For Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, the Wankhede Stadium, will always remain a venue of missed centuries. Tendulkar had a hundred in sight in his farewell and 200th Test, but fell for 74 in the first innings against the West Indies on the second day of the second cricket Test in Mumbai. He showed how a genius can keep overwhelming emotions under control as he scored a majestic 74 which came off 118 balls with 12 boundaries, in what will probably be his last international innings. Tendulkar was in supreme touch and looked determined to get his 52nd Test century, and second at this venue, handpicked by him for his farewell. His first and only Test century at the Wankhede was way back in 1997, a fine 148 against the Sri Lankans in the first innings. It was perhaps the last and the longest walk for the cricketing legend in his fairytale journey, after the ‘God of Cricket’, was done in by some extra bounce from spinner Narsingh Deonarine and the thick edge flew quickly to skipper Darren Sammy at first slip says SUMEET NAIK.
The Sachin we all love
Even the mere thought of cricket without Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar is mind-boggling. For the last 24 years, the God of cricket had not just united our very diverse India, but had also struck out for global oneness, bringing fans all over the world some wonderful cricketing moments.
Cricket is a sport driven by numbers. With 69 records in his kitty, Sachin stands taller than one can imagine. He holds just about every batting record worth owning in the game, including those for most runs and hundreds in Tests and ODIs, and most international runs.
Sheer determination and unshakable focus on the target even after one has garnered name, fame and glory is in itself a great task, one which Sachin seemed to have mastered perfectly. From his school cricket days to debuting for India against Pakistan in Karachi to winning the World Cup for India in 2011 and now playing in his 200th Test match, Sachin never lost his focus. Day in and day out, one would have seen him at the nets, sweating it out even as the rest of us rejoiced when he stepped out to the pitch.
He has held sway over all the bowlers in the game. Scoring runs came quite naturally to him due to his immaculate technique, impeccable timing, cool temperament, tremendous concentration and above all, his controlled aggression, which has left even the best of bowlers running out of ideas.
Off the field too, he has always been a source of inspiration – like in the dressing room. The likes of Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina or Rohit Sharma, have all, at some point of time, spoken about how elated they felt when ‘God’ was present in the dressing room.
His calm nature has helped defuse some ugly situations in the Indian cricket team’s dressing room. The Indian cricket team had risen in revolt against their then coach and the former New Zealand captain, John Wright, during India’s tour of England in 2002, it was revealed by the team manager, Rajeev Shukla, currently a Union Minister.
Wright had slapped Virender Sehwag for the manner in which the latter had been dismissed in the ODI match at the Oval. The then captain, Sourav Ganguly, had wanted the New Zealander to apologise to Sehwag.
As tension built up in the dressing room, Sachin requested Shukla to ensure that Wright’s dignity as coach was kept intact. He told Shukla to ensure that Wright did not apologise, as this would cause the latter to lose respect.
Secondly, had it not been for Sachin, most of the players would have taken off their shirts and waved after the magnificent victory in the Natwest Trophy against England in 2002.
Sourav wanted all the players to do this. Maybe he wanted to pay back Andrew Flintoff in the same coin. But Sachin felt that this ought not to be done, cricket being a gentleman’s game and all. If Sourav wanted to do it, he was welcome. Now, we know why cricket and Sachin are made for each other. After all it’s a gentleman’s game!
The Sachin some don’t like
“Just like how Pakistan didn’t miss me when I left. India won’t miss Sachin Tendulkar because there are plenty of good youngsters. I perhaps overstayed…even in Sachin’s case, people have been calling for retirement for the last two years…and he’s finally going”, said the former Pakistani cricketer Javed Miandad.
One must think twice before finding faults with another and be infinitely more cautious should that person happen to be none other than the God of cricket, Sachin Tendulkar. But what one must keep in mind is that even when our wishes go unheard or we fail to remain unbeaten in a grave situation, we humans blame God for our misery. The Master Blaster is a perfect example of the ‘Nervous Nineties.’ Eighteen times has Sachin scored in the nineties in ODIs and 10 times in Tests, holding the record even for the highest number of dismissals in the 90s (28 times in all) across all forms of international cricket. Truly, God is consistent.
However great a sportsman maybe, one must endure both, the highs and lows of the game. He has had his share of lean patches, with his willow dumbstruck on such occasions, thus begging the question – despite his poor form, why was Sachin retained for a forthcoming tour or home series. Was it not unfair to young talent that was thereby deprived of a chance to play for India? Some detractors have even gone to the extent of stating that Sachin had the rare privilege of picking and choosing the series he wanted to play. Truly a rare privilege, which even a legend like Sunil Gavaskar did not enjoy in his time.
As a captain, Sachin failed miserably. His former teammate Javagal Srinath recently stated at a function that when Sachin became captain for the first time in 1996, he was very demanding. “We could not emulate him. He used to prepare for three hours for a game. He wanted to win every game and went into a shell when the team lost,” he recollects.
Formula 1 legend Michael Schumacher had gifted his Ferrari to Sachin as a token of his love for the the God of Cricket. After going to considerable trouble (bureaucratic hassles included) to bring it to India, Sachin sold the car for charity. If indeed he had to raise funds for charity, he could have well sold his cricketing gear, why a token of affection, fondly bestowed by another sporting legend? Many termed it as an insult to the Formula 1 Hero.
Post-retirement, political bigwigs are hoping that the Master Blaster will enter their arena. There has ample criticism for his accepting the position of Rajya Sabha MP. Many of his fans had abhorred the thought of God associating himself with politics in any capacity. The underlying fear being that whatever name, fame and respect Sachin had earned as a player would be diminished the minute he steps on to the pitch of politics.
As of now, what he is going to do next, after his 200th, God only knows – the God we all know as Sachin.