Nevertheless, India got drubbed by Richards’s men, that is an understatement. And the juggernaut moved on. India prepared to make a visit to Pakistan, and across the borders knives were sharpened. Their bowling boasted of Imran, Akram, Waqar, Aaqib and Quadir. This time, there were no kid gloves, as Sachin got his entry into the big bad sweaty world of International Cricket.
It was TODAY 20 years back that he walked out with the Indian Test Cap on his head. A 16 year old, who was oft reminded by the partisan crowd in Pakistan of the bottle of milk he had forgotten back home. Well, I am not here to recite his complete Cricket life as that I will save for Sachin himself to narrate when he finally decides to say “its enough”. But what I wanted to express was my growing up with Sachin.
When he made his Debut it was grade XI for me, and some where my tryst with Competitive world overlapped with his entry into the International world of Cricket. From then on there have been numerous moments where he was the reason for my excitement, determination, dedication, discipline and achievement. He was that alter ego I would have loved to have. He was that shadow, I longed for but was only happy to see and emulate on the Telly. Sachin was me – I laughed for his Success, I cried for his failures, I jumped in the small confines of whichever room I am watching the match whenever he did so, I chose to utter those rosy words of Acrimony whenever he was attacked in a non cricketing way, seethed in anger when critics had to write him off, and sniggered away to glory when he shut them off again and again and again.
I don’t know but its just coincidental that Indian economy, competitive spirit, global presence, moolaah in cricket, professionalism in sports etc. coincided with Sachin’s ascent on the Cricketing Barometer. Only time will tell how much has been his contribution to India overall in a non cricketing sense. Maybe someday, when he had made a dignified exit, the world will realize what his presence on the cricket field meant to this nation. But one aspect cannot be overruled and that is whenever Sachin succeeds, India is happy. Debts are pardoned off, Inmates are treated to good food in jails, Political parties for once don’t go for the collars of oppositions etc. India becomes productive. India progresses.
If I have to look back a few memorable moments in that career that were defining for me, they would be:
1. Hitting 6 sixes to score 53 of 15 balls, in his first ODI @ Gujranwala, which was converted into an exhibition game. Though we lost, the world noticed the big hitting prowess of this little big man.
2. The final over in the finals of Hero Cup against South Africa in 1992, when it was 6 balls to go 6 runs to get scenario, and Azhar was clueless whom to bowl. Sachin (Still a teenager) plucked the from his skipper’s hands and bowled a dream over to win the game for India (Sachin the Competititor had arrived)
3. 1991 Perth hundred, where on a wicket which would send goose pimples amongst an established batting line up, he chose to keep his chin up and score a hundred
4. The Sandstorm Innings in Sharjah, which was one Defeat India will always cherish. He scored another hundred the next day to win us the tournament single handedly, it was his birthday. (Ripe old age of 23)
6. 155 n.o. in Chennai in 1998 against Warne and Co., which set the tone for what was in store for the Aussies. He thumped Warne in a manner that caused nightmares to the great leg spinner.
7. That 250+ knock at Sydney in 2003-04, where he ignored the off side as if it never existed, and in the process displaying the art of concentration and discipline to the T.
Yet, Sachin was human. When he resigned from his first stint as Captain, and the role went to Azhar, Sachin like that sweet school boy, blocked one entire page of Times of India to justify various decisions as captain as if to make a point to the establishment. And the next time the captaincy came to him (1999-2000), Sachin’s sheer distaste for dishonesty and murk was clearly evident. He went on a tour of Australia with a team which could not possibly win a domestic competition just to keep out the unscrupulous elements from the team who had started compromising the cleanliness of the game (That was the first real indication of all wasn’t well between him and Azhar). His clear dictat to the board of either him or Azhar was probably one of those very minute moments of Sachin’s political mindset that accidentally peeked out of his well guarded self. I am sure, his voice did play a very critical role in later physically cleansing some of this elements out of the game.
As he embarks into his 20th year of greatness at the world level, I am sure the Achilles heel will only be more painful, the hamstrings will feel like rock of Gibraltar a little more, the shoulder’s would seek the ligaments be replaced with artificial ball bearings….but the spirit of that gawky 15 year old from Shardashram Vidyamandir and hunger for runs will go on. I remember when Sunil Gavaskar retired in 1987, I almost gave up watching and playing Cricket feeling, whats left in the game. Till Sachin came. But the day Sachin hangs up his boots …………… it will be as if I retired. Didn’t I tell you he is that alter ego I never had.