So it has happened eventually. Sachin Tendulkar has announced that he will no longer play international cricket after the 2nd game against the West Indies, which will also be his 200th test match. A lot has been written since the announcement was made with articles ranging from favorite moments of his career to what he means to the game of cricket. There have also been folks saying that he left his retirement a little too late and that he might have diminished his legacy to the game in the process. Opinions of course, are always many,
I’ve been doing some thinking on my end for a while now, trying to figure out what Sachin has meant to me over the years he has played cricket. I consider myself an absolute fanatic for cricket, a glutton for the test version, and a fierce supporter of the Indian cricket team. I have the capacity of blocking out all criticism even in the worst of times and look forward to watching the team play again, and again and again. And above all, I want to see Sachin play, That is probably something i can do for hours, whether its re-runs or a live game. Consider this a disclaimer.
As a kid, I was a bigger fan of playing cricket than of watching it. My father, from who i have inherited almost all of my cricket sense had these favorite cricketers, who obviously also became my favorites. I had not seen them play much, but because i was told that they were great, i went with that. Then one fine day, i saw a 16 year old kid playing an exhibition match against Pakistan tonking the great Abdul Qadir for consecutive sixes over his head, allegedly at some provocation from the spinner. Exhibition match it might have been, but that was the beginning of my obsession with Sachin Tendulkar.
No longer did i need any cricketing hero thrust upon me based on an opinion. I now had a hero of my own, and that relationship established on that very day, still lasts. There have been many great cricketers who have represented India since then, but my obsession with Sachin has been a constant factor. Last few days have given me the opportunity to reflect on why he has been such an inspiration for me, for people of my generation and probably for a few others who may never acknowledge it.
Back in the 90s, when winning was more of a bonus for the Indian team and under performance the norm, Sachin Tendulkar stood out like a rock. Not only did i look forward to watching him bat, somewhere deep down i knew that he was the only one who could get the job done. Most of those times, i found myself praying that he takes us home, fingers crossed or palms folded, sometimes even sneaking a little prayer in the prayer room. Well, those were the days.
10 odd years down, things changed with my life. There was college, and then a job and many more jobs. I started to understand life a little more than when i was a kid. There was economics, politics, infrastructure and so much more to get involved with. Everything seemed to have an impact on me, and on people around me. There were too many things to bog me down, too many distractions, too much negativity and too many opinions about how to get everything right. The sense of focus i had when i started, seemed to get mixed up in just trying to soak in all these opinions which led to confusion, and at times frustration too. I found it easy to blame others, and give up on a lot of things that held value for me before i started caring about someone else’s opinion on it.
All this while i found it hard to understand how Sachin Tendulkar continued to perform at the highest level so consistently almost every time he took the field. What was it that motivated him to come time and again to the field with the will to score more and more runs. How was he able to handle all the criticism, sometimes extreme, from his fans, team mates, commentators or for that matter anyone who had never held a bat, and still have the mindset to come back to the field and score a hundred. He had the expectations of a billion people to deal with and the same billion had a hard time dealing with his failures, but he still continued to do what he set out to. I, on the other hand was finding it hard to deal with criticism from my boss, sometimes even a peer and was spending a lot of energy fighting with irrelevant things that blanked out the goals i was striving for.
So what does Sachin Tendulkar really mean to me? To me, Sachin is a template for life. He is an example of someone who made a determination long back that he wants to bat and score runs, and never ever stopped trying to achieve that. He failed, fell down, got injured, picked himself back again and went about making his determination come good. Like i mentioned before, there was a time when he was the only one who looked capable and motivated enough to pursue victories for India. Everyone else was hoping to do well, or accepting the fact that the team is not good enough to win. But Sachin was making it happen. Almost alone. I would imagine a lot of us giving up or accepting mediocrity as a way of life in such circumstances, but he did not. He wanted to win…he wanted to do well and he did it, even if no one else in the team bothered.
Above everything else that he has achieved, the fact that he battled adversity, ranging from average team mates to folks who were actually trying to lose, to sharp criticism from his fans or the media, and never ever complained ‘why’ he was in the middle of it all, stands out as a quality worth having. We face almost similar situations in our life everyday. The path we choose when such a situation arises defines who we will be in the future. Sachin defined his destiny by rising up to such challenges and winning over them. We have a lot to learn from him, the humble, quiet champion of the game who has given us some of the most memorable cricketing moments in the past 20 years.
Once more this november, i’ll look forward to the adrenaline rush i always have in my stomach when Sachin comes out to bat. Once more i’ll pray for his success. One last time. Brace yourself folks.
Thank you Sachin. Thank you very much.