Ever since I gained senses in mid-eighties, no person other than Sachin Tendulkar has ruled my mind, soul and emotions in such a way that many people at different times thought either I was some runaway maniac from a mental asylum or simply an unfortunate one with an under-developed brain!
I remember I was in Class XII when in an ‘All Boys’ party, everyone was asked to write the name of a personality whose poster he wanted to put in his bathroom. The common names that came out of that exercise were those of Pamela Anderson, Cindy Crawford, Anna Kournikova and even Mamta Kulkarni (Ugggh!) but the answer that stood out and unarguably attracted the most ridicule was mine!
No prizes for guessing, yes, I opted for Sachin Tendulkar’s poster in my bathroom!
And that was not just one of the instances; my craziness for Tendulkar during childhood includes imitating his cropped haircut, his Michael Jackson style of adjusting his guard whenever and wherever I played, looking to skies whenever I scored a boundary (I always knew scoring a century was beyond my capabilities!). I even went to great lengths for clicking hundreds of pictures outside his restaurant ‘Tendulkar’s’ in Mumbai, writing ‘MRF’- his trademark bat logo on my bat with a permanent marker and many more wild things that made me a self-proclaimed number-one Tendulkar fan!
But is it my fault that I am crazy for Tendulkar?
It’s Sachin Tendulkar’s fault!
I mean, who will not get dumbfounded by someone who carries a billion hopes on his shoulders, fields with school-boy enthusiasm at the age of 38, picks up wickets with his magical spin whenever the team needs it most and bats like no one has ever done and no one will ever be able to!
Spare a thought for me, who was just seven at the time of 1993 Hero Cup, watching a match where India was pitted against South Africa in the semi-finals and a batsman won India the match by not giving Proteas a chance to score six runs off last six balls. Kids of my age were crazy about Superman those days and I got my own version of an Indian Superman, a person who could not fly but can certainly make every other impossible thing possible!
From his first ODI century in Colombo against Sri Lanka in 1994 against Aussies, I have witnessed all his centuries and feel immensely proud to be of the generation that has seen Tendulkar batting.
People who have played competitive cricket know how difficult it is to score runs against quality bowling and that Tendulkar has scored close to 100 international centuries is too big a record that even my hands are shivering in disbelief when I am writing it!
I sometimes think that it is our good karma of the previous lives and Tendulkar’s sins from the earlier ages that he plays for India. He has scored these unimaginative runs against the likes of McGrath, Warne, Wasim, Waqar, Bond, Qadir, Walsh, Ambrose, Donald, Pollock, Steyn, Muralitharan and many other such bowlers who were famous for decimating their opponents single-handedly. Just think if a batting maestro like him was pitted against bowlers like Prasad, Mohanty, Kuruvilla, Nilesh Kulkarni, Noel David, Doda Ganesh, Raju, Kaaju, Baadaam etc, his figures might have given A Raja’s 2G-accounts a run for their money!
Sachin has scalped every record-mountain- from highest ODI run getter to highest Test run getter and from most number of international centuries in both formats to play most number of international matches, every run Tendulkar scores update the cricket record book on its own.
Being someone who has earned unimaginative respect from all quarters of world for his magnificent cricketing and personal display, Tendulkar is worth his weight in gold - or onions, whichever today is the greater asset to possess!
But then, is there something which has remained unconquered for this champion batsman in his cricketing life? Critics may say that World Cup triumph still remains elusive for the champion batsman but remember, cricket is a team game and winning World Cup is a team effort. No one player can be accounted for winning or not winning a tournament like World Cup. I mean, Darren Lehmann was a part of two Australian World Cup victories but does that make him one of the best that the game of cricket has ever seen?
But with a clean career like that of Tendulkar, even the smallest of doubt on his aura disturbs me and like a five-year old kid who wants every toy he sees in his cabinet, I want him to win the World Cup this time and silence his critics (if, any?).
Yes, nothing less than a World Cup will do this time Sachin Ji, because I don’t want any nerd to confront me with this stat that you were never able to win the World Cup for India. I know you can do it. When people thought slamming 35 centuries was a pinnacle, you made 50 centuries and when the world thought making a double century in ODI’s can only happen in dream, you gave the reason to the world that even the rarest dreams come true!
You’re the reason for higher-than-sky-expectations among Indian cricket fans and even if winning the World Cup sounds like an annoying over-expectation to you, you have to do it.
We know that winning the World Cup is not a stamp to certify your greatness nor it is something that the country has never won. Many countries like England, New Zealand and South Africa have more reasons to win the mega-event than us but then if I had only one line to say the reason for this craziness for the World Cup, it’ll be-
<b><i>“World Cup haarne se darr nahi lagta saab, tumhaare career me World Cup na hone se lagta hai!”</i></b>
(We’re not afraid of losing the World Cup sir; it’s the not having of the Cup in your career graph that hurts!)