Well, the day has arrived. I mean it is nearing. On November 18, the master blaster, Sachin Tendulkar will hang his boots and also his bat. He will bid goodbye to the sport of competitive cricket. He is currently playing his last test match against West Indies at Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai. The magazines, the newspapers, the blogosphere, the news channel or the every media outlet that one can think of, is talking about Sachin. It is time that I thank Sachin in a very straight from the heart manner. I mean no weighty prose and no lofty words. I will just tell the story like a child would tell it.
Sachin Tendulkar has been much personal to me. His successes, his exploits in cricket, his failures, his records, his awards, his criticism. All. Whenever he succeeded, it felt like I succeeded. Whenever somebody criticised him, it felt I have been panned. It will dampen my own spirits. But then the courage to gather oneself, and answer your critics not with words but with your actions in the battleground, has been taught to me by none other than Sachin Tendulkar. Every one in India has a Tendulkar story. At least one. I have a plenty of them. I first saw Sachin Tendulkar in 1994. I was eight years old then. The memories of those years isn’t stronger. But because of Sachin, his memory remained strong enough. However, I do not recall the match I saw him playing in. The first match I remember I saw him playing in was in the 1996 Cricket World Cup. The little master, ever since 1994, has been a source of inspiration to me.
There is a very personal reason attached to I adoring Sachin to extreme. Today I stand tall at 5 feet 7 inches from the ground. Over the years, I have grown taller than Sachin, in terms of my height of course. But it was this inferiority complex that I used to suffer with due to my shorter height back in school days that made me look up to him. I was a brilliant kid. A first rank holder in all the exams. But I used to stand first in the queue. Because I was the shortest. My small stature would ensure that I was never to be taken seriously in sports activities. I will seldom get chance to bowl, bat or play basketball or volleyball. India is a land of prejudice. Here people sully one’s character if one’s food habits are any different or they include non-vegetarian meals. So the trauma and inferiority complex that comes with short height, to a young beaming boy, can be at a very different level altogether in India. And then I have been wearing spectacles since childhood days. Overall, I was not “made” for sports. Shortest kid, wearing spectacles – when sportsman as “visualised” by Indians is tall, strong and godlike.
Sachin Tendulkar gave me much needed boost. His short height at 5 feet 4 inches and his towering sixes and boundaries off tall bowlers, became my own extension. It felt I was holding the bat and hitting those towering sixes and boundaries. If Sachin can tame taller bowlers, I can tame anything and anyone I desire to, by hard work. In those years, it gave me much needed confidence to talk to my peers. To tell them that people with shorter heights have done wonders in sports, that Sachin might be the shortest but his talent surpasses the tallest. It allowed me to come out of the inferiority complex of being the smallest kid. As a kid, I was very shy. So shy that I wouldn’t speak a word whole day in my class. I used to fall under that intelligent, focussed, sincere student tag in my school days. But the little kid inside me also wanted to play. To take the ball and run. To stun everybody with my performance in sports.
I did start playing sports after getting inspired from Sachin. I made my way into certain school teams. Bhiwani’s Bheem Stadium became my second home. I used to open innings. I was lauded as a good batsman. But I knew sports wasn’t my strength. It was not something I could be best at. This was taught to me by Sachin. He did what he was best at. And I decided to do what I am best at. I concentrated on studies, got first rank in exams after exams all through my high school days. Being called on stage and given a medal, after every trimester/quarterly exams, by the principle of school among the clapping students [not just from my class, from all the classes/grades], made me taller. Sachin has had that profound effect on my life.
As a 90s kid, I feel I am lucky. One reason being we [the 80s, 90s kids] grew up with Sachin. Our role model Sachin was the quintessential middle class boy! Talented, rich, successful yet modest, humble and homely! No love affairs, no scandals, no taints, no blemishes! He married the one he loved and he only loved the one he married. Sachin Tendulkar is not a mere sportsman to many Indian kids growing up in 80s and 90s. For them, he is a cultural icon. Their own extension. When he won that Opel Astra at Sharjah, people felt they are driving that car! Sachin Tendulkar is a phenomena. And best thing about this phenomena is that it won’t stop after retirement. Sachin will continue to be a phenomena for long long time to come!
But I will miss his exploits. One of my strongest college day memories is of choked canteens and cafes to see Sachin play. They remained brimming with people only until the moment Sachin was on the crease. And the crowds will disperse, the brimming cafes and canteens will be emptied as soon as Sachin was out! Now that he is retiring, it feels like I have grown much older too. The time flew by in a blink of an eye. It feels that it was only yesterday that I saw the Little Master playing against Sri Lanka in 1996 world cup and hitting that brilliant century!
All the best, Sachin! You are retiring! Not your power to inspire, your force, and your phenomena! In the end, I have just one thing to say – Thank you, Sachin!