Saturday, October 12, 2013

'SACH' an 'IN'ings

 I'll start with a confession - I'm nostalgic, for all my memories of cricket, right from childhood till today, are attached to this man - SACHIN RAMESH TENDULKAR.
Sachin's class is unmatched in modern cricket. No wonder he is counted along side some of the biggest names in this sport. To be considered a one amongst all time greats like Sir Don Bradman, Sir Vivian Ricards and Sunil Gavaskar so early in one's career would have been a whole doze of satisfaction for many. But this approx 5'5" boy from Mumbai was different. Sachin went on to pile incommensurate amount of runs in all formats of the game - from First Class to ODIs to the testing Test Matches; he rose up victorious with his head held high all the time. Sachin's career has been closely scrutinized and followed by cricket watchdogs and fans not only in India but across the world.

Particularly, for me, he was and still is, no matter what, a hero. I still remember when I, as an 8 year old kid, had the honor to witness Sachin batting from the stands of Captain Roopsingh Stadium at Gwalior during India's match against the West Indies in the 1996 Wills World Cup. It was a sight truly different from watching him on the television sets. To watch Sachin batting from such a close corner, and then see him take away the Man Of the match Award, for a brilliant under-pressure 70, was a dream come true. It was during the days when India as a team of 11 odd players had just one batsman. The little master, bearing the burden of a million hopes on his shoulders, more often than not, did justice to the Indian fans. It was when the runs scored by Sachin formed a bulk of the total runs scored by India. It's an incontrovertible fact that Sachin, as a single handed force, cruised India to many unimaginable victories, including the 1998 win at Sharjah against Australia. The win was Sachin's, not the team's. So brutal was the force of the feeble-medium-built man that Steve Waugh couldn't help but comment in the next days Press-conference - " We didn't lose the match to India, we lost the match to a man called Sachin Tendulkar." And this is just one instance, out of many, when Sachin helped India to get through with God like appearances.
Given his devotion and propriety towards the game, it was saddening and bizarre to learn that soon by the early 2000's Sachin was being accused of playing for personal landmarks and not for the team. He was being berated for not having contributed with the bat when it really mattered. Perhaps, he bore the brunt of the high expectations people had from him. He was considered a God already by then; no wonder people wanted him to perform all the time - flawlessly and relentlessly.
Critics of Sachin, though a few, argue that Sachin piled runs only against easy opponents on easy batting tracks. Let me remind these captious-nagging souls that Sachin, besides holding all possible records in cricket, also holds the record of hitting the most number of centuries against Australia, the most dominant force in modern cricket. Add to it, the fact that a bulk of Sachin's 100 centuries have come against the top sides of the world like Aus, SA etc. (stats provided below)

Centuries against different nations

Test ODI
 Australia 11 9
 Sri Lanka 9 8
 South Africa 7 5
 England 7 2
 New Zealand 4 5
 West Indies 3 4
 Zimbabwe 3 4
 Pakistan 2 5
 Bangladesh 5 1
 Kenya - 4
 Namibia - 1

A rather more amusing fact is that most of Sachin's critics have always been people like reporters, statisticians, so-called 'cricket experts', or cricket players themselves who have not even played half as much cricket as Sachin has. On the contrary, all the cricket legends of the world and his contemporaries,  including another greatest of the time Brian Lara, admire Sachin as a batsman and consider him as someone blessed.
Sachin however, with his alchemy of sorts, has always turned the stones thrown at him into milestones.
During his poor patch, in the early 2000s, he was the lone target of all the polemics of the cricket experts and the media. Soon talk was rife that the master should get retired. But Sachin, yet again, in 2003 WC at South Africa, proved that even when he is not what he was during his peak years, he is still the best batsmen in the world. That Sachin can only be compared with his alter ego and no other cricketer in the world was understood by all those had been suggesting his retirement by saying that the key players of other nations were doing way better than Sachin was. Sachin turned to be the highest run scorer in that tournament. He was the sole reason why India made it to the finals, and his failure was the sole reason why India failed miserably in the finals. But the matter of fact is - Do we expect him to score all the time; shouldn't there be instances when he fails but India still wins the game? Cricket, after all, is a team game!!!

As a person, Sachin was exactly the opposite of what he was on the field while wielding a bat in his hand. He showed his aggressiveness only in his game. His bat used to do everything for him - trash talking, sledging, pressurizing (the opponent) and of course run-making. It is an achievement in itself that Sachin's two and a half decade long career has been free of any controversy whatsoever. Tendulkar, when even nearing the end of his career, played a few scintillating knocks. The 175 against Australia at Hyderabad in 2009 and the DOUBLE TON against the mighty South Africa at Gwalior in 2010 are just to list a few (Please check videos below). He also played vital knocks in the WC 2011 against Pak and Aus and helped India sail through into the finals, and later on re-create history by lifting the world cup for the second time after a hiatus of more than 25 years. It was a moment truly deserved by the master.

It's however, really sad for die-hard Sachin fans (like me) to imagine Cricket without its most talented and ardent disciple. There is a generation of people for whom cricket only meant watching Sachin Tendulkar bat, for whom cricket began with the rise of Sachin and will end with his fall. It's the end of an era...
"THE GOD" calls it a day...

Pseudonym : h!v
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