I must admit that I am not an IPL fan but I do watch some of the matches of the T20 format. Not because I have slowly become a convert – not the least – the matches that I watch are the ones when Mumbai Indians are playing and more so when Sachin Tendulkar is at the crease. And one of the reasons for doing so is because we all know that time is running out for the batting legend, (even though Sachin himself has not hinted at retiring from Tests till now and has said that other people’s opinions do not bother him) and thus we should relish his batting for as long as we can.
Having said that, I must also admit that the Master Blasters’ outing in the sixth edition of the IPL has not necessarily been what fans like me were waiting for. In the first six matches, Tendulkar managed scores of 23, 0, 1, 44, 1 and 54. Yes, the four boundaries that he hit in a row in his knock of 44 against Pune Warriors were worth travelling miles to watch. Nonetheless, his batting in the IPL and the recently concluded Test match series between India and Australia (Sachin didn’t score a century and his highest score was 81) has once again got the tongues wagging as to how long and how many matches before Tendulkar should call it a day.
An example of it is the recent post on Facebook by South African great Graeme Pollock which said – “I am watching the IPL with interest, just a little bit sad that the great players Tendulkar and Ponting haven`t really hit it off. It is always a hard decision to know when to get out.”
Rubbing salt to the wound, another great Barry Richards, as a reaction to Pollock’s comment said –“Is sad but well remember when reactions slow around 34 then you can get by for 3-4 more years on experience but eventually the decision has to be made cruel but true.”
People who are Sachin worshippers can empathise and understand how I cringe at these comments — it can be from anyone; an ex-cricketer, a sports journalist, a friend or a colleague. These are the times when I want to scream at the top of my voice and ask them to shut up. I want to tell them to just let Sachin be. I want to do something to make the batting legend bat like he used to in his heydays. I want a magic wand to make it happen and I want that the day he walks away from the field, it should be on a note never seen before. I also want him to get the best farewell in the history of the game. However, I know that all of the above is not in the hands of us mortals.
So at the end of the day, I do what is in my hands and what I can do – and that is - pray. Pray that the Little Master bats with as much panache as he did in his early days for as long as he plays international cricket. And also pray that he leaves the game on a high note and with his pride and dignity intact. Even the harshest critics of Sachin will agree that he is not over with the game yet and there is a lot of cricket still left in him.
At the cost of being repetitive, I just want to say this – relish the maestro on the field for as long as you can because once he walks away from the 22 yards, leaving us wanting more, he is not going to come back and we are going to miss him terribly and also because it is unlikely that this country is ever going to see another Sachin Tendulkar. Also let him take the call as to how long he wants to play the game – he is the best judge to do so and his commitment to cricket and his country can never be doubted. After all how many people can come back to play for India after the death of their father in a matter of days and score a century? And how many cricketers get a standing ovation and a tremendous roar from the crowd every time that they go out to bat as Sachin does, irrespective of the fact as to which ground in the world he goes out to play in.
As one of India’s most successful and dynamic captains Sourav Ganguly wrote in his column recently - “Suffice to say, he is the greatest cricketer I have ever seen. I haven`t seen Bradman, but he is as close to perfection as you can get. His insatiable hunger, combined with incredible talent, makes him a real genius. When people criticise him, all I point to them is the 100 international hundreds”.
Australian captain Michael Clarke too, on the occasion of Sachin’s 40th birthday put it beautifully into words: “When you have achieved the amount Sachin has, it is very easy to let your guard down. Sachin`s uniqueness is his ability to keep the intensity going even after 24 years of international cricket. Such passion for the game is unprecedented and I think every youngster should learn from him.”
Sachin has been a part of our growing up – we have laughed with him, we have cried with him, we have celebrated his knocks and we have got angry when he was given out wrongly. Every juncture of our lives has been intertwined with the memories of his incredible batting and his amazing and long career. He has made watching TV in college common rooms fun and animated and he has made memories of office and bonding with colleagues while watching him bat worth relishing. Yes, the day Sachin retires from the Tests as he will one day, he will create a void and a sense of emptiness which I doubt any other cricketer can fill.
Post Script: One of my colleague summed up the emotions best when he told me once – “When I cannot sleep at night, I just think of Sachin’s sublime batting and calm engulfs me and then I am able to sleep peacefully.” That is the power and the effect that the man has over millions of his fans not just in India but across the world.