Sachin Tendulkar: A tribute to God
Sachin Tendulkar, whom his fans fondly refer to as ‘God’, has retired from ODIs having scored 18,426 runs with an average of 44.83. The inevitable day that everyone dreaded is finally here.
We will miss you, Sir. In all honesty, I thought you would end your career in ODIs right after the World Cup triumph, but to my delight you decided to continue. Incidentally, your first and last games were against Pakistan. You have indeed come a full, befitting circle. When a cricketer retires, we tend to draw comparisons and try giving a common platform. We live in a world that loves defining things and loathes ambiguity.
So, is Sachin better than Sir Vivian Richards or Sir Don Bradman?
Well, this is a question that I would not like to answer. Your shoulders that bore the responsibility and expectations of millions do that in a fitting voice.
It was my father who first introduced me to this game. Back in 1996, when we were competing in the World Cup, I was wondering what the fuss was about, seeing everyone around me jumping up with joy. I did not clearly understand the game back then, but I recognised you. Who wouldn’t? Sachin Tendulkar in 1990s was the most famous word which anyone would identify with. If anyone asked me who my favorite cricketer was, I would immediately reply- Sachin. I was 5 then. I am 21 now. My reply hasn’t changed in these 16 years. I am sure it won’t change ever.
I have since seen you play in four World Cup tournaments. After the match-fixing debacle in the late nineties, the way you handled yourself in those difficult moments further increased my admiration for you. By the time 2003 World Cup was around, I was your full-fledged ardent follower. March 23rd, 2003′s Hindu’s Headlines read ‘Australians are not invincible: Ganguly’. I didn’t know the meaning of invincible at that point of time and that in a way began my tryst with English. Once I learned the meaning of the world, I felt proud. I remember how you got out to the short pitched delivery bowled by McGrath. Disappointment was writ in your face. I still remember how you told in that squeaky voice of yours struggling to contain tears, after winning the Man of the Tournament, “I would have been happier if my team had won.” That was an ultimate example of a team man.
There have been people who have called you selfish. Idiots, forgive them.
That post match presentation showed me the human you actually were. A rare scenario of voice breaking throughout your speech, unable to complete the sentences. You felt you let us down. You made us to believe that too. But the truth was, the rest of the team let you down. You single handedly saved India from embarrassments. You felt responsible for the team’s failures. You are a team man. Ignore people who say you’re selfish, playing for records.
I want to apologize on behalf of every fan who let you down in this whole journey. For throwing stones that you changed into milestones. There have been times when some of us gave up hope on you and you have time and again proved us wrong. We spoke behind your back. There were times when your integrity was questioned. In reply, you have always thanked us and not even hurt us indirectly. If ever we had let you down, we are sorry.
In its tribute to you, the TIME magazine said:
“It seems while Time was having his toll on every individual on the face of this planet, he excused one man. Time stands frozen in front of Sachin Tendulkar. We have had champions, we have had legends, but we have never had another Sachin Tendulkar and we never will.”
“When Sachin Tendulkar travelled to Pakistan to face one of the finest bowling attacks ever assembled in cricket, Michael Schumacher was yet to race an F1 car, Lance Armstrong had never been to the Tour de France, Diego Maradona was still the captain of a world champion Argentina team, (and) Pete Sampras had never won a Grand Slam,” Time was quoted as saying on its website.
“When Tendulkar embarked on a glorious career taming Imran and company, Roger Federer was a name unheard of; Lionel Messi was in his nappies, Usain Bolt was an unknown kid in the Jamaican backwaters. The Berlin Wall was still intact, USSR was one big, big country, Dr Manmohan Singh was yet to ‘open’ the Nehruvian economy.”
It is a strange feeling that I experience when someone talks or writes about you. I feel proud of everything that you have achieved so far, it makes me feel as though I have achieved all your records and milestones. I believe it is similar with all your fans in this nation whose self confidence grew every time they watched you play. You were that kind of a man. I am sorry not man, God.
I don’t know what I will do now. For a while, I contemplated quitting to watch ODIs. But I know you wouldn’t want that. I am left with a feeling that we have not thanked you enough for your sacrifices. If you ask me, with all due respect, ODI should retire. Or maybe like how in football, the player’s jersey numbers are retired, the no.2 slot in the batting line up should be retired. These are crazy and impossible wishes, right? Well, you did the impossible over and over again and made us wish as such which is why the fact that you finally won the World Cup gives me a deep sense of satisfaction. It would have been dishonorable for the game itself that its greatest ever student had not scaled its greatest ever peak.
I feel sad for all those who will not have a chance to watch you play, people who aren’t born yet will not know what they missed out on. It still doesn’t sink in, this is happening all too fast, I had always visualised how your retirement would be. You waving to the crowd, with all your team mates carrying you around in their shoulders, much like the 2011 World Cup. But I was not expecting this. The feeling hasn’t sunk in yet.
I will miss you Sachin. I will miss you in that blue jersey. I will miss being nervous when you are in your 90s. I will miss that fielder wearing his Indian cap and with child like enthusiasm stopping the ball from going to the boundary. I will miss you removing your helmet, looking up into the skies and raising your bat to the spectators. I will miss how every time you come out to play, there is a loud cheer from the crowd no matter which country you are playing in. The void you created in ODIs is going to be difficult to fill. Your retirement from ODI’s has in a way ended a part of my childhood. I would like to say more but words fail me now. The bat and the ball in the purest form of the game awaits you for one final spell.
Thank you and Good luck.