Thank You Sachin

"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."
        - Time Magazine

I was listening to the lecturer talk about cloud based software when a customary glance at my phone gave me the goosebumps. India were about to start batting, because well, West Indies had folded yet again. More importantly, there was time, ample time, for Sachin Tendulkar to come out to bat. One last time, in all probability. And just like that, out of nowhere, the very nice Finn that my lecturer is, he told us he was done for the day, and we could go our ways and meet again next week. Actually, he said a lot more. But I probably wasn't listening that well. The universe had conspired to let me watch him bat - one last time?I grabbed my jacket and a zillion other winter accessories that you probably need to don before venturing into the cold and set home on my bicycle. Thinking about it on the way, took me back in time. 

I used to be this chubby school kid who loved rushing home from school, on his bicycle to watch Tendulkar bat in one of those numerous day-night one dayers in Sharjah. Stopping on the way back to ask a shopkeeper the score and sighing with relief after hearing him say, "Tendulkar maar reha hai!". I still am a student. I still ride a bicycle. And if the Finns had arbitrarily planned shops around roads, I'd still have stopped by to ask if Tendulkar had come out to bat (I did that on my phone anyway). Sixteen years on, nothing seems to have changed. Time indeed stands frozen in front of Sachin Tendulkar. 

I don't really remember when I started liking cricket. In fact, now that I think about it, I never quite did. It was Sachin that I began following and cricket was just a part of the parcel. There are various theories to why we Indians are so fond of cricket. We lack the stamina for real sport probably? And for a billion people believed to be good with numbers and mathematics, cricket offers all the statistics that let you take your mental mathematics to a different level altogether. My mother would absolutely vouch for that fact. But yeah, Tendulkar had me hooked on. So much so, that I valued watching him play more than India winning. A victory was just an icing on the cake called a Tendulkar century. Every season of my life that I can reflect back on, has a corresponding Tendulkar memory attached to it. Like the summers spent half-camping in Palampur, where a radio did it's best to explain to me how an emotional Tendulkar reacted after scoring a century, when he had just returned from his father's funeral. Or watching him flatten the egos out off Pakistan's famous pace trio during the '03 World Cup, a moment that gave me a much required inspiration to get out of the rut and finally pass my exams. And those hilariously predictable days when he'd get into the 90s and you'd know he's going to walk any moment now, teaching you how important it is to keep trying, every damn time, no matter what. 

My Tendulkar memories are about his success and failures and not India's because for me he was the superhero that I looked up to. In a team sport, he came out as the self-assured figure full of calm and a quite will. There was this short period of time when Saurav Ganguly almost managed to discover the cricket lover in me, but he couldn't quite succeed. I sometimes question myself, why I couldn't come to like another cricketer if not cricket. It's probably because none of them have been such phenomenal show men, and the ones that probably are, are just too inhuman. The idea of a Virat Kohli pumping fists, after scoring a century before opening up with choicest of expletives just doesn't appeal to me. When did I last see Sachin pump his fists, if at all? Probably when he foxed a batsmen with his leg-spin. Bowling was something that he wasn't supposed to be good at, batting was a routine - not to be celebrated. 

There is a lot I'd like to remember Tendulkar for. The drives, the upper-cuts, the smile, the weird short paced sprint, the awkward stance... and the list goes on. The slight raise of the bat with eyes saying thank you to the heavens, before coming back to mortal life and acknowledging the crowd. That, is the moment I'd like to take with me to sleep when looking for inspiration. They call him God, master, genius and a few other things. I don't know which of these I can actually relate to - he was fallible, gullible and pretty much human. Somebody who tried hard and harder than each last try. He was Sachin. 

I got back to my apartment and managed to find a live stream, just in time to watch the on-drive unleashed. The stumps were drawn soon, and I set my alarm for the next day's start of play, Indian Standard Time. The alarm never rang, I never woke up to see him score a few more and walk back, and I'll not try to search for the highlights. As somebody who lives a life that relies heavily on Sachin Tendulkar moments for inspiration, I'd like to live the rest of my life thinking about the on drive - give it back to life as hard as it comes at you.

Listening to: Bonfire Heart, James Blunt

Dedicated to: Doesn't need mentioning

Images Courtesy: Google Image Search

PS: I finally got my act together to write a tribute. Just in time I believe. 

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2 reflected back...:

My connect with Sachin is beyond a cricketer / sportsperson thing. And I believe anybody who hasn't played cricket at the same level or any sport for that matter, is ill-equipped to rate somebody else.

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