Cricket is a religion in India and whether you like the sport or not, the passion that people have for the game can be intimidating at times.
The nation has given a lot of legendary cricketers to the world. From Lala Amarnath to Kapil Dev, Sunil Gavaskar to MS Dhoni, the list is endless. Each one of them has unique traits and is revered by passionate fans.
And then, there is Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. There is a reason why he is touted to be the God of Indian cricket. Cricket in India, wouldn’t have been the same had it not been for this man.
Sachin and I
I was six-years-old when I saw him batting for the first time. At that time, I didn’t know about the technicalities of the game but I couldn’t take my eyes off the 17-year-old who was smashing guys twice his size.
The more I saw him on screen, the more I wanted to be like him. I held the bat and tried to replicate what he was doing.Days went by and my obsession with cricket became unstoppable. The sole reason for this obsession was Tendulkar’s impeccable batting skills.
One day while surfing the tv, I stumbled upon the highlights of a match between India and Australia which was played at Sharjah, UAE. Tendulkar was playing and the Men in Blue needed to achieve a specific target if they wanted to qualify for the finals of the tournament.
From the very first ball, he made his intentions clear and started taking on the legendary Australian bowling line-up. The way he played that knock, was one of the finest examples of how one should bat aggressively without taking too many risks.
His cover drives, straight drives and feet movement were majestic. It made me believe in the chants that were being echoed, “He is not human, he is God.”
The visual that’s instilled in my brain was the six that he hit off Steve Waugh’s bowling over long-on. It was the first time I saw a batsman coming down the ground and just smash a bowler for such a powerful hit.
At that time, I just knew that if I ever wanted to play cricket in my entire life this is the person that I should be watching.I started imitating his trademark shots, his stance, the way he played the ball through the cover region… I wanted to be him.
Every time I went to play, I tried replicating him while I was batting. What I realised at that moment was that it is just not me. There are many more kids like me, who want to become like him. Such was his aura. To an extent, it still is.
My passion for the sport and the individual kept growing. I began reading about him and got to know what all he did to achieve his dream of representing the country.
After reading his autobiographies, I realised that not every person can dedicate their lives to a sport, the way Tendulkar did. He wasn’t cut-out for an office job, he was meant to do something special. And that turned out to be not only special for him but for 1.3 billion others as well.
World Cup 2003: So close yet so far
Led by Sourav Ganguly, India had a formidable side going into the tournament. Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag opened the innings while Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh formed the middle-order. India began the tournament on a positive note as they defeated oppositions one after the other.
The most crucial moment arrived when India was up against arch-rivals Pakistan. Chasing a stiff target of 274 against bowlers such as Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar was always going to be challenging. Tendulkar took the responsibility of facing the first ball and what happened afterwards, made him a living legend for the youth.
With the help of Tendulkar’s inning (98 from 75) and cameos from Dravid and Yuvraj, India won the match and qualified for the finals. India lost to Australia in the finals but how Tendulkar played in the entire tournament was a statement in itself.
He was awarded the ‘golden bat’ for scoring the most number of runs (673 runs) in the World Cup. When he went on to receive the award, one could see the disappointment on his face.
He was so heartbroken that he could not take his team over the line and win the World Cup. His reactions proved that this man is not playing for personal records but his country. The priority for him was to win the World Cup for those billion fans and not individual records.
One thing that Tendulkar preaches with his persona and composure is that ‘never back down’. After that gruelling loss, he came back strong and showed why he is one of the best in the business. The right-handed batsman had such an impact that the audience would turn off the TV if he got out. If anyone could help India win, it was Tendulkar. If he’s out, the game was over for the fans.
Till 2011, he broke many records and created some of the finest moments in the history of Indian cricket. One trophy that was missing in his cabinet was the World Cup. For 23 years, that guy took the responsibility to take Indian cricket to stage where it is now. It would have only been fair that the entire team contributes and helps him achieve the goal of a World Cup win.
The fairy-tale ending was scripted as Tendulkar finally had the trophy in his hands under MS Dhoni’s captaincy. The way he celebrated the win, revealed what the game meant to him. The level of dedication, the level of passion he had for the game was immense and only a player of his calibre could have carried it on for almost 24 years.
Tendulkar was not just any other cricketer. He became a billion people’s emotion. He struck an unforgettable century in Chennai and dedicated it to the martyrs of the Mumbai Terror Attack (2008).
The people, at that time, were furious with what happened in Mumbai but Tendulkar produced one of his special knocks to give a little ray of sunshine to everyone.
The confidence with which he walked out to bat while a packed stadium was seen chanting his name is something that gives every Indian goosebumps. For a cricket fanatic, even today when he is on the TV screen, the first thing that comes naturally is the call, “Sachin, Sachin!”
Well, he might not be playing anymore but the memories that he has left on the field will be cherished forever. Thank you, Sachin. You were, are and will always be a LEGEND.
(Featured Image - FACEBOOK/SACHIN TENDULKAR)
About the Author
Sports Journalist by profession, a Cricket Fanatic by passion. Aayush Sharma has been following the game of cricket since childhood and considers Sachin Tendulkar as his idol. When in free time, he loves to read books or go out and play some gully cricket with friends. For him, Tennis ace Roger Federer and F1 Legend Michael Schumacher are the only sportspersons that reach the level of Tendulkar