Such a pity that it has taken 24 years for the world to learn more about the “other side” of Sachin Tendulkar. Even a kid will throw Sachin’s statistics at you and talk at length about his centuries abroad, his bottom hand grip or the classic straight drive.
However, the moment Sachin announced that he would retire after the ongoing series against the West Indies, many delightful stories came out of the woodwork as we got a deeper insight into Sachin. Wonder why these stories were never made public earlier!
Anyway, it has been a very enlightening fortnight for Sachin fans with acres of newspaper space splashing some hitherto unknown nuggets and the TV not far behind, getting his peers, family members, former team-mates and friends from his Maidan days in Mumbai to recount some fascinating tales about this little big man who has been part of our lives for over two decades.
Thus, as we move closer to Sachin’s swansong Test at the Wankhede on the morrow, the hype has reached a frenzied crescendo the likes of which we have not witnessed, but the man in the eye of this storm himself appears very composed and even relaxed. A lesser mortal would have been crushed by the massive expectation and the pressure that comes with it.
It was a pity that Umpire Llong decided to adjudge Sachin leg before in the Kolkata Test where he looked to be in good nick. A couple of trademark boundaries had sent the heart beat racing when the umpire cruelly lifted the finger to rule Sachin out when the ball had clearly struck high on the back leg.
But then, Sachin has been victim of so many bad decisions that he barely reacted (not that he has ever) and it was a sad sight of him trudging back to the dressing room for the last time at Eden Gardens. We were later informed that Sachin looked pretty emotional on the bus ride back to the hotel.
Few great sporting careers have had fairytale endings and I doubt if Sachin will enjoy one at the Wankhede. However, every time we wrote him off, he has hit back with a big score, but whatever, it is to be hoped that his last outing would not be a flop.
If anything, I am quite sure that Sachin, being a team man to the core, would be going out on a high because I do not see Sammy’s West Indies pulling off a series-equalling win at the Wankhdede. The visitors looked pretty ordinary in the Kolkata Test, especially after Rohit and Ashwin got together.
I was shocked at the sight of senior West Indies players like Gayle and Chanderpaul merely going through the motions while fielding instead of constantly encouraging their mates. They moved about like zombies and hardly appeared involved in the proceedings. At least, Chanderpaul contributed with the bat, but the more I see of Gayle, the more convinced I am that he is fit only for T20 and may be ODIs. Anyway, that is something for the Windies to worry about.
Even as we celebrate Sachin’s farewell, spare a thought to young Mohammed Shami whose nine wickets were critical to India’s innings win at Kolkata. Shami is a beautiful story about a small town boy who came to a metro to better his prospects, met a kindly man who offered him a contract and shelter before letting him go to further his career. I am convinced that Shami would soon become integral part of Indian attack, especially in South Africa where the pitches would aid him much better than those in the sub-continent.
Back to the Sachin show, it never ceases to amaze me that just one man can send millions into a frenzy of excitement while the media is doing its bit by feeding on this mass hysteria while Sachin, going by accounts, has been an island of calm, going about his preparations as though it were just another game.
It is a tribute to Sachin’s character that he has maintained a sense of balance despite all the hoo-haa over his farewell Test. Given the fact that he has been under public gaze and adulation for over two decades, I am sure he is able to sustain his focus going into the Test on the morrow.
Anyway, our lives would be different from next week with the realization that we will never ever get to see Sachin in whites though the Mumbai Cricket Association has been putting pressure on him to at least continue playing Ranji Trophy. For sure, his presence will be missed in South Africa during India’s tour next month, but life goes on and maybe we will have to wait a few generations before another Sachin emerges.
At the moment though it is time to thank the master for those moments of joy that provided us relief from our daily grind. Adios, Sachin!