There must have been innumerable blogs written post announcement of HIS retirement from One Day International cricket. But as HE HIMSELF puts it across that each of hundred 100s were equally precious and memorable, HIS decision to hang HIS boots in the shorter versions of the game made me write this blog entry(after almost a year I am writing about sports). This entry does not speak about how a teenager blasted his way to the world of cricket, nor does it talk about how GOD gave his midas touch to the happenings around him. It speaks about a journey which an ardent cricket lover who sobbed when India lost a match and burst-ed crackers in his neighbourhood when India won, not really bothered if curfew was imposed due to communal tension in his hometown. This journey is from the time Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar was the ultimate master blaster and later was called GOD.
It was mid 90’s when the Indian cricket team was called a One-Man-Band. Even though it boasted of stalwarts like Azharuddin, Jadeja, Srinath, Kumble, there was one man who could make all the difference in a cricket match. Sachin Tendulkar had to score runs whenever he came out to bat, pick wickets when was given the ball(when all the bowlers were being hunted down) and also take some magical catches and inflict fantasy run-outs when chips were down for the team. Even when Dravid and Ganguly joined the team, Ganguly was more of a stylish ODI material and Dravid a test best-fit. There was no one who could send jitters down the opposite camp just with his sheer presence.
Even when the burden of captaincy fell upon him, he did come out with some blistering knocks like the 169* against Proteas when he batted with the tail to take India to a respectable position. Once he tossed the captaincy back to Azhar, I believe he was at his best. He was the undisputed champ who could just do anything. In fact there were days when he dismissed Steve Waugh with a low full-toss, manufactured miraculous run-out and also smashed likes of Warne, Fleming, Kasprowicz and Moody to all sides of the park in a single do-or-die match for India. He also played the perfect side-kick role with kind of innings which he played in the finals of Independence Cup in Dhaka against Pakistan when he blasted 41 of just 26 balls to set record chase rolling. Then came a time when match fixing scandal hit the Indian cricket yet our master stood clean. He also came up with innings like the one in Chennai when he almost won the test match with a belligerent 136. Also in the subsequent World Cup when he returned back from his father’s funeral he scored a fluent 140 against Kenyans, which made everyone realize that this man was little more than human. To come out a personal loss and play a WC game is BIG. Scoring a century in BIG BIG BIG!
Once he returned to cricket after a break due to injuries, the team looked relatively new. Ganguly was captain courageous, Dravid his trusted lieutenant and team boasted of fresh blood which could script victories like the one at Lords in 2001. Here is where I can say Sachin played himself in superbly to elevate his position from a senior player in the team to GOD. He could run between wickets like Yuvraj, field in the deep like Kaif and also score those quickies like Sehwag. And he did it in style. Neither did he come out in press saying how the team lacked a genius like him nor did he ridicule Ganguly/Dhoni when any of their decisions misfired. It was his love for the game of cricket which made him stronger each time some commentator claimed that Sachin played only for records and not for the team. His back-to-back centuries against Australia in the VB series or the majestic 200 against SA, just cemented his place in the hearts of those fans who already had accepted cricket as their religion and Tendulkar as their only GOD.
The child like smile when a wicket of the opposite team fell, the sunken shoulders when he was dismissed, the trademark signature stance when he reached a ton or the gloomy face when India lost a match and moreover the blue coloured jersey which had the name Tendulkar would be sorely missed. Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, I am not sure if I would ever be able to enjoy a game of ODI cricket without you!