Friday, November 13, 2009

20 yrs of passing Tests, and 22 yrs of keeping his head

As the comments under this 21 year old Harsha Bhogle article on Sachin explain, the republication of this old post has taken back many readers to their younger (or youngest) days.

It takes me back too, but not that far. A not so memorable afternoon from 2002 for Sachin the batsman which happened to coincide with one of the greatest moments of this decade for Indian cricket. The Natwest final, where India successfully chased 326 on the shoulders of 2 young men called Yuvraj Singh & Mohammad Kaif even as the top order stars had all departed with more than half to get. One of the stars was our little big man. Sachin was dismissed at 14 playing an awful shot that put an end to a scratchy innings in front of a summer crowd at Lord's.

He hung his head on his way back. To his horror (or so we thought) some atrocious
'lily livered landlubber' ran into the field and kept speaking to the dejected man all the way to the boundary rope till the security folk found the action close enough to rise from their seats and act. We waited for something to snap in the greatest batsman in the world (unarguably, at that point of time anyway). But Sachin did not respond to the guy even once. He did not even betray any sign of being aware of the existence of this 'sea-gherkin' hovering and blabbering around him. It stayed that way till the end. No complaining to the security, no gestures. Sachin went straight into the dressing room as if it never happened.

I was in no mood to stand up and clap as India were in dire straits in another final due to a silly innings from Sachin. I wish I had applauded. Applause means the most when accorded at the right time. I still keep making up for that non-appreciation somewhere deep within whenever I recall the restraint that Sachin displayed that 2002 evening. It came to him as effortlessly as the straight sixes during his unforgettable "turning back the clock"
175 against Australia on 5th Nov 2009.

Ramakant Achrekar, being a concerned guardian to the 15 year old genius under his tutelege, had expressed his fears in that old article:
" This (publicity) is ridiculous. These things are bound to go to his head. He will start thinking he has achieved everything. I hope all this stops he can concentrate and work hard."
The publicity and distractions never stopped. They only went from one plane to another. And he (Sachin) never stopped concentrating and working hard. And it never went to his head. It is quite possible that he read this 'Sportsworld' article and remembered his 'guru's words as clearly as he remembered the sledging from Aussie bowlers during his 1992 tour Down Under.

I doubt if we will see the likes of him again. The batsman, maybe...the complete man, I have my doubts. I wish I could be what he is even without his 12000 & 42, his 17000 & 45, his numerous other records. At least I would be nice to the people around me, good and not so good. And I would be at peace with myself. That's worth envying in these times, isn't it?

Achrekar sir can rightfully ask his share of our gratitude in making Sachin the man he is. Certainly as much as Merv Hughes can claim the gratitude of the world for making Sachin an eternal Aussie baiter.

And how could I miss this....I wrote
a post in 2005. It was on a sporting champion I dreamt of, an ideal sportsman. I did not have any real sportsperson in mind when I wrote the post. Sachin mark-2005 had his little quota of blemishes. His refusal to come out to field after skipper Rahul declaring the Indian innings ar Multan '04 with Sachin on 194* was then a recent affair. He would still be slowing down a little after passing 80 to pick up his next ODI hundred....

But then they disappeared; not my memories of his ever-so-slight indiscretions but the indiscretions themselves. He never did anything unbecoming of his stature after that Multan affair. He came back to the slip cordon to help India win more matches. He stopped loitering around to pick up another ODI ton. So what if he lost form? So what if he was struggling and looking over the hill? So what if his flowing runs of 1990's were distant cousins to his workmanlike tons of the 2000's? So what his erstwhile art work was looking like an artisan's work? With more failure as a cricketer than ever before, he strangely kept emerging as the champion I envisaged in
that post.
That he has turned a corner in the last 2 years and inexplicably recaptured so much of his past glory after passing his 18th year at the top is but a footnote to this tale.

On the occasion of his completing 20 years in international cricket, I dedicate the post
"To our Champion" to the man who, on this day, is every bit of the champion I described in that post. It was surely written for you, Sachin Tendulkar. Please take my bow.
[cross posted on Amber Kaleidoscope]

Update: This thought provoking article was written by Anand Vasu of cricinfo way back in 2000. It appears on Sachin Tendulkar's player page on cricinfo (as on today). In this article Anand too is wondering what can possibly go on in the mind of a champion while going out to perform under an immense burden of expectations.
"He is no statesman, no politician, no religious leader. And yet he holds sway with as much power of as any one of the above. Whether he faces it or not, he is one of the few Indians who binds the whole of this country. Probably, no other person in the country is as uniformly admired as him. He is in a position of immense power. Did he choose to get to this position and work towards it? One reckons not. The price he has had to pay as an individual is incomparable to the rewards."

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