I know nothing I can write about you that already hasn’t been written. I know I can hardly better any of those pieces written about you. I know it may well be nothing but an emotional outburst.
But then, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t. I love to write and should do it for the love of writing. I shouldn’t be really bothered about the result, the occasion, the over covered topic or the fact that it may not find any readers other than me. It shouldn’t deter me, right? Isn’t that true?
Well that’s what I have learnt from you. Oh, I have not been fortunate enough to meet you in person but that’s what I have heard and read about you that you never really bothered. You never really bothered the opposition, the ground, the occasion or anything else. You just played the game of cricket for the love of it.
I have heard all those stories of you fighting yout back injury or the tennis elbow injury or the ilk. You fought them because you wanted to pick up the bat again, hit the ball and listen to the mellifluous music of bat hitting the ball – “thak”.
Oh that can be addictive. I know it. There is no better sound in the world than a batsmen listening to that song after he times the ball well.
That’s what keeps batsmen in love with the game. I know that’s what kept you glued to the game.
I know how you came back to play for India just after losing your father. Oh, losing your parent can be a traumatic experience – something you can never really recover from in live. I know it well.
I saw that innings of yours. When I look back at that experience, I see vengeance written all over it. I know the vengeance wasn’t against the opposition or the situation. The vengeance was against your own mind – you wanted to prove that you were stronger than the trauma given by most brutal reality of life – death. It is so easy to sulk when times are tough. It is really difficult to stand up to an adversary, look into its eyes and smile as if saying “Hello there. I am back again. Do I look nice?”
It is easy to give up on your greatness when you are surrounded by mediocrity or greatness that doesn’t match yours. It is easy to say – “If others aren’t trying hard enough, why I should keep sweating? It isn’t totally my responsibility after all”. It is not too difficult to be seduced by temptation to settle for something which is lesser than your potential. It is easy to let your guards down. But you never did it. You always kept adjusting your guard – literally and figuratively.
I know a lot has been said about how well you managed the expectations, pressure and all that. No need to talk about that. I liked and appreciated another quality of yours.
We are a great proponent of the theory, “I am a stud but my boss is an idiot”. I don’t know if it’s a human trait or we Indians specialize in it. I would like to believe it is the former.
To all your talent, temperament and God like status in cricket, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that you weren’t a good leader. The way you were always seen advising to your bowlers, you looked like a nagging boss who always wanted to micromanage things. But you realized it and made amends. Even though you were the best in your class, you always accepted to play and do well in others leadership. There was never a fuss created by you that we know. You just seem to have said, “Okay. I can’t lead as well as he can. So let me stick to my job – batting, fielding, bowling, strategizing, and guiding new talent, saving players from the accusations of racial abuse and whatever else” You happily accepted it – your limitations if there were any.
Okay. I haven’t been your biggest fan especially off late. I think you overstayed your tenure. I think you should have retired from ODIs on that fateful night of 2nd April 2011 but you didn’t just to have a fall back option. A fall back option to ensure you get the most awaited century in the history of mankind. I think you should have been dropped for your not-so-good performance in last couple of years. But then, we cannot always fool ourselves with the saying “Cricket is just a game”. It isn’t.
Okay. Maybe your failures were God’s way to show your human side to us. Maybe it was God’s way to tell us that human mind has its limitations and ultimately it does give in when body starts to give up. Maybe it was God’s way to detach me from your aura you had in my mind. I think team will miss you as a batsman lesser than it would have in 2011. I think it is a good way to do a transition – new kids seem to be on the rise whereas you were clearly on the decline.
In a relay race, one has to slow down to pass on the baton. The baton is passed on to the runner who is well warned up. It is a transition. It cannot happen at full speed.
I know most men in my generation have at least once dreamt of becoming you. I know it holds true for next generations – those who were born in mid 80s or later. Oh, generations change fast these days. From the times when son’s preceding generation was his father’s, we have moved on to times when generations change every five years. I wonder how many such generations you would have seen in the teams you have played for. But I am sure; each of those generations would have looked up to you. Oh yes, you give such a high to short men like me when I write this.
Anyways, this day had to come. You not being God means you aren’t immortal. Same can be said about your career. It had to end one day.
Yes I will miss seeing you bat in white. There will not be those stoppages to adjust the sight screen. There won’t be that typical adjusting of the “guard”. There won’t be those straight drives, those flicks, cuts, late cuts, upper cuts, under cuts, hooks and all that. There won’t be those irritating passages of play when you used to go in to your shell for no apparent reason. There won’t be those “let me show your place” moments when you took on bowlers. There won’t be any you.
With that, one of the most heated debates in the country will come to an end – “Should he retire?”
There would be no more “Sachin” on the ground.
However, life wouldn’t stop. People would still play, watch, follow cricket. New crop will come in. It always does. It already has.
But it wouldn’t be able to replace you. Like you couldn’t replace SMG, you weren’t SMG. You were Sachin. Same can be said about them. Pujaras and Kohlis and Sharmas will not replace you. Maybe they wouldn’t turn out to be as good as you were. Hopefully they would turn out to be better than you. Still, they wouldn’t be you like you couldn’t be them.
Challenge is for me. I need to find interest in this new crop which isn’t as gentle as you and your colleagues were. This crop is lot rash to my liking. It is quite different. It is totally different.
It took lot of efforts to search for the clipping when you used “F” word against McGrath. New crop thrives on such words. They call it aggression. I call it rashness. But then, maybe that’s how new generation is. I shall have to learn their ways in case I want to like them. Learn I will.
With you, lot of us are going to declare official demise to our respective childhoods and unwillingly accept our entries into midlife. That’s the way of life to make transitions of time. But for you, this transition would have happened years back. You delayed it.
I want to write more but I am not a milestones’ man like you (oh yes, with a tongue in cheek) –like I would write 200 pages or something like that. I have run out of steam and unlike you, I am not motivated enough to pick up myself and keep going – never used Luminous inverter in my life, you see.
I would end it here.
In the end, all I can say is Thank You Sir. Thank you for the wonderful memories.
I remember on 15th November 1989, 24 years back, I bunked school to watch cricket. I will try my best to quietly slip away from office today to watch you bat. After all, it could well be the last time and I don’t want to do that.
May God bless me with the luck to slip away and strength to hold on to tears.
A cricket fan.
(Image courtesy - Cricinfo)