A kid, let’s call him X, is watching a cricket match. He is cheering for his father who is batting.
“Who was the guy who got you out?” he asks his father once the match gets over.
“Gopal Sharma. Very soon, he is going to play for India” his father responds. Gopal Sharma makes his debut in 1985.
Few years pass by. X doesn’t have a TV at home. So he watches some cricket match at a neighbor’s place. Ravi Shastri bats at snail’s pace but still India wins. After the match, Shastri drives entire team in an Audi.
Next year, when X has a TV at home, there is a big match being played in Sharjah. X decides to do the scoring for the match in this notebook. He does it ball by ball. On the 600th ball of the match, a six is hit. India loses. X becomes very sad.
There is a world cup next year. X’s maternal uncle tells him about a Sardar who has come in the team. He hits sixes at will. X goes to his grandfather’s house to watch the next match. A legend scores his first ODI century. India is in the semi finals.
India loses the semi final. The loss makes X sad again.
X also starts playing cricket. People say he bats well. X doesn’t disagree. His school timings are 9-5. So he plays on Sundays. Come the summer vacations and he plays 5-9 in the morning and 4-7 in the evening.
People are talking about some Sachin Tendulkar who looks to be the future. X comes to know about Sachin from his father. India goes to Pakistan. Like everyone else, Sachin impresses X’s father also. As the tour nears its end, Sachin tears apart the reputation of a legendry Pakistani spinner. By this time, X’s dad has become a big Sachin fan.
X asks him “Does he bat better than I do?”
“This kid is the best I’ve seen.” His father responds with a smile.
X thinks angrily “No. No kid can be better than me. May be I can be bettered by a grown up man but not by a kid for sure. How could you say that?” He becomes envious of Sachin. He starts admiring another Indian great – Azhar. Balance of power is required everywhere. So the house gets divided between Sachin and Azhar.
Father says “Azhar is an excellent batsman but nothing beats Sachin. He is the future”
Son says “Azhar is THE batsman. Sachins will come and go. Azhar will stay”
When Azhar gets out, father remains hopeful that Sachin is still there. When Sachin gets out, X tells his father “See, he is good for nothing”
World cup tournament is held in Australia. Azhar does well. So does Sachin. The team jumps into a well – 8 matches, 2 wins, 5 losses, 1 no result.
X asks his father “Have we won any world cup?”
“Yes. 1983. Yashpal Sharma’s flick for a six. Kapil’s 175. Lords. West Indian opener shouldering arms. . Sandhu's in-swinger. Richard’s assault. Kapil’s catch. Mohinder Amarnath. Holding. LBW. Crowd. Lords Balcony. Yes we won it on 25th June 1983” he responds. X listens.
X gets an offer to play for a local club but for that, he needs to compromise on his studies. His father tells him “You have to decide. You want to study or play cricket.” X chooses studies over cricket. Gopal Sharma never became a regular in Indian team. “Only big city guys can make it” thinks X.
But his interest in the game doesn’t drop. There is not one version of Cricket Samrat that he hasn’t read. He keeps playing.
Rivalry between Sachin and Azhar continues at home. Being an obstinate, X supports Azhar even on days when he is awful. But every time Sachin excels, he leaves X in awe. Awe wins over awfulness, always. There is always a difference between the great and the God. It starts getting visible.
Slowly X starts appreciating his father’s admiration for Sachin. But Sachin turns out to be a magician. He turns even a non fan into a devotee. X becomes his fan. Like the rest of the things, Sachin is not satisfied. So he does his magic again. X becomes a devotee.
India loses more often than not. X still doesn’t lose interest in the game. Every time India plays, he watches hoping a victory. But considering the mediocrity of the team, only one man can win it for them – Sachin. It becomes a case of – We win if Sachin does well. Even if we lose, he does well. He always does well.
So he thinks “Can he score a 100 this time? 50? 25? Can he hit a boundary at least? The straight drive would be worth watchin.” X stops following cricket. He starts following Sachin.
Another world cup comes. This time it’s in the subcontinent. Azhar does okay. Sachin does the best. India does better – they make it to the semi final. But the team rest of team again jumps into a well once Sachin gets out in the semi final.
“Was the team in 1983 something really special?” he asks his father.
His father is lost in the memory lane “Yes. We had Kapil. We had Patil. Yashpal. Gavaskar. Madanlal. Binny. Srikanth. Decent batting. Good swing bowling. Excellent fielding. We had everything and everyone.” His father consoles him “But don’t worry. Nobody gave us a chance in 1983 yet we won it. There will be another world cup. May be we will win that one” X recovers from the shock.
Life starts moving again.
Another world cup comes, in England. India has found some new talent which not only looks promising but also delivers it. This is X’s first world cup as an adult. He is a bit more matured now and knows that the hopes are not great. This time he doesn’t ask his father about 1983. X has read/seen so much about 1983 as if he himself followed it – each match, each ball.
He knows that maybe Sachin alone cannot win it and without Sachin we surely cannot win it. Team proves this theory right. By now, X is used to of it. He accepts the fact that we are a bad team. Only Sachin is good but he is not good enough.
Life starts moving again.
X gets up one morning to a catastrophic earthquake. X is told that many a matches in whom he cheered India to victory were pre-decided. The term given is fixing. And one Indian who is supposed to be the biggest villain in this entire story is none other than his childhood hero – Azhar. X is shocked. X is shattered. Every day he searches the news papers for the news on fixing – “Is Sachin involved too? No. Please no. He cannot be. Sachin cannot fail me.” Sachin doesn’t.
Every earthquake changes a few things in life. So does this one. India gets a new captain, a new coach, and many new faces. Things start changing. Things start improving.
Even the dependence on Sachin is decreasing. X likes it. Maybe Sachin doesn’t. In next world cup, when team looks really impressive, he scores an unbelievable 673 runs. Sachin proves his importance to the team, again. When Sachin gets out cheaply in the finals and the team responds saying “You cannot fail. You are not allowed to. In case you do, we shall fail too.” X is thinking “One cannot have everything in life, not even Sachin. May be this is one trophy God doesn’t want him to have in his showcase. May be this is his – even moon has craters thing”
X is proud of whatever India did in this world cup. Entire country is proud of it.
Life is moving on. Clock is ticking.
4 years later, another world cup has come. This is considered to be Sachin’s last. But the world cup finishes even before it starts – another failure, another missed chance. “Nope, one cannot have everything in life. Sachin cannot have a world up in this life. In fact, Sachin could not have a world cup in this life” X was thinking “Thanks Sachin. Thanks for entertaining us in 5 world cups”
Clock keeps ticking.
The World Cup tournament comes home. Sachin is still there. “Is he phoenix or what? This is surely is last. Hope we win and he does get EVERYTHING in life. If someone deserves it, it’s him” X is praying.
Everyone is saying “We have to win it for Sachin.” The way Sachin bats in the tournament it looks like he is saying “Thanks mates. But this is not in your league. I will help myself”
We reach the final. X is nervous. Not because “What if we lose.” He is used to of that. He is nervous because “What if we win?” Sometimes it’s easy to swallow failure because it comes so frequently. It’s difficult to cope with success because it comes so rarely.
Game begins. Like last 22 years, the rule of the game hasn’t changed. If someone has to do it, that someone has to be Sachin.
“In Sachin we trust. Rest is all Tait” X thinks “What if fails this time also. This is surely his last, surely.”
Some fears always come true. This is one of them. Sachin fails.
“See, he is not destined to get it” X thinks “But hey, this is not the team of 90s. These days we win even without Sachin. Everyone promised to win it for him. Now it’s time to deliver. Can they?”
And they do. Yes they do. X can’t believe it but they do. They win the bloody world cup.
X is over the moon. X is ecstatic. X is numb. “Yes we did it. Yes. Yes. Yes.” X keeps shouting till he loses his voice.
He sees Sachin running into the ground to hug his captain. A boyish smile, innocence, sense of achievement, satisfaction, tears, joy, it’s all there on Sachin’s face.
X is surprised that he is not crying, "May be my tears dried up in last 2 decades." But X knows that lot of his friends are crying. X is thinking “I don’t care even if I die now. My soul will rest in peace”
Next morning X gets an SMS from a friend “Good morning world champion”
This must be the best morning X has had in a long time. X gathers his mind which had fallen apart last night.
X is a world champion now. Suddenly a question strikes his mind “Now what?”
He wanted to see India winning a world cup. It happened. He wanted to see Sachin getting his hands on the trophy. It happened. Everything he wanted, God obliged. Now what? He is confused.
Cricket will re-start soon. It never gets bigger than the world cup. We won the world cup. But what is the motivation to follow the game now?
X mulls over giving up on cricket. “Retire on a high” he thinks. Maybe X is right – higher will not come; it will just be another high. X feels aimless. X has no ambitions left. Without any ambition in life, there is no motivation. X’s mind his occupied with just one question - Now what?
It’s a bit clichéd but I am X. However, you can change my story by 10-15% and you could be X. Saturday night was as if after ages of struggle, our generation achieved our goal. Our prayers of a world cup on Sachin’s CV are answered. And we all are facing the question “Now what?”