage, someone who can lift an entire house on its feet, a man who can restore faith in an agnostic, a man who responds to more men than anyone else on this planet, a man who goes by the name of Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.

Such is the magnanimity and aura of this man that I, along with dozen others, get goose bumps at the mere mention of his name. Discussions on cricket sans him are incomplete and juiceless, a bulletin on the game not featuring him will find no takers, and non-capitalising of his possessive pronouns does count as blasphemy – more than a grammar violation – for some.

If you can make an association consisting of a bunch of baboons – read the BCCI – worth billions then you can do anything. And that’s why we’ve been under a moral obligation since a decade to ask more and more out of this man, and yet the man has answered more prayers than any of our Gods.

What happens when someone of this stature decides to hang his boots? Let alone what the man has to go through, just spare a thought for the people who feel as if they have been robbed of their God. Though his retirement is only from the shorter version of the game, but isn’t it the same format which made him what he is today – a legend? Isn’t this the version we all loved to watch him play?

One day cricket owes a lot to this man; it would never have been the same had Tendulkar decided not to travel to Sharjah. A man in his twenties decimated the Australian attack into pieces and almost single-handedly put India into the finals and eventually took it to the trophy. The images of the ball landing in the crowd time and again will never be washed out from my mind; the memories of the sand storm followed by the Tendulkar tornado will always be one of my most cherished possessions from the game.

His double hundred against the proteas – the best one day side then – deserves a special mention; the mighty pace battery of the South Africans was treated with disdain by the great man as he decided to unleash hell and reach where no man before could. The aplomb with which he gestured towards the heaven after reaching the mammoth milestone was a harbinger to the selflessness of the man. He could have scored more but he let the unweary MSD inflict damage on the bowling attack as he quietly watched from the other end with no jitters of missing out on a double hundred showing up on his face.

His six of Akhtar at the Centurion, his myriad straight drives past McGrath, his stepping out to Warne and hitting him over his head for maximum, his famous and the most cheeky of them all – the paddle sweep – to dozens of slower bowlers, all these memories are the moments I have and the ones I will cherish in my life to come.

The only jewel missing from the diadem was of a World Cup win; such is the psyche of a cricket critic that a flawless career sans the World Cup victory would have been dismissed as unproductive. Even Sachin himself admitted to have felt the incompleteness of his journey, the tag of world champions was missing from his honours. But how long can time keep a man from meeting his destiny? Come 2011 and India won the coveted World Cup trophy; Sachin contributed in a big manner and the scenes of him being lifted by the young team members on their shoulders capped off a glorious moment for Indian cricket.

Nostalgia was never something that was attached with the master, and for the same reason writing down this piece is becoming even more difficult; for me he was always there and I perceived him to be there always. He was timeless, he was boundless but of late his more vulnerable human side prevailed and the bubble burst for millions of us. He is leaving; we will never see the number ten in blue again, we will never see the five and a half feet guy in colours again and that is indeed one of the hardest things of my life to digest.

Wish he was part of an individual sport where he could have made a comeback like Schumacher and continued till the love for the game let him, perhaps leaving the team when he wasn’t the biggest contributor to it explains his greatness. The only way I can fathom this decision is that he quit at a point when the void that he left wasn’t a one that cannot be plugged.

My single greatest regret in life would be to have never watched him play live in ODIs. Alas, I have to live with this now. I would no longer be seen watching a cricket match for a day; the sport is not the same for me anymore.

The frequent flashes of his untouchable records on screen is the way I will continue to relish his presence in the game.

It’s hard but finally it’s time for all of us to wind the clock and reflect on some of the greatest innings of the man we have idolized growing up, time for us to celebrate his career, time for us to thank the man who has been the source of a billion smiles; after all it is not the end.

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