Its been a while since I wrote something on this blog. But then, some things need to be written. And that’s that. I am here. To say one more time. #ThankYouSachin.
In a way, you can call him my first ever crush. That sounds inappropriate coming from a guy, but its true. You stay up all night to be with him. You would probably be ready to give up your precious bicycle to shake hands with him. And not wash your hands for days after that. You wait eagerly to watch them in action. Say something. Something. Anything. Their arrival (on the pitch) is the moment you’ve been waiting for. Their departure, the worst point of your day. They become the reason why you stick on to a match. The only time I managed to get an autograph was when he came to Ranchi to play in a double-wicket tournament (do double wicket tournaments still happen these days?).
I have a distinct memory that defines my relationship with Sachin. But the memory that I am talking about is a couple of years before Sachin debuted. It was the India-Australia league stage match of ’87 world cup. India lost to Australia. Steve Waugh had done what he always did. Came to bowl the death overs to sound the death bells of the opposition. Somewhere you liked Steve Waugh. Somewhere you hated him. At that time, I was 7 years old. Our room (me, bhaiya and didi) had posters of Srikanth, Gavaskar Kapil and co. We lost by 1 run. After a pretty awesome start led by Gavaskar, Srikanth and Sidhu. We had a usual middle order collapse. Our number 10 batsman in that match was Manoj Prabhakar, who eventually opened the batting for India at a later stage! We still lost. I pulled down the posters of Shastri et al. Tore them down.
Being someone who started watching most of his cricket around that time frame, I always thought that we had a spineless and a 50% team. 50% of the team was there on merit, while the rest where there because we did not have anyone better. The older players had started fading, and newer ones were few. The flashy shastri of Benson & Hedges had given way to a walk-stop-walk-stop Shastri by then. Colonel was slowing down. Gavaskar, Srikanth and co were exhausted. And we celebrated mediocrity. And victories over Pakistan, as and when they happened.
And then came Sachin. In 1989. The exhibition match. The four sixes of Abdul Qadir in the same over. I felt good. Then NewZealand. 82 of 49. Somewhere, Perth had happened. And I was growing a spine. For the next decade, he became the reason I watched matches. I switched off television after he got out. I hated people like Jonty Rhodes or Adam Bacher. I hated people like Harris even more, bloody part-timers who got him every once in a while. I rejoiced Olonga badgering, even though I knew that the previous one was a one-off fluke. I created revenge stories in my head. And the ultimate high of that hit-over-the-midwicket off Shane Warne. Or, that straight six of Kasprowicz in Sharjah. And that straight drive. And that paddle. And that drive. And then the nudge. That flick off the hips. That manoeuvre. That lofted shot over the wicket keeper. That hunger for that single. That back. That tennis elbow. That heavy willow. That stance. That looking towards the sky. That late cut. That playful leg break. And the number of times I played those shadow shots in the house. In the neighbourhood. Tried to. Still try to.
Our hopes created many Robins for this Batman. And we blamed everyone else for the times when India failed while he fought on. Gradually, we started blaming him. We blame the Gods, don’t we. For the pain and suffering in this world. So, we blamed him. But did not feel good about it.
We wanted him to retire earlier, because we didn’t want him to die a mortal. The sudarshan wielding Krishna who was shot by a mortal’s arrow. Sa-deha Swargyatra.
And now he does. It doesn’t matter what he did in the last year or two. Because we are ungrateful like that. Because we forget that the Indian Cricket team of today is, in fact, his legacy. And of a few others who get forgotten when a moment like this comes (Dravid, Ganguly, Laxman, Kumble…). There may be more who may end up scoring more, better, faster, more consistently, more frequently. The game will change and the players will too. Yet, there will be none who can be Him. And there will be none who will impact a sports in a nation like he did. So, lets celebrate the One. The Only One. #ThankYouSachin.
Kohli summed it up for me when India won the world cup last year – “He has carried India for 20 years, so now it is time we should carry him.”
Image courtesy: Dailymail.co.uk, Firstpost, NDTV