It was his last game. He had announced his retirement. His 200th Test match. India won. He was running around happily after the victory to congratulate his team mates when it occurred to him he will never be doing it again on a cricket field. As the team gave him a moving guard of honour, he left the field. He cried. A billion people cried. That was the impact one man had on cricket in India. Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.
Who could ever forget the Sharjah massacre of Australia. Australia lost to Tendulkar, who single handedly took India to the Finals and then again single handedly won the cup for them. Treating bowlers with such audacity when he was in his zone. Tendulkar’s greatness, as many might argue was not only due to his longevity in the game. I mean, one can play for 24 years and can outscore Tendulkar’s name and wipe it out of the record books, but his Greatness is defined by how he united a nation through his game. Everything was at a standstill when SRT was batting. Productivity took a backseat. Managers thanked Tendulkar when he got our early because half of India went back to work when he got out. Such was his impact. It is just mind boggling to think that one man could do all this, but he did and that was Tendulkar for you.
I feel blessed to have watched “THE BEST” of Tendulkar’s innings in test matches. 136 v Pakistan at Chennai in 1999. I was there on the stands above the pavilion and from the balcony, we could see players stride out to the pitch and I was at the top of my voice shouting “Sachin Sachin”(We’ve all done it at some point of time) and looking at him when he walked out to bat in the 4th innings. India chased 270 odd runs. It was redemption time for Tendulkar who had scored a duck in the 1st innings. He scored 136 of the best runs he had ever scored for India. India still lost the match by 13 runs if I remember right. But Tendulkar’s innings was special. He was batting with a bad back. After a few deliveries or after playing a shot, he would grimace with pain, but he still went on. He took India to the brink of victory, but somehow Pakistan found a way to win. As Tendulkar walked back after he got out, he was disappointed, but the whole stadium was up and was in raptures cheering for their champion and I was one of them. I had the opportunity to see all the players after the presentation ceremony. I even got autographs from some. I was standing right in the center of both dressing room doors and all players walked right past me at touching distance. Azharuddin, Wasim Akram, Moin Khan, Mongia, Saqlain Musthaq and many more albeit Tendulkar, who did not even go to collect his Man of the Match award. He was down with seering back pain and was resting in the dressing room. Such was the commitment of the man. It took my respect towards the champion to the highest.
Sachin Tendulkar was never my favourite player. I had my liking’s and disliking’s about him, but I could never bring myself to hating him. Over the recent years, I had my reservations about him during the Monkey-Gate scandal. He was there and he heard every word said and only him and a few others know what exactly transpired. And of course he could have retired a year ago, maybe even 2 years ago. But, apart from all this he still made me eagerly watch his every move until his very last match. He batted like the Tendulkar of the old. Everyone wanted more. He scored 74 of the best runs he had ever did in the past 2 years(in tests). And then he walked back, one last time.
Another Tendulkar special was his 175 v Australia in a recent ODI series in 2009 before his retirement from ODI’s. India or let’s be honest Tendulkar chased down 350 single handely yet again. It was the 90’s all over again. Tendulkar got out and we saw India capitulate and lose by 3 runs. There are many such instances, I could keep writing all day.
“Not everybody can be famous but everybody can be great, because greatness is determined by service.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.
SRT’s services to Indian cricket are innumerable. He made us trust again after the match fixing saga. He made a whole team rally and won the world cup. And lest we forget, all the 100 hundred’s for India & innumerable 50’s. He gave us a reason to smile and cheer. He gave us a bad mood when he got out. He gave us his everything and when he rides off into the sunset after a glorious and glittering career, all we can do is to say THANK YOU SACHIN and SALUTE the little master.
With Tendulkar, we can all kiss goodbye to our childhood too because Tendulkar defined our childhood & cricket to each one of us who grew up in India during the 90’s. Cricket will never be the same again, but the show will go on!