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THE TENDULKAR PHENOMENON

By Madhu Kshirsagarphoto-2

24 Dec 2012

“The stream will cease to flow; the wind will cease to blow; the clouds will cease to fleet; the heart will cease to beat; for all things must die; death waits at the door.” Tennyson was probably talking about great careers coming to an end, as all good things have to.  But I am sure he would have said it differently if he had followed the career of the cricketing phenomenon called “Tendulkar”.  He would probably would have added, “let me wait for a while and make myself sure; for here is a man who can rekindle the glory of yore”, or something to that effect.  Every knowledgeable cricket fan wanted him to continue, defy age and recapture his glory days. But alas, the time has come.

463 matches, 23 yrs, 18426 runs, 49 one-day centuries, 96 one-day half centuries, at a strike rate of 86.23, 62 Man of the Match Awards! To put this in contemporary perspective – Ponting has 32 Man of the Match Awards and Kallis has 32 also.

The greatest one-day player ever! Many favourite memories of Sachin’s exploits in one-day cricket flash past in my mind – he almost always rose to big occasions – his exploits in all World Cup matches over 20 years are gems to be cherished.

Sachin Tendulkar has announced his retirement from one-day cricket.  For all the cricket followers, especially Indians this is indeed sad. One-day cricket will not feel the same again without the familiar walk to the middle by this small but colossal figure.  Generations of Indians will feel the emptiness, the void.  Some had unfairly started questioning his presence in the team. But in my opinion his retirement from one-day cricket has been of impeccable timing. If he had scored tons of runs in the current English series as most of the Indians were hoping – albeit against hope – his detractors would have been forced to shut up.  But all things have to come to an end and father time catches up with everyone – he does not differentiate or show partiality towards geniuses.

There is really no argument – Sachin is the best batsman of his generation and arguably best ever. Some other great batsmen over the last 30 odd years, such as Lara could come a distant second in Test cricket or a Viv Richards in one-day cricket. But Sachin is a complete package – in both forms of the game – the most complete batsman of all.

No great cricketer in my knowledge has ever retired at his peak.  Cricketers have only quit when they ran out of form towards the age of 40 or their bodies just didn’t cope. Name one batsman in the last 30 years who gave away cricket when he was scoring oodles of runs!  All great players have an unshakeable self belief that they can battle through the lean patch towards the end of the career. But alas they find that it is not that easy! And only then they come to terms with hanging up their boots – never before!

Even Ricky Ponting who retired very recently had been reduced to a scratchy batsman who averaged in his 20s for the last couple of years until be polished off some runs in a home series against India’s innocuous and friendly bowling attack.

Seriously there is no one batsman in the history of the game who has achieved so much and with such grace and aura. He stands head and shoulders above his contemporaries. Lara was inconsistent in Tests and was never a force in one-day cricket. Ponting was always suspect against genuine high quality bowling, whether spin or pace. Sachin has excelled against all kinds of bowling, in all parts of the world and in all conditions. A journey through his 100 international centuries – and 152 half-centuries – shows how he had mastered every bowling attack in the world.  And yet Tendulkar’s numbers and records are only half the story – the other half is how he gets his runs and his demeanour on and off the field – which sets him apart from every one of his contemporaries.   There is really nothing left in cricket for Sachin to prove or achieve!

People expect him to score every time he walks to the middle, and one cannot blame Sachin for failing to meet this unrealistic feat.  This does not reflect in any way on the greatness of Tendulkar but merely reflects the folly and naivety of people at large.  People are the ones who enshrined him as an immortal and have come to expect the most unreasonable exploits from him.  Yet all along he has been the only mortal, level headed and humble human being you can expect to meet in this crazy, egotistic warped world of ours.

It is probably our own limitations, and our own inability to achieve greatness that has made us to crave and seek improbable glory, and look up to someone else for this.  We made him invincible because it suited our own psyche to introduce invincibility into him, and beat the everyday reality in our own lives with some kind of superhuman – and believe me Tendulkar has often delivered on that expectation.  But Tendulkar himself has all along been the most stoic and the most balanced person that one can imagine.

The Tendulkar phenomenon is very hard to explain and yet is very easy to feel.  A generation of Indians have grown up with this feeling.  For all the street cricketers, those playing in the local grounds, the rich, the poor, the young and the old alike have come to revel in his glory.  He started playing cricket at the highest level at the tender age of 16.  From there it has been a fairy tale of glory.  100 international centuries!  Even if he does not add to it, he has dominated the world cricketing scene like no other before, and has already left an indelible mark on international cricket in general.

People have come to regard Tendulkar as a talisman for success, glory and reward.  Indian minds are so deeply etched with the Tendulkar phenomenon that they see their own reflection in him.  A failure in an innings from him is a failure for themselves personally and a failure for the nation.  His aura has lifted an entire nation and has instilled the resolve and the inspiration in every Indian heart to challenge the ordinary and meet the extraordinary head on.  Many ordinary Indians fell in love with cricket because of Tendulkar. They will today be sad, but I am sure will understand that this man has done more to provide them with entertainment and hope through his 23 years of tribulations, achievements and glory.

He is not just a hero; he is much more than that.  Most Indians have lived their own lives through his life.  They have been crestfallen when he failed and have been ecstatic when he succeeded.

And now, when nearing the end of his career some in the media pushing their own barrows, and a small minority of misguided new cricket fans have unfairly mocked and derided him.  How heart breaking is that!  How cruel! No one person is greater than the game itself.  But there are always exceptions, especially Tendulkar who has lifted the game of cricket to greater heights, and deserves special consideration and more leeway to fight his way back.

He has left one-day cricket but let him choose when he wants to say goodbye to Test cricket too and walk away into the sunset.  Believe me sunsets will not be the same again!

Sachin as a phenomenon transcends sports and embraces the good in all walks of our lives.  Enjoy this phenomenon because there will not be another one of its kind.