Sachin’s birthday is for all of us to celebrate

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Worship is personal and does not have to always be expressed outwardly. This act of praying, inward or outward, can be in your own home or at a religious institution, no matter what the faith. On this day, April 24, there are special prayers for a genius who gave us immense ecstatic moments. He provided us unadulterated joy, he made us forget our pain and sorrow, and he instilled faith, in a different way. Still wondering who this is? Sachin Tendulkar, in case you suddenly blanked out, for worship, religion and prayers have today become so controversial.

Thank God, one religion which has stood the test of time is Tendulkar. Does this sound bizarre or nonsensical?  No, this is truth, for the Mumbaikar who turns 51 today always ensured we never lost faith in him – be it batting, fielding or still being a role model after retirement.

We live in an age where social media is toxic. We live in an age where social media has turned many humans into beasts, who fight over heroes without realising the damage being done. After all, having come to the City of Joy for the launch of Banned, a book by Boria Majumdar, it was hard not to listen to an animated conversation over Virat Kohli-versus-Rohit Sharma, away from the main stage.

This piece is not about war or hatred or toxicity on social media platforms. Yes, when Tendulkar was, at times, scoring runs which did not necessarily result in wins for India, he was also criticised. But then, it was not like today, where the level of abuse has become so high.Cricketers, perhaps, never touch social media platforms themselves, but leave the job with professional managers.

Back to Sachin and his birthday – it’s not going to be just one cake cut by him, wife Anjali and his immediate family. His birthday is a celebration for millions of fans, irrespective of time zones. Sachin scored 18,426 ODI runs, 15,921 Test runs, 51 Test centuries, 49 ODI hundreds and took 201 International wickets. There are many defining moments he produced, though when he lifted the 2011 World Cup in Mumbai, that megawatt smile had no limit.

Almost 11 years after Sachin retired, when he got a whole series arranged against West Indies for his 199th and 200th Tests, he lingers. He is like your favourite song, your favourite fragrance which you wear again and again. It’s an addiction you are hooked to.

What would his fans do today? It could be anything from reliving the magic he produced, to being remembered as a role model for the way he embraced cricket. We live in an age where the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) debate has become nonsensical. If tennis has this Novak Djokovic-versus-Rafael Nadal pot being stirred, there are comparisons made in football as well where Lionel Messi against CR7 (Cristiano Ronaldo) has become messy.

Yes, social media existed even when Tendulkar played active international cricket, but there was no brutal trolling like today. That is why even at 51, Tendulkar pulls at our heartstrings. Maybe, some will go back to Sachin as a screen-saver on the cell phone, or maybe get a cake with his image on it. Or evena cake shaped like a bat! After all, the Sachin obsession has not ceased.

As a journalist of the old school, I was told to be objective and not become a fan when you wrote. Whether writing, or the mediums of radio and TV, which I have been a part of since 1987, the effort was to leave out words like “me” and “I”. 

S Kannan with Sachin

Today, I will break that rule, since it happens to be Tendulkar’s birthday. Come on, 51 is just a number, and to borrow Rohan Bopanna’s phrase, Sachin has touched Level 51. Yes, there are physiological changes, but the romance has not left any of his fans. Cricket and romance are a tango.

My fan moment with the God Of Cricket came way back in April 2000, at an Adidas outlet inauguration in South Delhi. A good friend, Ganesh, had said, “Come for the store inauguration, you will get a few minutes with Sachin Tendulkar.” Those days, there were no cell phones with such high-resolution cameras. Yes, I got a picture clicked with him and, in that moment of fandom, struggled to ask him many questions. It was not an assigned interview, but turned out to be an exclusive which left a few bosses at my workplace red-faced.

Why?Because I was not supposed to be a “cricket writer”.But Sachin was never for cricket writers or fans alone. And yes, despite the possibility of getting media accreditation for his 199th Test in Kolkata, I came as a fan and watched him. Not from the press box, but a good seat arranged by an ex-colleague.

I watched that Test at the Eden Gardens as a fan, not for story-telling or writing. It was just to see the legend in action. There was an urge to go to Mumbai for the 200th Test, but I had to be with my brother, who passed away in Bengaluru, on November 16, 2013.

I will still attempt a Sachin interview, a formal one, some day. After all, the man who has seen Sachin from close quarters and knows him so well, BM – Boria Majumdar – might help me!

Till then, like every Sachin fan, I will say a prayer and wish we can have more champions like him. Icons like Sachin come once in a lifetime, and they touch your heart. Happy birthday,legend.

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