Monday 24 December 2012


Sachin Tendulkar will no longer be donning the Blue Team India shirt bearing the number 10. He no longer will be opening the innings and more so, he no longer be scheming the bowlers with his continuous onslaught of boundaries and clever play. I know he will be part of Test cricket, but his retirement from ODI’s gives me a feeling of being a patient who is in his/her last stages of life. The end is not too far.
I am saying this because he has been a constant in my life ever since I can go back in my life. Travelogue from the early 90’s till now, my journey of cricket has been defined by Tendulkar and I can say that cricket viewing will not be the same. I know no player is bigger than the game, but to me I hooked on to cricket because of Sachin Tendulkar.

I would say I am lucky; I was at the right age when I started watching cricket; in only his second year into cricket I was barely six years of age and the image of his curled hair covered with his white helmet coming on to bat is fresh on my mind. It was in New Zealand where he scored his first run in ODI’s. Then the big series was the Australian tour where I remember his wicket taking abilities to tie the match at Perth against the West Indies along his bravado facing the fast bowlers scoring some decent knocks. Then the World Cup, waking up early to watch the matches. Remember the knocks at Sydney, Hamilton or Dunedin?

With school being very close to my place, I always used to rush back home to catch the glimpse of the match and if I did miss the matches, I use to catch them on highlights or watch the news (both Hindi and English) to just see few shots of the match. I must say, watching him play rubbed me into playing cricket as well. I was not that great a cricketer, but was a good enough player and that was entirely inspired by Sachin Tendulkar. I faced my friends who wore Fair and Lovely on their nose and came fast at me; I was determined to hit them apart. This was the effect of watching a lot of Indian cricket played in Australia and South Africa.

By this time, Sachin was on my walls courtesy the Boost posters. I never liked Boost, preferred Bournvita over it for taste; I used to buy them just to have Sachin’s poster. I remember the time when collecting post cards of Sachin was a past time to me; be it on a Sunny bike or the Big Fun bubble gum cards or sometime later those Sahara Cup and 1996 World Cup cards. I used to force my parents to subscribe to Sportstar magazine because I wanted to read and look at those pictures on cricket. 

Coming back from school was almost done in a hurry; rather to watch the last few minutes of cricket or to go out play cricket. Even the lunch break was spent in 5 minutes of eating and 35 minutes of watching cricket either at home or at a nearby friend’s place. Cricket was wired in me and I can’t but stop think for a moment that there was life beyond cricket. All this before I was even 9 years of age and then this happened.

My dad used to play cricket, corporate cricket in the 80’s and early 90’s. He loved cricket so much that he once hugged Vivian Richards at Chinnaswamy stadium. I was not born that time, but that story is a legend in our family. Richards was my dad’s hero and I can understand how ecstatic he must have felt meeting his hero. In 1993, when Indian team was down at Bangalore playing a double-wicket tournament, I went in with my sister to watch it. My dad took us to the pavilion and I was with my boyish exuberance met one cricketer after the other, getting their autographs. And then saw my hero, my idol standing about 100m from me. I could see him, his curled hair and his strapped left hand. He wasn’t taking part in the tournament but that was not what was on my mind. I took my little sister and ran towards him like how Usain Bolt would have done for a 100m race. Just about 80m, a security guard stopped my run with his lathi stick and I was scared. I looked back and saw few kids of my age too wanting to get an autograph of Sachin. Just when we thought it wouldn’t happen, I heard a voice “Un logon ko bula” (Call those guys in). Lathi lifted and we all rushed to him. I cherish the autograph as it was signed from his wrong hand and shook hands with him.

But that happened nearly 20 years ago but still remains a fond memory; so does his 463 ODI appearances. I might have not seen all his 18,426 runs scored from his bat, but have followed religiously everyone of it through some means. His 49 centuries and 96 half-centuries is a testament to his sheer hunger; his cameo of breezing 30’s and 40’s were a thrill and brought a lot of adrenaline. Be it those cracking square cuts, blasting cover drives, punch of the back foot, those breath taking straight drives, his mighty slog sweeps, feather touch flicks and glances; the delicate paddle sweeps, lap shots with occasional hits over the slips, third man and coming down the track to a spinner. He has done it all in every part of the World where cricket is played.

I was up on that Sunday early morning when I watched Tendulkar open the batting for the first time; was there at a aunt’s place on Ganapati festival to watch him score his maiden ODI hundred; was hitting the wall in frustration when he was stumped for the first time in ODI cricket; watched his first match as a captain and score a hundred; lifting Titan Cup as a captain; his blistering cameo in Durban; hundreds against Pakistan in Independence Cup 98; his first 5-wicket haul; Sand storming innings at Sharjah; Score a record breaking partnership with Ganguly in Srilanka; his record breaking 18th century; vengeance against Olonga at Sharjah; scoring an emotional hundred at Bristol; his 186 at Hyderabad; last of his captaincy; his innocence during the match-fixing incidents; his verbal duel with Mc Grath in Nairobi; his 10,000th run at Nehru stadium, Indore; his foot injury against West Indies; his first ODI hundred in South Africa against the Proteas; opening the innings with Sehwag; hundred at Durham;  his breathtaking knocks at the World Cup 2003; finals against Australia; his solo effort at Rawalpindi; the catch off Inzamam; the tennis elbow injury; come back innings against Srilanka; his demotion to number 4; World Cup 2007 disappointment; his first hundred in Australia; winning the tri-series in Australia; his epic in New Zealand; best innings for a losing cause against Australia; World Cup hundreds; seeing me held afloat by his teammates and give a lap of honour at his home crowd and watching him hold the trophy, a dream come true.

The above were just few glimpses over a period of time, but I am sure with time and my gifted memory many more such incidents of his will come to my mind. His cricketing feats have been an inspiration to my life and will continue so in bridging my nascent days with my growing age. He is the identity through which I recall my childhood days and all those moments that are so dear to my life. I look at all my scrap books where I collected thousands of his pictures and wonder a quote from The Wonder Years.

"You start out life with a clean slate. Then you begin to make your mark. You face decisions, make choices. You keep moving forward. But sooner or later there comes a time where you look back over where you have been...and wonder who you really are."

The past 24 hours was such a time for me where I went back in time; rediscovered who I am, my connection with cricket and Sachin and relived those wonder years.