‘Sachin Tendulkar’ – one name that unites this country like no other. One name that transcends the countries sociological and cultural borders and helps the country, which is otherwise marred by caste and religious distinctions, integrate into a nation.
In a country famous for being home to some 33 crore gods and goddesses, if ever there was one common God acceptable to all the religions and sections of the society, then it has to be Sachin Tendulkar. So what is it about Sachin Tendulkar that makes him so special? His records are insurmountable, agreed, but we do have legends in other sports as well, but none share the same demi-god status as the 5-feet-5-inch-tall maestro.
Sachin Tendulkar’s popularity runs parallel with the growth of India. In the early 1990s India was in dire straits. The economy had collapsed, the threat of the underworld was looming over the major metros, political system was in shatters, and religious and communal wars were about to break. The country’s image was taking a beating world over and Indians were treated as second-class citizens, or as they say, people from the ‘third world’.
Then, out of nowhere, came a curly-haired sixteen-year-old boy, who could have been easily mistaken for a 13-year-old. With bare protections (they didn’t even have helmet with grills), he set out to face the fiercest pace attack in world cricket at that time – Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis. He persevered, took the blows head on, even bled on a couple of occasions, but showed a never-seen-before kind of determination from an Indian. By the end of the tour, this young gutsy Indian had announced his arrival at the world stage.
The Indians in the early 1990s were a dejected lot. Their present seemed to be falling apart and even the future didn’t generate too many hopes. At such a time, there was this one Indian who was grabbing eye-balls world over. Everyone from the past legends to the current greats had only good things to say about him and saw him as someone going to rewrite the history books. The Sachinmania had begun. This, not just infused a sense of pride among Indians, but gave them the confidence and self-belief that they too can be a force to reckon with and compete with the best.
What happened next is for everyone to see. As Sachin went on piling centuries by the dozens, so did the Indian economy. India became Sachin and Sachin became India. People didn’t follow cricket, they followed the sport that Sachin Tendulkar played; they didn’t ask what the total of the Indian team was, they asked what score Sachin was playing at. People rejoiced more when Sachin scored a century in a losing cause then when India won with Sachin getting out cheaply. Such was the impact of the Sachin Tendulkar.
Cut to the 21st century, and like red wine, Sachin and India’s stature has only grown with time. Such has been the impact of the great man, that it has propelled even Barack Obama, the President of U.S.A. and the most powerful person on the planet, quote — ‘I don’t know about cricket but still I watch cricket to see Sachin play. Not because I love his play, it is because I want to know the reason why my country’s production goes down by 5 percent when he is batting.’ A true measure of Sachin’s global popularity can be summed up by a quote, not made by any Indian or sub -ontinental fan, but by a cricketing fan from Australia, who are usually very ruthless in their appreciation of celebrities — ‘Do your crime when Sachin is batting, because even God is busy watching his batting.’
Talks about his retirement have been making the rounds on too many frequent occasions, much to the discomfort of his worshippers. What the cynics need to realise is that every time Sachin goes to bat, is a moment to celebrate. Being in the twilight of his career we need to lash onto to the opportunity to see the great man play. We are lucky to be born in the era that we have because, neither did the past generation get a glimpse of his greatness, nor is the future generation going to see him live in action. Hence, let us behold the sight of the ‘Master-Blaster’ play for as long as he can. It is going to be impossible for cricket lovers to imagine an Indian score-card without the name S.Tendulkar at the top of the order in one day internationals, and at no. 4 in test matches.
As one among his billions of fans put it — “Sachin should be banned from retiring!”