Sunday, March 19, 2006

Feeling Tendulkar

I remember a young Tendulkar. Oddly enough, I cannot imagine him as old. Back then there were no words to describe him, and so we sought out numbers to quantify him. The magnitude of his promise was boggling. Could there have been a man after Bradman with whom numbers were so intertwined? Lara came later, as did Warne and Muralitharan.

We did not, or could not, speak of saying goodbye to him. To have bid him farewell would mean breaking away with a decade of ourselves, and in remembering his mortality we were struck by our own. But ageless faces deceive. Bones creak, skin tears, muscles become less taut.

When the tennis elbow was diagnosed, there was alarm. Injuries happened to people, but not Tendulkar. Of course they had happened before: the bending over after the six over midwicket against Kenya in 1996, the back pain against Pakistan at Chennai in 1999. But this was different. Suspicions arose that this one would linger.

When he played again, there were flashes of 1994, of 1998, of a free man who cherished his freedom but accepted nothing less than complete submission from others. Who could not delight in authority like this? But there were other hours when he could have been anybody but him. This new man was patient and cautious, he nurdled and nudged. Risk was banished. Given his time in the game, it was understandable, but sad all the same.

Each time a man much younger touches his edge, or clatters into his stumps, I feel a dull blow, and hope he returns vengeful, and puts the bowler in his place. How often does it happen these days? Does it happen at all?

The memory of him as young and energetic is fading. Discussions with friends whose thoughts on cricket are more emotional than learned and rational, all involve hopes of seeing him scorch grounds one last time, and leaving us with an image of domination and control – in our minds it is where he belongs. But it is a hope born of despair, like a death too soon. Why were we not told of this change in the programme? Why could we not cherish that last free-spirited innings?

What will happen to India after he is gone? It is a fear I have, irrational as it is. But I sometimes suspect that the bigger fear lies under the surface - that India will not matter after Tendulkar. For my short career as a cricket writer, that is how it has been. I could never be as emotional about India as I have been about Tendulkar. Dravid is more reliable, Kumble has won more games, but they cannot capture the imagination as he can.

In November 2004, I was at the Wankhede when he made fifty-odd runs against Australia on a cracked pitch. The innings would have once been construed as a failure. Here it was a success, and everyone within the ground’s confines knew it. There was a glimmer of the past in his batting, and it took me, personally, to an early morning in Dubai, when I watched him open for the first time in New Zealand. That was when I latched on the game properly. Now that I think about it, when he goes, the game won't hold me the same way again.


Anonymous said...

Some generations leave their darlings on people. Some players who are chrished a lot more than the game itself.

In these times we forget that the game goes on. It went on after Bradman in Australia and many cherished players in many eras.

For us, who have been priveleged to have our cricketing 'wonder years' in the era of Tendulkar, specially Indian fans as others may cherish a Lara or a Warne, and not necessarily to the same extent, cricket will indeed never be the same.

But we will look back and feel proud about being in the same era as Tendulkar. Our love for the game wont decrease. We are likely to appreciate many finer aspects of the game once there isn't a Tendulkar. We often have done the same (appreciate the game a lot more) when we watch tests of other nations for example.

That said, I am confident it is not over for Tendulkar.

Anonymous said...

Nice post - thanks.
Had a similar sinking feeling after yesterdays dismissal.

Makes me wonder though, why Sachin has captured India's imagination so overhwlemingly. Especially those of us who have had our wonder years (as Pratyush put it) in Tendulkars prime. It's not just the way he plays his cricket - the combination of dominance, purity, and a free spirit that was so rare to see in an Indian. I think the adulation has been as much a function of the human being he is, as the batting magician. There's something about the dignity with which he handles his status, the humility with which he carries himself, and the genuine-ness (if thats a word) about his nature that appeals so strongly to the Indian consciousness.

I agree he's not done yet. But just watching him struggle is painful. The cameo during Nagpurs 2nd innings suggest that the past continues to flicker through all his atempts to clamp down.

Anonymous said...

Great post, i'm bookmarking this blog.

It feels so bad even for an English 14 year old to see Tendulkar going through such a bad time, seeing him booed of the ground was the worst thing i have seen at a sporting occasion.

Tendulkar is so much more than just a batsman, it seems so un fair that a player who has given so much should be treated with so little respect.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree!!!

Surprising that, feelings about sachin run parallel among people with different hold over the nuances of the game.

Have always found it hard to be rational/emotionaless when it comes to sachin.

Can someone deny that sachin is more than a just another another great cricketer!

Guess, there is still some hope left in all the madness.

shakester said...

great post, rahul.
My fingers are loathe to add it to it, though; for they do not want to acknowledge that the end might be nigh.
no, I think I will live in unreality or hope for some time yet.

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