To the Greatest Batsman of all time
Published: Sunday, December 23, 2012
Updated: Sunday, December 23, 2012 18:12
It was a bittersweet moment when Sachin Tendulkar decided to announce his retirement from One Day Internationals. 22 years since he made his debut, after owning all the records, beating every single barrier, winning every single trophy to be won, he can finally say that I have done it all.
A few days earlier, everyone wanted Sachin to retire. And now that he has granted everyone’s wish, no one really knows how to react to his retirement. It was ironic in a way that he played his first and his last match against Pakistan. No one would have predicted that after his duck in his first ODI match he would have gone on to play 463 ODI matches.
Sachin Tendulkar is not just a batsman. He is so much more than a player; he was the heartbeat for a billion people for 20 years. He decided whether people went to work or not. At a time when the country was developing, he gave people hope that someone could rise up against challenges, someone from a small place, and that he could be the best there ever was in the world.
As great people do, Sachin was always ready to adapt. When necessary, he could turn his arm over and get a wicket when no one expects him to. The last over of the Hero Cup when India needed a win, and the most important, in my opinion was the legendary Kolkata test match of 2001. His contribution with the bat was minimal, but his three wickets in the second innings in quick succession went unnoticed. He has not announced his retirement from test matches, but his all round contribution was evident there.
Although he was established in the Indian team as an opening batsman, he announced his arrival in the 1996 World Cup. The opening batting position never went away and world cricket was transformed, to say the least. The peak of his prowess was seen in April 1998 in Sharjah. The famous “Operation Desert Storm” is the stuff of what legends are made of. The ease with which he tore into the Australian bowling attack for two consecutive games, and to do that in the manner in which he did was something unthinkable. The best bowler in the world – Shane Warne actually had nightmares of Sachin hitting him for sixes. The two innings of 143 and 134 will always be engraved in the minds of every single Indian cricket fan. The importance of the innings was that he single-handedly took India into the final and then got them the trophy with a blistering innings. The innings was almost like a continuation of the previous game. The straight drive, the six over the bowler’s head, the dancing feet to the spinner, the cover drives, pulls and flicks were sumptuous and was the example of the perfect innings. The TV sets used to turn off when he got out. India did not believe in Sachin, they believed only in Sachin.
Apart from this, special moments always dot his career. The six off Shoaib Akhtar at Centurion in the 2003 World Cup, the hook off Andy Caddick are moments that will never fade away. His innings of 175 against Australia at Hyderabad, the century to win India’s first ODI series in Australia, the upper cuts, the numerous partnerships with Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid, none of them will ever be forgotten.
It was fitting in a way that the person to reach the landmark of 200 in ODI’s went to the Mumbai maestro. But his crowning moment came in his hometown of Mumbai, close to where he learnt his cricket, near Shivaji Park, when on April 2nd 2011; India won the World Cup after 28 years. The joy was so visible on his face. It was something that was kept inside for 22 years and it finally came.
Ten ODI’s later his retirement was announced. But it was not before he achieved the biggest feat never thought possible. A century of centuries in the Asia Cup at Dhaka against Bangladesh was indeed the cherry on top of the cake.
It is not that Sachin will be missed on the field; it is just that we don’t know of a game in recent memory where he has not been there. The blue jersey on a short guy with a heavy bat, the curly hair, that adjustment of the abdomen guard, the anguish with which he scolds a person who moves behind the sightscreen, the straight drive, the shouts of “Sachin…… Sachin!!!” and the sheer joy of watching someone who changed the cricket landscape forever will be missed. He is truly Destiny’s child.