The match as it started on 14th November 2013, wasn’t your regular cricket Test. Wankhede has seen full occupancy on many occasions, but the fervour for tickets this time was unprecedented — perhaps even more than the World Cup final in 2011. This time it was not just a match at the stadium. Every Sachin worshipper left his and her work to watch him in action for the last time and bid him farewell.
The presentation ceremony after the India - West Indies Test was a tribute to the hero of words and actions together! One doesn`t have to be a cricket fan to be a Sachin fan! That is the master blaster’s magic! But saying great things about Sachin Tendulkar is merely repeating what everyone else is talking about.
For the people born in 1980s, Sachin is kind of a timeline reminder. People remember the years by Tendulkar’s achievements. Whether it was his debut, where despite not a very memorable performance, he was appreciated for his maturity and bravery against Pakistan’s pace attack or the famous ‘Desert Storm’ or his final knock against West Indies.
The 90s saw him making his place as a batting legend. That was possibly the time when I started watching cricket properly. My parents would allow my brother and me to stop studying and come out to watch television when Sachin would come out to bat. Dad would call out for us to watch him despite exams, and we waited to watch him play his signature straight drive and annihilate other team’s star bowlers – from Shane Warne to Shoaib Akhtar.
I am not a cricket fanatic but Sachin is a sentiment I share with the rest of India. The Coca Cola cup 1998 is possibly one series that would always stand out in the minds of all of us — the swashbuckling back-to-back centuries – the 143 knock that took India to the title round popularly ‘The Desert Storm’. Then came the match-winning 134 in the final on his 25th birthday which made Tendulkar the apple of India’s eyes. This was the tournament where Shane Warne, the legendary Australian spinner had jokingly said that he got ‘nightmares’ about bowling to Tendulkar.
His world records are as much a proof to his genius as his style. The balance with which he judges every ball – understanding the minute it touches the bat where it will go, struggling through his bad patches and yet coming out looking like a superhero. His stance of which many a boys put huge posters on their walls acquired with saved pocket money.
At the end of his 200th Test, when he walked into the pavilion after the presentation ceremony and his speech with his head bowed struggling to keep his emotions in check – his fans shut their eyes to remember their favourite Sachin moment. Whether at the stadium or in front of their televisions, whether they were worshippers or just young enthusiasts, whether on the street watching it from a tea stall or in their offices with the entire staff n their feet – India watched an era walk out of their unofficial national sport. No other sportsman can claim to have driven so many people together, unified in chanting his name - “Sachin... Sachin”.
Sachin apparently in a record partnership with schoolmate Vinod Kambli had driven a bowler to tears in his early years. That bowler can tell his grandchildren that he played with the ‘God of cricket’ in school. And today Tendulkar possibly made another world record – of making most number of sports fans cry in a country, or possibly all over the world.
India, where there’s a God for every occasion — Sachin is the revered deity of cricket — who wields a sacred cricket bat made of the finest willow, which has produced a 100 tons and created many a record...
Now only humans will play cricket.