There are some things in life that never change. They stay the same because they are bound to stay that way. That is why, irrespective of the fact that a certain Virat Kohli is marching forward and swatting aside batting records with nonchalance, Sachin Tendulkar will always remain the ‘God of Cricket’.
Tendulkar was not just an ordinary cricketer. He had transcended the sport and had become an emotion. An emotion that a billion people in India swore by. Every Indian precariously lived through Tendulkar’s ethereal exploits with the willow. When the master walked out to the middle, a nation waited with bated breath. He was indeed India’s answer to everlasting greatness.
That is why, while the multitude of the master’s fans love to rave about his statistical milestones, they form just a small part of the Tendulkar fable. It was that stunning straight drive where the bat appeared to be a mere extension of the limbs, it was that back foot punch played with a precision that would have put a surgeon to shame, it was that flick past mid-wicket where the ball was sent racing to the boundary with minimum fuss that make the meat of it.
However, more than anything else, Tendulkar was a man that every Indian wanted to be. Mothers wanted their sons to become Sachin, fathers skipped office work to watch him play, children imitated his mannerisms in their inconsequential street cricket matches, corporate tycoons quoted him as their inspiration. It is indeed hard to imagine any other Indian public figure who mattered to so many people and stayed relevant for such a long time the way Tendulkar did during the course of his unbelievable career. Harsha Bhogle very beautifully and correctly said,
“When Tendulkar plays well, India sleeps well.”
It was not an exaggeration. Tendulkar was a man who had the ability to mould the moods of his countrymen. He could take them to peaks of bliss when he succeeded and at the same time make them experience the lowest troughs when he failed. When he scored that match winning 103* against England at Chennai in 2008, his century proved to be a soothing effect for a country that was reeling from the aftermath of the tragic 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai. When he scored that magical 175 against Australia and India flirted with greatness, he had every Indian collectively holding their breath.
Finally, when he bid adieu to the game in 2013, grown up men and women were weeping like children as Tendulkar started that 20-minute odd farewell speech at the Wankhede stadium. It was as if with his retirement, two generations of Indians were letting go of a huge part of their childhoods.
That is why, there will come a day when most of his records are broken, a day when his numbers might start to lose their sheen. However, no cricketer could hold sway in the hearts of so many people as Tendulkar did. He was indeed the ‘God’ to whom people turned to, when they wanted answers to their prayers.