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Sachin Tendulkar: Thank you Sir!

India v Sri Lanka - Tri-Series Game 11

As soon as I started my car this morning, the music system started playing a song from Aashiqui – Ab tere bin, jee lenge hum (I will now live without you). Irony is the word which can sum up my morning.

Okay, he hasn’t announced his retirement from Test cricket yet but that day isn’t far away. It is debatable if he is the greatest batsman ever to play Test cricket. Maybe he isn’t. But there is no doubt that he was the greatest batsman to have played the 50-over format, ever. No debate about it. Period.

How do you write about him? There is nothing that hasn’t already been said or written. You don’t need statsguru to find out his records – we all remember them. Forget innings, even particular shots in different masterpieces are etched hard in our memories – we all remember them.

I thought of writing with LOTR in background. How Frodo wasn’t letting the ring go. How Frodo missed dropping the ring from the tip of the volcano on that night of 2nd April 2011 and the ring looked liked it was controlling him. But there is a fundamental difference. Frodo was nobody. He was just chosen to carry the ring to its destination so that the world would survive Sauron’s wrath. Others fought fierce battles to keep Sauron’s eye occupied whereas Frodo continued his journey – not only battling the surroundings but also his own mind. But it will be fair to say, without disrespecting his deeds, that Frodo was just a postman doing his duty.

Sachin’s case is different. Sachin invented the ring. He was its master. Like Frodo, he didn’t have the luxury of others fighting battles for him – at least in 90s. In fact he fought others battles too. He carried the ring all along with Sauron’s eyes focused on him completely. Yet he never showed any signs of the ring impacting his mind. It never did. Okay, he did miss the chance to drop it when at the tip of volcano and looked tired after that. But he has dropped it now. Unlike Frodo’s story, Sauron doesn’t get finished with the ring here. The way things are now, Sauron seems to be awakening.

Then, I tried taking comfort in another of my favourite bunkers – Harry Potter. Like the Ministry of Magic story, I thought of deriving an analogy. I thought of writing how Dumbledore comes back visiting Harry, they discuss cricket, they crib about Sachin’s retirement and how Dumbledore tells Harry “He was like one of us. He was a wizard. He was a magician. In fact, if Lord Voldemort had killed you on that night, I would have chosen him to do the job”.

Australia v India - 2011 ICC World Cup Quarter-FinalLike Harry, Sachin has been a wizard–just that he used a bat instead of a wand. Like Harry, Sachin had amazing ability to read his opponent’s mind. Like Harry, we rested all our hopes on Sachin to bail us out. Like Harry, we all said about him – “He is the one”. Like Harry, Sachin was the best.

But again, Harry Potter was a fictitious character. Sachin is real.

Back to square one – how do you write about him? I thought of comparing the impact of economic growth on different generations in India and Sachin. India’s economic growth coincides with Sachin’s career. From a country which was living in a silo-ed economy, living in a License Raj, living with a forex reserve of 15 days, we have come quite a distance. Yes, the economy may be in trouble right now, but we have made some progress, let’s not deny that. Oh and by the way, our economic downturn also coincides with Sachin’s decline and now departure.

With a change in economy, we have seen the generations change. Somehow for all their good qualities, I find my previous generation a lot more defensive, a lot more laid back. Most of them spent their lives behind one single desk. We cannot blame them – they didn’t enjoy an open economy. But what troubles me is that they boast about it. They seemed to be content, that too completely, in their comfort zone. It is quite similar to Gavaskar’s 36 in 60 overs story. Chasing a score of 334, he accepted defeat and used 60 overs for batting practice. Using 60 overs for batting practice in a World Cup match? Yes. No attempts to even try to win it. It was the “I will do what I am comfortable with” attitude.

Things changed with Sachin. He never accepted defeat. He just never did. He always wanted to make a difference, no matter if it meant travelling miles out of his comfort zone.

You don’t have an opener? I will do it.

Your main bowler, a legend, isn’t confident of bowling the final over? Let me do it.

A desert storm is threatening to abandon a must-win match for us? Let me scare it away with my stubbornness so that I, yes I, can take you to the next round.

You are chasing a 5.5 runs per over against a fearsome attack? No worries, I will bring the run rate down to 4 for you.

It was will to move out of comfort zone. It was fearlessness. It was belief that opponents are human and they will fear you if you stand up and punch them back.

Thoughts of accepting defeat just because you have a mountain to climb were no longer in existence, not at all.

I see my generation as much more progressive than the previous one. We are more fearless, willing to do things we aren’t so comfortable doing and venture into unknown territories.

I see next generation being much more rash as compared to mine. I see them aiming lower than they should be because they get rewards that ensure comfort by aiming lower. I see them opting for call center jobs which comes relatively easily – with a bit more hard work, they can achieve a lot of better things. I see them seeing IPL as the future.

But again, the sample set of my observation is very small – just based on my experiences. It is just how I see the world. I may not be right, but this is how I think.

One can write about him as if he was an infallible God but the last year and a half proved that he is fallible and he is human. This wasn’t the first time when we said, ‘Sachin is finished’. But everytime, he proved to us that he wasn’t – he always came back stronger. Just that this time, he has given up playing a format in which he was best ever; he has shown us that he is human after all. He has decided to let it go. Life is all about letting it go. What hurts more is not getting a chance to say good bye. I wish we had got that chance. But that’s okay. I wish a million other things too. I will live with that.

In short, it is impossible to write about Sachin. It is impossible to capture him in words. It is impossible to limit him in any form of communication.

India v Sri Lanka - 2011 ICC World Cup FinalAll I can say is – Thank You, Sir. Thank you for those wonderful memories – the “Let me show you your place, Sir” over against Abdul Qadir, the “Give it to me, I will do it if none of you have the balls” over in Hero Cup, the “Get the hell out of here, I’ve got a match to win” innings in Desert Storm, the “Let me kill them myself so that you can walk over their dead bodies to capture the post” innings in 2003 world cup against Pakistan, the “Oh you are bowling short to me? Sorry dude, but I knew the line and length of this ball a week in advance” six off Caddick in 2003 world cup against England, the “It’s just 350. I will chase it down alone” innings of 175 against Australia, the “Oh, I haven’t scored a double hundred in ODIs? No one has? Let me do it then” innings against South Africa.

Thank you very much Sir for not letting Cricket go the Hockey way and letting Sunil Gavaskar become a Dhyanchand.

Thank you very much for keeping my own childhood alive in a corner of my heart till today.

I am a father myself now. It’s time to grow up. It’s time to say good bye.

Thank You, Sir!

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