This has been done before. Several times by several people in the last few weeks. I have no shame in admitting that I too want to have my share. Why not? Why not express myself, as I soak through the emotions of having watched Sachin retire from competitive cricket just last night? I had a hunch that this was going to be the night (US Eastern Time Zone). So, I prepared myself for a late-nighter. I am glad I did. The win, the speech and the outpouring of emotions that followed, weren’t anything like I expected and the emotional high literally didn’t let me sleep up into the wee hours of my Saturday morning.
I woke up, still wanting more of those moments and decided to play his now famous farewell speech again. I wanted my son to see it. I gave a background on the mammoth significance of this event. My son’s reactions were nowhere close to mine, as one would expect, but I wanted him to observe. I wanted my son to witness the effect one man has had on an entire nation. I wanted him to get a taste of how much of an impact Sachin and his game has left on India and Indians. And I told my son how I associate myself with Sachin in a much personal way than most others of different generations, but probably like many others of my generation. I consider my generation to belong to the specially privileged group of people whose growth from adolescence to now has been in parallel with that of Sachin’s career. Those of us born in 1973. Yes, Sachin and I were born in the same year – 3 months apart. So, that’s how my personal Sachin story began..
In 1989, as Sachin made his debut, I have a distinct memory of watching a short lad walk into the middle, about whom I had read so much about prior to the series in Pakistan. He came across fearless, shy and very focused on a game in which he wanted to succeed. Looking back, the selectors of the Indian team at that time certainly deserve some praise. I am not sure how they saw what they saw and what gave them the guts to try out a 16 year old boy against a fierce Pakistani pace lineup. But that was such a bold selection. My most vivid memory of that debut Pakistani series was of course the injury that Sachin had in the second test.
Here is a video:
I was in my Class XII. Was watching the match at home and I even remember the seating arrangement in my living room, for I am known for a certain superstition when it came to watching Indian batting. When Sachin continued on to bat after that almost career-ending injury, I formed an instant connection with a boy who was as old as I was. He remained unbeaten in that innings. I definitely could feel his determination, his courage and also could see his shyness. I would be lying if I said that I saw a spark in him that would lead him to break almost all world records in batting. Certainly, I didn’t quite think he would continue to play for 24 more years. Till yesterday. What a journey!
I don’t remember statistics well. I can’t pick my most favorite Sachin innings. The only thing I can remember and will always remember is the “feeling” every time when Sachin came to bat. A sense of jittery feeling that pulled me down every delivery. Every ball Sachin faced would put me through that stress. I was not alone. It did cause that level of anxiety for much of the Indian cricket fans – millions and millions of them.
For a nation that is obsessed with cricket, the arrival of Tendulkar to the cricketing scene, 6 years after winning the World Cup (6 years of very mediocre performance around the world) was special.
Sachin represented hope.
He represented a sort of perfection.
He represented the aspirations of an average Indian to succeed and to be noticed amongst his peers, globally.
He represented an average middle class Indian’s urge and quest for self-confidence.
And simply put, he represented the average Indian’s passion and longing for success. For 24 long years.
And if his farewell speech didn’t give away too much, do read more and more stories about his early beginnings. When you do, you can’t help but wonder how so many people believed in him and guided/supported him through his journey, long before he was selected to play for India.
This is a story of a community working together to protect and help groom a sporting savior.
This is a story of people coming together to protect one of their precious citizens and support him till he reached his goal.
This is a story of so many making sacrifices in their own careers and lives, in order to give everything to one man, who they believed could carry the burden of one nation’s cricketing hopes.
This is a story of so many men and women around the world, growing to like and respect someone merely for his game. For his mastery of the game and for his humility on & off the field.
This is a story of a whole nation coming together for one man. Yes, a story of a whole nation coming together for one man.
March on Sachin!!
The game may miss you but I will heave a sigh of relief today because I don’t have to watch another Indian cricket match with those jittery feelings anymore. I, along with many 1973 born, will also take comfort to the fact that your life is after all, going to look a lot more similar to our lives from now on.