It's been almost a week now that the greatest cricketer of our times, and arguably of all times, announced that he has decided to hang his boots. This was one of those rare occasions when every single Indian and every single person in the world who knows this great man, has a strong reaction to the news. Media went berserk showing clippings of the master's 24 years of illustrious career, right from the time he held his bat in the test match against Pakistan. Times of India dedicated a separate four and a half pages section on the legend, excluding the front page. Everyone, from movie stars to politicians, had reactions around how un-crickety, cricket would become without the GOD. Quotes from sports giants like Brian Lara, Matthew Hayden, Waquar Younis and the greatest Sir Donald Bradman to politicians like Barack Obama, kept flashing wherever you go - TV, facebook, twitter, newspapers.
While there is a generation of Indians who have seen Sachin rise from a 16-year old boy who played good cricket to the GOD of the game, there is a generation of Indians that grew up along with this 16 year old boy (who, by the way, is still of the same age at heart). My existence on earth was just 3 years, 4 months and 21 days before the little master made his debut against the killer Pakistani attack of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Imran Khan and Abdul Qadir. My interest in cricket started from the 1996 World Cup, after watching Tendulkar's innings against Sri Lanka in the league matches. Since then, I have identified the game with the legend. It is actually hard to imagine the Indian team without him when you have seen him in that blue dress ever since you started following the game.
Since then, I have lived my childhood around the great man, like millions of other kids in India during that time. Remembering each of his innings, distinctively brings in many other memories as well.
DESERT STORM INNINGS AT SHARJAH:
Those were the times when cable TV was a nascent stage in India. We had only Doordarshan at our place and no cable TV as my father wanted me to concentrate on my studies. So, for matches outside India, I had to make other arrangements. There was a stationary shop near my place where there was a TV. In those days, many shops, especially Paan Shops had cable TV. It served them two purposes: 1) they could see the match while on their business, 2) TV helped them generate customers (and in turn, more revenue) as people who would want to watch the match - they would stay back and order something. Paan shops became a meeting ground for sports experts who had solutions for every single problem that Indian cricket was facing - right from who should become the captain to which batsman should go next in the order or which bowler should bowl the next over.
I had made friends with the stationary shop owner as I frequently used to purchase stationary from him. Also, knowing the fact that the guy had cable TV, it made more sense. It was 1998 and Sachin had just removed the burden of captaincy. Azharuddin was brought back as the captain and things started turning good for India after winning the first Independence Cup in Bangladesh, defeating Pakistan. Next stop was Sharjah tri-series with Australia and New Zealand. Even before the series started, everyone knew that the competition was essentially about who will face Australia in the finals. With India and New Zealand even out in the two league stage face-offs, everything boiled down to net run rate in the final league between India and Australia. Sachin sailed India through to the finals. But the bigger day was yet to come on April 24th, 1998. Everybody expected Sachin to make his 25th birthday special by handing over the Coca-Cola Cup to Indian fans.
I had some concession at home for watching the match at the shop. Luckily, we were only 1.5 hours ahead of Sharjah, so the match would go till 12 mid night maximum which was an acceptable limit for the owner to keep the shop open. The shop was crowded with huge mob as Sachin progressed with his innings. We cheered as Tony Grieg screamed "O this is high .whad a six .whad a six .way down the ground its on the roof its bouncing around on the roof" and danced as Sachin danced down the track to hit Shane Warne for the biggie. We hailed him when he promptly started walking after getting caught behind, without waiting for umpire's decision and cursed the umpire when he was wrongly given LBW in the finals.
By the time I reached back home, my family would have slept. Mom was not so much into cricket at that time. Dad would occasionally just ask me the match result, who played well and what's next. My mood for going to school, the next day, was often dependent on how Sachin played last night.
BULLET: It is said that half of Sachin's greatness, at that time, was because of Tony Grieg's commentary
DISMANTLING PAKISTAN AT CENTURION IN 2003 WORLD CUP
2003 World Cup had the worst timing for me. The World Cup started just before the 12th board exams. More than the Indian cricket team, it was an acid test for the students - maintaining balance between cricket and studies. It did not take huge motivation to skip a big part of match against Netherlands while the match against Australia went dead from the word GO. However, the most awaited match of the WC was the "mother of all games" (as Ravi Shastri puts it) - India vs. Pakistan.
I am sure thousands of kids like me would have struck deals with their parents for this match. For me, in addition to my parents being already there, my paternal aunts (my father's two younger sisters) visited our place on the day of the match and both of them are teachers (I don't think I need to tell anything more here). So, the deal was that I had to skip Pakistan's batting and can only watch India's batting. The whole idea was to minimize the match-watching time. Those days, the only thing mattered in India's batting was Sachin's presence. So, if Sachin gets dismissed early, I will go back to studies, unless some miracle happens (that too, I have to wait till last 10 overs - if it is really a match winning position). Everyone knows what Sachin did in that match.
In the hindsight, I realize, that the only point of time, when parents will never say No to kids watching TV is when Sachin is batting. Even the most important life events can wait if Sachin is on the crease.
FIGHTING 175 AGAINST AUSSIES IN HYDERABAD
I completed my MBA now and was working in a corporate for about six months now. My life underwent a tremendous change. I was no longer a student but a working professional. I was financially independent. My closest friends were now spread across the globe - although mostly in US. I had been away from home for more than 2.5 years. The world around me changed too. US had its first black President. India retained the mute Prime Minister. Government scams became more sophisticated as they evolved from fodder to 2G. Hutch became Vodafone. Mittal Steel was Arcelor Mittal now and Tata became Tata-Corus. Lehman Brothers ceased to exist. Ramalinga Raju was out of Satyam.Smartphones relieved us from the liability of being smart. Having internet became necessity. IT boom was now settling in. Google.com became answer to everything.
But for Sachin, time had stopped. 10 years back, he used to open the innings, hit bowlers for boundaries, be a nightmare for opposition captains, remove his helmet and raise his arms after scoring a century. 10 years later, he was still doing the same.
Hyderabad had been notorious for a losing ground of home teams - be it India in international cricket or Deccan Chargers for IPL. Australia was looking forward to take the lead seven one-day series after being 2-2. When they amassed 350, memories of 2003 World Cup final rushed back. I reached home from office by the time India started the chase. The only person between Australia and victory was - Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. While the partners kept coming in and going out - the so-called match winners like Sehwag, Yuvraj and Dhoni - Sachin played his heart out to see India through. The prayers went on till he succumbed to team mates' incompetency. 19 runs in 17 balls was the target GOD left for his disciples.
At the end, they said "India loses whenever Sachin scores a century"
DESTROYING DALE STEYNI would say, "YES!"
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