Sachin Tendulkar – Harbinger of Hope and First among Equals

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Sachin Tendulkar. What does one say that’s new of this man who caused us to reach out and feel the electricity in the atmosphere every time he walked out to bat? What can one add to the odes recited by commentators who waxed eloquent with delight at his incredible cricket?

The little big man lorded it over his contemporaries, making capital of his unquestionable gifts – wonderful eye-hand coordination that marked superb shot selection, the ability to score off good balls, and his cricketing intelligence.

He flirted with batting records and monopolised them. But the man himself has said he likes to be remembered as an attacking player who took on the bowlers. He realised while doing this that he had to take chances, especially in one-dayers where it was not enough to play according to the merits of the ball. In fact, he said:” Very often, your success depends on not treating the ball on its merit.”

Of course, his batting was always potent, instinctive. He was usually in a hurry, suggesting that he was occupying the crease to score runs. He improvised strokes that didn’t exist for others. He could defy every known textbook instruction and make the gaps on the field look larger than they really were.

To be sure, even the gentlest of his strokes, the flick or the pushed drive down the track, spoke of brute power. Which is why it is hard to think of any of his innings as a symphony. The staccato bursts from his willow were more the hard rock and metal sorts. There were batsmen And there was Tendulkar.

He drove and pulled with such frightening power that grace was not a word that sprang to mind readily. Power and precision did. Of course, his batting could be poetic as well. The straight drive and the cover drive, the caress through slips. For, in the presence of genius, no rules applied.

Yet, nothing gave him greater joy than helping India to victory – bein Tests or one-dayers. He drew the most pleasure from each Indian win, taking as much pride in his team-mates’ performances as in his own. His confidence was exceptional – no sign of worry on the visage that we glimpsed through the helmet’s visor grill. His amazing batting led India to see him as superhuman even if he reminded us, every so often, that he was, after all, human. First among equals, perhaps.

He made us experience the whole gamut of emotions known to humankind. For instance, India warmed to his innocence as he stood up to Waqar Younis late in 1989; experienced agony when he threw his wicket away in sheer bravado in Napier the following year when on the edge of a century which would have made him the youngest to reach the milestone, and found great pride in his match-saving hundred at Old Trafford in England the same year.

Indians consoled themselves as he took the fight to the Australian camp in Sydney and Perth when he was barely old enough to secure a driving license. They were reduced to gaping school-children when thee normity of his talent was on view as he took a superb 165 off England in Madras in 1993 and counter-attacked Courtney Walsh and company in making 179 at Nagpur in 1994.He also employed similar methods to make a hundred in South Africa in 1996.

India also basked in reflected glory as he decimated the myth of Shane Warne in the Tests in India in 1998, when a steely new resolve was there in his eyes for all the world to see. Indeed, India also wept with him when he sobbed because one of his best Test centuries, arousing effort when riddled with back pain, was not good enough to carry India to victory over Pakistan in Chennai. And it doubled up in pain when his back threatened his career – a whole nation debated the injury and its import.

But of course, India had to suffer a long wait for the real Tendulkar to walk in to bat in one-day internationals. For long, India had to content itself with memories of a famous last over in the Hero Cup semi-final against South Africa on a tumultuous evening in November1993 at the Eden Gardens in Calcutta.

A nation rejoiced as his appetite was discovered accidentally when he opened the innings in New Zealand in 1994 and scored his maiden century in one-day internationals in Colombo later that year. India was awe-struck one April night in 1998 when chroniclers wrote
of two storms in Sharjah – of nature’s fury that made way for Tendulkar to unleash a blitz against an Australian attack that was shocked into submission.

And India wondered at his ability to shrug off thoughts of a personal tragedy and praised his commitment to Indian cricket when he returned from the funeral of his father to score a poignant hundred in the 1999 World Cup. Many of us in Bristol shed more than a tear when we saw Tendulkar share a private conversation with the departed soul.

If he were batting, you would not want to blink for the risk of losing the chance to see him play a shot. Peerless batsman. Great entertainer. Harbinger of Hope. Sachin Tendulkar.

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