Sachin, cricket will miss you!
There are farewells, and then there are farewells. Now that the curtain has indeed fallen on a long and scintillating career of Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, the 1.2 billion Indian hearts can grieve, mourn or celebrate the man, the myth, the legend. Of course, it will take some time for the dust to settle in Wankhede, where Sachin played his farewell test match against the West Indies. He picked the stadium as an ode to Mumbai, his home ground. ‘Dismissed’ at 74, as Tendulkar walked out of the field towards the pavilion, he had stopped and looked back. Men and women and stars and politicians and fellow cricketers, who had assembled at Wankhede (fortunate as they were to obtain the priceless tickets of the match), were united in their sadness. No matter what the criticism against Sachin’s overly long-drawn cricketing career have been, his retirement in installments, the mush marathon and cloying sweetness around the Little Master, the cottage industry selling his smile, his genius on coffee mugs, vintage notepads, his calm, almost non-flamboyant excellence – even the harshest of Sachin-baiters had to balk at the ensuing melancholy of seeing the ace batsman say goodbye. It was an emotional moment for all, Indian or not, to see the gladiator finally leave the amphitheatre, where he has fought and played for 24 years, the fifth longest innings in the history of cricket. The stunned silence at the suddenness of his getting out, the inability to come to terms with the eventuality of it, and the standing ovation that he received – all point to a great exit, maybe not with yet another century, but a class performance, with adequate display of brilliance and experience at every step.
The 40-year-old, the world’s leading scorer with 15,933 Test runs and 18,426 runs in ODI, is far ahead of the world number two Ricky Ponting, but that’s not the point. The only batsman to compile 100 international hundreds, Tendulkar has been acknowledged as the greatest batsman of all time, surpassing Donald Bradman, whose test average was a superb 99.94! From 1989 to 2013, the 24-year-old career from the age of 16 to 40 has seen ups and downs, but the player managed to capture our hearts and minds like no other. There have been greats before – Ravi Shastri, Sunil Gavaskar, among others – but they dwarf before Sachin’s towering achievement as well as in making a place so deep in our minds that we equate cricket with the man. The best tribute that the Indian cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni could give him was to win the 2011 ICC World Cup for their beloved master blaster. True, he didn’t have Ganguly’s arrogance and penchant for spectacular aggression on the field; true there have been allegations that sometimes he placed himself above the team and kept his eyes on the personal scorecard than the team’s performance, but then who, but perhaps the ever dependable Rahul Dravid, hadn’t done that? So the Time magazine called him the ‘person of the moment’ when he bowed out in Wankhede, in all possibilities, his last innings ever, as India looks set to crush West Indies easily. Truly, until he got out, there was Bharat Bandh, as one national daily had claimed in its front page. India, which otherwise has a bad habit of worshipping false gods, has truly loved its best God ever. Thank you Sachin.