Tag Archives: Sachin Tendulkar

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Sachin’s new song almost took me to rehab!

Last week, I had written a blog about Sachin’s business enterprises and commercial projects. About how his contemporaries are now coaching and mentoring the future generation, while Sachin promotes ‘Sach’ banian and 100 Not Out Paan Masala.

And just as I had posted it and made my peace with the thought, Sachin released a new song. This time with Sonu Nigam – the last time he sang, it was deemed a security threat on aeroplanes. The song is so bad that they had to get Sonu Nigam, one of the country’s best singers just to amp up the missing sur in the song.

Like a moth to a flame, I am attracted to anything to do with the little master. I watched the song, and I have called the suicide helpline four times already. Like Shane Warne in 1998, I have had nightmares of the song, woken up in cold sweat and gone back to sleep, only to return to the song.

The song is so bad, I wished I was deaf. I called the Deaf and Dumb helpline, only to disconnect the call at the last moment. A cringe fest of the highest order, the video is responsible for Sachin fans converting to Dravid fans. I wonder what Rahul Dravid thinks of the song. I wonder if he sent the link to Anil Kumble and received a ‘Hmmmm….’ as reply.

Why do Indian stars end up singing songs? We made Shah Rukh, Salman and Aamir sing songs. We made Amitabh Bachchan sing, and then Brett Lee. It was only a matter of time before Sachin would enter a studio and sing a song. And if the song is enema for the ears, it ain’t no treat for the eyes either. Featuring animation straight from the makers of Chhota Bheem and Motu Patlu, the video has Sachin smashing 2D bowlers all around the park.

And just when you get over the singing and the graphics, Sachin delivers another googly – the lyrics of the song. Just have a look at the lyrics of the song –

Sachin Lyrics 1

I looked up the song and found the lyrics were written by a dude called Varun Likhate. He should have been named Varun nahi Likhate, considering there were no actual lyrics written for the song.

The song then goes to the next para, and the lyrics go one level up –

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While I’m touched that Sachin mentioned Debashis Mohanty, I have to admit what you see above are not lyrics. They are answers to a GK question –

Q3: Name all cricketers who played with Sachin

A3: Praveen, Ravi, Subroto, Kapil, Kiran, Vinod, Azhar, Anil, Krishnamachari, Ashish Kapoor (who dafuq is this guy anyway?).

I must have watched the song five times, and it’s now stuck in my head. When I meet people, they wonder what I’m smoking. I show them the link and the song gets transmitted to their heads, as they walk around like zombies spreading the virus.

I used to think there were mindless fans who consume everything Sachin peddles. That they would come rushing to the song and download it a million times and tattoo Sachin is God on their scrotum.

Turns out, I was wrong. Turns out a lot of people are jaded by Sachin’s constant hawking of products, services and exclusive experiences. I ran through the comments section and found a few gems.

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Now you know Vinod Kambli’s YouTube channel.

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Dr. Strange Ap has the final word!

I don’t understand the point of the song. I know it is to feature in the film Sachin, starring Sachin, produced by Sachin. But I don’t understand why Sachin needs to keep churning out one bullshit product after another, when he is a member of the Rajya Sabha, and has been awarded the highest civilian award in the country.

It’s the Bharat Ratna, Sachin. Not Manikchand Screen Awards – at least behave like you deserve the award.

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If you’re a fan of cricket, me and Rohit (@rhtswn) will be touring the country with Silly Point – India’s First Cricket Based Stand Up Show. Please come down, and drag your friends along! 

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What I Hope from the Dhoni Biopic

It doesn’t take an Einstein to understand the rush to make a biopic on Dhoni. There’s something about the guy.

If Sachin made cricket India’s No.1 priority, our national obsession, Dhoni took it to the nation’s grassroots. When historians discuss his career in the future, they’ll acknowledge that MS was no ordinary cricketer.

I detest comparisons, but it is hard to resist a comparison between Dhoni and the only star bigger than him – Sachin Tendulkar.

Sachin might be hallowed today, but he had a firm backing right from his school days. By the time he was 14, Sachin had Gavaskar, Vengsarkar and Ravi Shastri around him. Gifting him bats and pads, and passing on decades of valuable experience. Apart from the immense talent and incredible hard work that he put in, Sachin took five steps, and the sixth step was taken for him.

Dhoni grew up in Bihar.

I don’t mean that as condescence, but as a comparison. Cricket in India has always been an urban, upper class sport. I wonder why a country as vast and poor as ours would choose cricket. A sport that requires a lot of investment in time and equipment. It should make more sense for us to obsess over kabaddi, or soccer.

The history of Indian cricket is replete with Maharajahs captaining the country with their coterie of servants. Scroll further down, and you’ll find that most of our stars came from upper middle class families; from urban spaces that allowed for coaches, nets, and infrastructure.

Dhoni grew up in Bihar.

If Sachin represented India’s awakening as an economy in the 90s, Dhoni proved that cricket had trickled down to India’s interiors. It now flowed in the country’s veins.

Sachin grew up in a time when Indian cricket was far from its peak. With players like Devang Gandhi, Sameer Dighe and Sujith Somasundar in the fray, Sachin was a god among mortals. He stood out like a Liberty statue in a Dharavi slum.

Dhoni came into the team as a small town boy amidst demigods. Against all odds, he went on to lead the team and then form his own coterie. A team comprising cricketers from towns and villages. Sons of clerks, shopkeepers, and farmers.

Not only did Dhoni crash the party, he got up on the table, took off his shirt and flung it in the air! MS Dhoni was the biggest star in the team for nearly a decade. He was polite, but not necessarily humble. He came from simple roots, but loved his cars and mansions.

MS Dhoni the persona evolved with his stature. When he came in, he was a youngster who could cart Shoaib Akhtar over the fence in successive deliveries. By the time he leaves, he’ll be a middle-order batsman who bats with tailenders and has finished the most matches for India.

From a merciless marauder who swung his bat like a double-edged axe, to a backfooted middle-order mainstay with a solid defence. From endorsing Mysore Sandal Soap with shoulder length brown hair, to becoming the richest cricketer in the world. Dhoni survived, and Dhoni evolved.

And not once did he let his emotions come in the way. Not once.

Not once has the man lost his temper or expressed dissent (except to journalists, for whom he reserves the coldest contempt!). Surely, a biopic on the man was a goldmine waiting to be explored.

Neeraj Pandey is a dependable filmmaker, and Sushant Singh Rajput an able actor. I’m glad the film doesn’t aim to dig too deep into his cricketing career (like the godforsaken ‘Azhar’).

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But was MS always this guy? Did he always choose to smile at problems? Was he always grounded, or was there a time when he waved a middle finger to his detractors?

How did it feel stepping into a dressing room with Sachin, Ganguly, Dravid, Laxman, Kumble and Sehwag? Why did Sachin recommend his name for captain, when he’d only been playing for a year? What did he see in the boy with Tarzan hair?

And why did MS choose to chop his hair off? Was there more to it than the Brylcreem endorsement deal? Why did he announce his retirement from Tests in the middle of a tour? When did the small town boy become the suave face of a hundred brands?

Who really is MS Dhoni? Does he have just one true face? Or does he wear many masks?

These are the answers I seek from MS Dhoni – the biopic.

You already screwed up the biopic on my childhood hero. Please don’t botch this one up!

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Courtesy: http://www.india.com/whatever/icc-cricket-world-cup-2015-if-ms-dhoni-virat-kohli-and-the-indian-cricket-team-were-superheroes-319393/

Can we please not make a ‘God’ out of Kohli?

There comes a time when a player reaches a zone, a certain zen-like metaspace where nothing else around him or her matters. Roger Federer enjoyed that zone for a good part of a decade. At their peak, the Australian cricket team was an unbeatable force, an unstoppable juggernaut. It goes without saying that Virat Kohli is in that zone right now.

But while tributes flow in from all quarters, there are some that amuse me. The comparisons with Sachin Tendulkar are inevitable, but I am amused by the word ‘God’ that is being used to describe Virat Kohli.

 

Thoda zyada ho gaya, bro.

Thoda zyada ho gaya, bro

 

Perhaps it is our tendency to deify people; perhaps it is an integral part of our ethos, of elevating people to a pedestal and worshipping them. A handful of Indians have acquired this Godly status (if we exclude Babas and saints, that is).

There is Lata Mangeshkar, who is often referred to as Maa Saraswati herself, there is Rajinikanth, a phenomenon that defies every logic of modern cinema-making. And of course, there is Sachin Tendulkar. There are people who have had temples made for them (Khusbhoo), but not all of them can boast of a divine following that Amitabh Bachchan commands.

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What does being a ‘God’ entail?

One, supreme talent. To become a God in India, you have to be supreme at what you do, the absolute best. Being one of the top, or someone who was there for a while, won’t cut it for us. You need to have an impeccable record, one that can be easily converted into numbers – 100 centuries, 25,000 songs, 30 years in the industry.

Secondly, you need to adhere to the Indian morals of humility and grace. There were people who were very good at their craft, but could not become Gods because they did not possess such qualities. Rajesh Khanna, Dev Anand, Mohammad Azharuddin.

More often than not, you need to begin as a child prodigy, slowly climbing up on the basis of hard work and talent. That’s the other thing, we place a huge amount of importance on talent. Perhaps the thought can be pegged back to our mythological times, when talents were ‘gifts’ bestowed by gods and goddesses. You also need to have a long career – an origin story, a story of resurgence, victory over evil. That’s another integral part of the narrative.

But being ‘God’ comes with its own set of problems. One, there is insurmountable pressure on you all the time. You have to live up to the pedestal created for you, and that entails a blemish-less professional and personal life. Being linked up to people, or losing your temper are out of question. As a God, you don’t get a day off; it’s a full time job.

And when you fail to live up to the stature of God, all hell breaks loose.

Amitabh Bachchan had to apologise to his fans publicly for films like Boom and Nishabd. Tendulkar was dragged into Maharashtra vs India mud-slinging contests for no reason whatsoever. ‘Non-believers’ still taunt Sachin fans about him asking for a tax refund on his Ferrari. Dhoni had stones pelted at his house when he failed in a match. Lata Mangeshkar refused the Filmfare Award because it came in the form of a naked woman. They had to wrap it in a handkerchief before giving it to her, apparently. (I wonder how the trophies are stored in their cabinet, though. Did Lata-di get little sarees stitched to protect the dignity of the Black Lady?)

We also become intolerable to criticism over our Gods.

Look at how we have handled Sachin’s legacy after his retirement. Whenever a legendary player comes to India, we invariably asking him the ‘Sachin Koschen’ –

 

Reporter: ‘Do you think Sachin Tendulkar is the greatest player in the world? Yes or no?

Former Great: ‘Ahem, well…you know…’

Nation: ‘Aye, gandu! What do you know about cricket? Fuck you, Tendulkar is best’.

PoopScoop: ‘Five Reasons why Former Great is a dumbass’.

Facebook Posts: An Open Letter to Former Great. Dear Former Great, Fuck You. Thanks, Indians’.

Twitter: ‘Aye Maria Sharapova, tu Sachin ko nahi jaanti hai, jhoot mat bol saali’ #Khangress #Aaptard

Baba Sehgal: Hey Sharapova, you wanna share-a-poha?

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And the chaos descends into pandemonium. For you see, while being God is a full time job, being a devotee is also a full time job. You have to worship, you have to defend. You have to take up virtual arms against those that question the godliness of your God; it is your right, as well as your duty.

We did that to Tendulkar.

The guy had to single-handedly fight through shitty batting line-ups, and by the time there was a stable set of guys around him, he’d been elevated to God-level. The pressure was visible in his game – the jittery starts, the slowing down while nearing the century, the nervousness while chasing. I wonder how many matches Sachin could truly enjoy, like he did as a youngster. I wonder how he felt when he heard a hundred thousand screaming fans turn pin-drop silent because of him.

And then, when he went through a bad patch, he got booed by his home crowd. It happened to Gavaskar in his final match too. There were reports of people flinging their food and fruits at him!

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Kohli is 27. While he is yet to truly peak as a batsman, there will inevitably come the bad patches. It is in the nature of the sport, considering the numerous aspects involved with the game today – schedules, endorsements, corporate and national responsibilities, the pressure of being a living-breathing brand.

Kohli is from a different generation. In fact, there is very little that is ‘Indian’ about Kohli. In all aspects, he is ‘Australian’ – there is the brash approach, the ability to take up challenges, the consistency. It is a different generation. One that is comfortable walking hand-in-hand with a superstar girlfriend, and also pointing a middle finger at a packed Sydney Cricket Ground.

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This is a different generation, and it requires another epithet – ‘God’ seems outdated and quaint. Let him be who he is, an outstanding player, a brash, aggressive fighter. Let him screw up and make mistakes and go through good patches and bad patches.

Fuck God, and (I never thought I’d say this) fuck Tendulkar.

Let him be Virat Kohli. No God, just a human.
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(Featured Image courtesy: www.india.com article – What if the Indian team were superheroes?)

Kohli images courtesy: 1) crichotline.com, 2) Getty Images.

All Star Cricket League

Take-homes from the All Stars Cricket League

 Watching the All Stars Cricket League was a strange experience.

Firstly, it wasn’t like I had made a slot in my schedule, marked the day, finished bath and food early, and sat down in front of the TV. Naah.

It was a memory at the back of my mind, something I could always get to, after two beers, and catch up on.

That was what it was about. Catching up.

Catching up with those guys I loved and adored and watched and imitated and cut pictures of and stuck to my scrap book. The guys were getting together once again, and it would be fun to see how they’ve aged.

Strangely, the Indian players didn’t seem to have changed a lot. Sachin played a slow, cautious innings, holding it together, the fear of losing early wickets perhaps too deeply embedded in his psyche.

Laxman swung and missed, and went back to the pavilion before you could say ‘Odomos’. Much like he has been doing for Kochi Tuskers, that team where everybody seemed to have elephantiasis. And Agarkar. Agarkar didn’t do much in the match.

Then there was Sehwag, doing what he has been doing all along. My only pang of regret was that McGrath wasn’t in the opposition. I’d have liked to watch Sehwag cart him across deep mid-wicket, all the way to Alaska.

The Indians were just going about the motions.

The Sri Lankans were at it too. Being efficient and productive, diving around and fielding well, and doing their bit for the team. The Australians were fit and effective. In many ways, it could have been the 90s and the players gotten together for a charity match.

Except for a few things.

Curtly Ambrose.

Curtly Ambrose in my memories was a fearsome, frightful bowler. One who took no bullshit, and gave back in good measure.

Over the years, something happened. I am guessing Ganja.

Curtly Ambrose Reggae Band

Curtly Ambrose has metamorphosed into a smiling, swinging guy who doesn’t give a fuck. There must be some greens involved there. Probably because he joined a reggae band after retirement. Probably because his favourite musicians are Bob Marley and Peter Tosh.

But here’s my biggest take-home from the league.

Indians love Pakistani cricketers.

No matter what the Shiv Sena wants you to believe, and no matter how many Pakistanis they ban from playing or performing, the roar you heard when Akhtar came on to bowl, proved that Indians like the guy. The applause that Wasim Akram got when he came on to bowl was further proof of that fact.

I assume if Sachin went to Pakistan, he’d receive the same kind of treatment. It is because we Indians love cricket.

We will play cricket outdoors and indoors. We love Tests, One Days, and T20s.

We will play cricket with cricket balls and tennis balls. When there are no balls, we’ll roll up papers and crunch them into balls.

When there are no papers to tear, we will play book cricket.

The All Stars league was just a way of letting people of my generation revisit their nostalgia once again.

It wasn’t really serious cricket. But who cares?

At least it wasn’t like the IPL, where there is a fake sense of seriousness over trumpets and painted faces.

This was like the cricket matches you play on a team outing with your office colleagues. Nobody cares. It is about playing the game. It is about revelling in it.

I can’t wait for the next two matches!

Wish He Was Here…

India – Pakistan matches, for some reason, do not carry the intensity that they used to in the older days.

In an age where every movement, every expression, every word is captured, there seems to a be a blanket of civility over the proceedings. I doubt we will ever witness an Aamir Sohail vs Venkatest Prasad ever again.

I don’t know if it is a good thing or not. For one, the Pakistani side in general seems a lot weaker on most days (I know I am writing this after a loss, but you get the point). Secondly, the losses don’t hurt much these days.

In earlier days, every aspect of an India – Pakistan match was dissected, deconstructed, replayed, review, relived. Now, you simply walk up to the other room and roll a joint. It’s simply not the same.

And so all through the match today, with one eye over the proceedings of the match, my thought drifted away in another direction.

Openers.

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If you’ve watched Indian cricket for about a decade, you’ll notice that the beginnings of Indian innings are a lot more tense these days. Now rewind to a few years ago, and you’ll remember that the beginning of an Indian innings was met not with anxiety, but anticipation.

Sehwag’s entry into the team was the last piece of a gigantic puzzle. We had a side stocked with seasoned campaigners – people who had honed their skills for years, winning accolades, gaining in experience, till our Middle Order was pregnant with batting greats. But yet, one felt that something was missing. The army needed a vanguard.

Somebody who could be at the front, someone who could cock a snook at the opposition. A person who could terrorise the opponent right from the start. A Mel Gibson in our Braveheart. 

And that man was Virender Sehwag.

For the cricketing world, caught up in its little traditions and customs, Sehwag was an alien thing. More often that not, one sensed the discomfort the commentators felt while he was at the crease. For, if there was one man who could make the wisest of commentators look foolish, it was Sehwag.

He would poke at deliveries on bouncy pitches, slash hard at deliveries that left his body. The commentator would launch into a long extempore about the importance of footwork and technique on foreign pitches.

And right then, he would slap the bowler through the off side. A whiplash that made such a clear ‘TOK’ sound that you knew would end with the ball crashing into the stands. And then he would do it again, reducing the renowned commentator into a bumbling, embarrassed fool.

Yes, we had the genius of Sachin Tendulkar, and the bludgeoning power of Dhoni, and all the class and style of Dravid and Laxman, but ask anybody in India, and they’ll tell you that there wasn’t anybody as entertaining as Sehwag.

When Sehwag came into the picture, Sachin was already a God. But Sehwag posed no threat to the legacy of Sachin. Admittedly having modeled himself on Tendulkar, Sehwag was soft-spoken and rarely said anything. (Apart from the now legendary quote – “All played well, except the Sreesanth.”) When he features in ads, he seemed shy and reserved.

And very soon, he took over the show from Sachin. For the first time in years, Sachin had someone who could shift to fifth gear at ease, and he could work his way to another century.

Sehwag, inadvertently, was also responsible for the ‘Sachin is a selfish player’ accusation that Sachin haters make against the man. Having grown up with cricketers who slowed down their innings when they neared the 90’s, it was an acceptable habit. Till Sehwag happened.

Sehwag would slash and cut and punch and butcher his way to the 90’s. And then when at 94, while you were expecting him to slow down and take a few singles, he would step out, whack the bowler over Long On, and then raise his bat to the Dressing Room and smile. We as a nation had never seen something like this.

Of all the shots I have seen him play over the years, two will remain firmly entrenched in my mind. One is the murderous cut on the off side. Sehwag would shuffle and scuffle outside the Off Stump, and the bowler would give width on the Off Side, and WHACK! the ball would race the fielder to the ropes. The second would be his backfoot punches, modeled no doubt after the man at the other end.

Watching a Sehwag innings was like going on a date with an attractive serial murderer. There was an edginess to it, a nervous excitement.

All through his golden years, there were the technical problems. Numerous commentators pointed out the flaws in his batting, remarking that he had to change his game over the years. Every ball he missed made him look obsolete, confused. And yet, at the back of our minds, we never thought it was a serious threat. For he would pull one across the ropes and all would be well with the world again.

Perhaps, like Sehwag, we as a nation took his talent for granted. Took it for an akshaya-patra that would keep spilling over with riches. And then, it happened. His shots were either too late, or too early. His batting, built on the foundation of an impeccable Hand – Eye coordination, had Merv Hughes sized holes in it. 

I don’t know if history will remember Sehwag as a good player or a great player. I remember Gavaskar talking about the difference between the two. Both of them have good starts to their careers – records, success, fame. But as the body starts to age, the great ones tweak their game, making small changes that keep them going, in spite of their bodies slowing down.

Perhaps Sehwag gave as much respect to such theories, as he gave to the bowlers at the other end. Till his last tournament, he maintained that he would play his natural game. He didn’t say it with arrogance, he didn’t seem stubborn about it. He seemed like he knew no other way to play.

 

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There are a few things I have against statistics and numbers in sport. While revealing a lot, they conceal quite a bit as well. No amount of statistics and averages can truly demonstrate the impact that Sehwag brought to the team.

There are no numbers that measure fear. Fear in the eyes of the bowlers the world over. The utter bafflement they faced as they saw this man lift his bat and strike the ball like it was the climax of a revenge saga.

Numbers will never reveal how he mutilated the opposition. That even a 30 from Sehwag would demoralise the best attacks of the world. There are some things that even Mathematics cannot quantify. Sehwag’s batting was one of those.

By the last few innings, Sehwag was a changed man. In his earlier days, he was never the most aggressive or outspoken. He could be found talking to the keeper and laughing at Slips during his heydays.

But in the last few days, he seemed distraught. His shoulders drooped, his stance shaky. It was like he was asked an Out of Syllabus question in the Board Exam. I remember him coming to Cuttack for a Ranji match. In an interview with a local channel, he seemed bored. He spoke about the game, about Sachin retiring, and then rambled on about a school he had started, where children are encouraged to pursue sports along with their studies. It was hard to see him like that.

And now, when I watch Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, it is like being in an arranged marriage with a person who has already suffered three heart attacks. There is no excitement, just fear.

I know Sports doesn’t work on emotions. I understand that physical and mental toughness matter more than anything else. I also understand that the same sport that elevates mortals into Gods, brings them crashing back down to earth.

But for reasons very personal to me, I wish Sehwag is somehow able to stage a comeback. And for one last time, I see his bat slice through the opposition. And hear that ‘Tok’ sound.

Just once.

 

 

 

Din Dhal Jaaye…

 

If I were to turn into a psychotic, cold-blooded, serial murderer, while I am being carried off by the police, let them say of me –

“He was wronged. When the only thing good about his childhood was Sachin Tendulkar, they robbed him of it. Society has hardened his heart to a stone.”

 

*

 

So it has happened.

He has retired, and we have to move on with our lives.

I wanted to write a flowing tribute to the man. A tribute that would explain in detail how he peppered my life with its most beautiful moments. Of how he made my life in an otherwise shitty decade – memorable. Of how my childhood was Sachin Tendulkar.

I would be lying.

 

Because when Sachin was being Sachin, I was caught up at different places, doing everything but watching the match. It’s a long story, and to keep things short, please refer to the chart below.

 

Stellar Sachin Moment What was happening What I was doing
1991, Sydney century A young Sachin was belting fiery Australian bowlers in the fastest pitch in the world. Had just been admitted in my boarding school. Was five years old, so knew nothing about anything.
1996 Wills World Cup The World Cup was happening in India. Day light matches, a terrific costume, and a plundering of Pakistan in the quarter final. Sachin had begun opening the innings in One Days. 4th standard. Our class teacher would come tell us if India won the match. She also added some details of her own. At other times, she told us stories of her childhood, and how she would bathe in a tub full of bubbles in her childhood.
1999 Chepauk century India is chasing down Pakistan’s score in the second innings. While wickets fall left, right, and centre, Sachin keep butchering the bowling, going on to score 136. India lose by 12 runs. Sachin has tears in his eyes, and the legend of ‘When Sachin scores a century…’ is born. Since we weren’t shown any cricket, the only option was to read the newspaper from the staff room – in the fifteen minute gap we had after lunch.

 

The punishment for eating slowly was to be made to sit on the Girls’ side. I never rushed through my lunch.

1998 Coca-Cola Tournament, Sharjah After robbing Shane Warne of any respect he had for himself in a test series, India beat Australia in the semi final and final, and Sachin scored blazing centuries in both the matches. My family had decided that cricket was an unwanted evil. The TV was packed up, and I had to crouch my head against an old Philips radio till I felt like the hunchback of Bhubaneswar. Couldn’t listen to the climax of both the matches.

 

Now, let us have a look at some of the matches that I’ve watched.

 

Stellar Sachin Moment What I was doing What was happening
2003 World Cup Had watched the entire World Cup. On the day of the final, I had stayed back from school. In the PCO I was working in, there were at least 50 people huddled up to watch the match. I sat in front of the TV, right from the Toss, to the end of the match. Zaheer Khan sledged the Australian batsmen, and they launched into an assault that made the Indian bowlers seem like members of the Vaanar Sena.

 

In the chase, Sachin holed out after pulling McGrath for a boundary. Next day, there was school.

2009 India vs Australia India were chasing 351, on a pitch that was providing swing and assistance to the bowlers. I was working as a copywriter, and since my boss hadn’t come to work, I had safely parked my ass in front of the television for the entire match. Sachin scored a blitzkrieg 175. He played the lofted straight drive – in the way only he can, and punched the bowlers in gaps. At 36, he was making a comeback. And everyone watched in silence.

 

India, however lost the match by 3 runs, thanks to Ravinder Jadeja, who had worn his helmet, but forgotten to carry his brain inside it.

2011 World Cup I have moved into Hyderabad, and am studying again. I have no work to do, and have devoted myself to the World Cup in body, mind, and soul. It is the final at Wankhede, Sachin’s motherground. Sachin starts off with two boundaries, and edges Malinga to the keeper.

 

I am taken back to the feeling after the last world cup, a pall of gloom descends.

So there you have it. Everytime he did well, I wasn’t watching the match. And everytime I was watching, he didn’t do well. While he’s playing his last innings, I am in the villages of Ganjam, where electricity hasn’t returned to the houses after cyclone. I grow restless, wrapping up my work to watch him bat. He’s in the 70’s, I finally find a television, and settle down in front of it.

And he edges to First Slip.

I can’t really say with conviction that watching Tendulkar bat was one of the high points of my childhood. I didn’t see too many of his innings – at least not the great ones.

But that is not to say that I grew up without his presence in my life.

 

It was impossible to grow up without Tendulkar in the 90’s. He was India’s first brand – the first person who held sway over people across the country – something no politician, or film star can boast of. Amitabh Bachchan has no relevance down south, Rajini Kanth is more of a pop figure up north. Gandhi is irrelevant for most people these days. But Sachin Tendulkar.

I saw him on hoardings, on the covers of Pepsi bottles, in magazines, and in the stories that my friends told me about him. And I had read tons and tons of articles on him.

Since television was out of bounds, cricket came to me through a different source. From the pens of S. Dinakar and Bobilli Vijay Kumar of The Hindu. While I did not have the colourful, heart-wrenching action in front of my eyes, I had the lyrical fantasies that the two gentlemen wove out in the papers the next day. I read about the drives through the covers, and of lofted drives that flew into the stands.

I read about how Sachin miffed McGrath when he stopped him in his run up, to adjust the sight screen. I read about how a sandstorm forced the cricket to stop, but when it started, a bigger storm was to strike that night in Sharjah.

And I would recreate those scenes in my head. In my mind, Sachin was always a reticent mercenary. A hard-working gritty professional.

 

*

 

In the later years, I was a little embarrassed by the image that was made of Sachin.

Whenever a cricketer flew down to India, we would ask him whether he thought Sachin was the greatest. It was like there was a need for validation.

This deifying of Tendulkar, probably because of how Indian it is, always pissed me off.

 

I have always wondered what it would be like if Tendulkar was not this cherubic, soft-spoken youngster, but a muscular, brash person? What if he talked back to the bowlers, had affairs with actresses as was the norm back then?

Would Tendulkar still have been the hero that he is made to be? I doubt it.

While we talk about the glories on the field, and the 24 years on the ground, the real reason I think Tendulkar is what he is, is because he successfully managed his career without putting a foot wrong. Because he lived up to the pedestal that he was put on – of being a humble, hard working, son of the soil.

That’s how we like our Gods – clean.

 

*

 

While there will always be debates about the Bharat Ratna, I wish it wasn’t conferred on him immediately.

Before you order your gang of friends to find my address, kindly hear my reason out.

All his life, Sachin was scrutinised by the entire country. Every time he came out to bat, the commentator would begin talking about Sachin’s shoulders – ‘He carries a billion expectations on those shoulders of his.’

Or, ‘A billion hopes lie on the shoulders of one man…’

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By elders, by contemporaries, by children – his every step, his every word, every move. A century every time he came out to bat, a word in appreciation of victims of earthquakes and floods. A political opinion from a political party, stooping down to the level of politicians who die everyday, for which there need not be a bandh.

The same moralistic nation that made him a God will now be watching every step of his.

Being conferred with the highest award of the country is a greater pressure. For Tendulkar, it is back to being 16 again. While one test has come to a close, another one begins.

I can imagine Arundhati Roy asking her secretary to buy a new file folder, marking it ‘Tendulkar’, rubbing her hands in joy, waiting for him to commit a mistake. And then, once he commits it, I can see her smile, lick her lips with joy, and begin…

“That day, when the madness of a billion people, the sentiments of a few, bent the country into offering him the highest award of the country. Not an award for his achievement in sports, mind you. But the greatest award that can be conferred on an individual.

And yet, as the din starts to die down, my mind searches frantically for the answer to the question – ‘How did the nation benefit?”

 

The same India that wiped tears of joy as he left, will bay for his blood if they see him doing anything that is against their morals. Just when the pressure seems to ease off, a more vicious pressure will now have its hands ready, to claw at his neck.

I hope we don’t make a Gandhi out of Sachin. An obsolete joke, a token of respect.

 

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The other thing about deifying somebody is that it obliterates the awesome parts of their life – shrouding it with a grey shawl of godliness. An overarching blanket that covers good, just, kind, humble, and awesome. Making ‘Awesome’ only a small part of the entire package of larger goods.

But for most of us, Sachin was not a god. Those are titles that the media makes up, they look good on placards, and in tribute videos.

But we, the children of 90’s, didn’t really treat him as God.

What did we treat him as?

Pure Awesomeness.

That was Tendulkar for us. Not a pagan god for the sport, but a player who could slay the greatest demons with his bat. He could go to any part of the world, on any type of pitches, face the fiercest bowlers, and yet the “Tok” sound that came when his bit hit the cherry, was sweet.

While he deserves every bit of the tribute he gets, for me and most of my friends, Sachin was not God. He was Fuck Awesome.

 

*

 

For all the criticism, when the time came, it did shake me. When I stood in front of the TV, watching him tell his coach that there were no more matches he would play, forcing a smile, and fighting back tears, I choked up too.

Sachin was the last connection to my childhood. A connection I had taken for granted.

Let’s hope he gets to chill out for a few months. And finds something else that he is just as awesome at.

 

*

 

68.9 years.

That’s the average life expectancy of a citizen of India, give (Kerala, Punjab) or take (Assam, Madhya Pradesh) a few years.

68 years is a long time.

If we do reach that age, while our grandchildren make love to their friends over their smartphones, and we sit on a chair, ignored, and someone comes to us and smiles a warm smile, and asks us what we were thinking about, we will say ‘Nothing..’ and shake our heads and smile.

Our grandfathers spoke of the freedom movement. Our parents spoke of their struggles to raise us.

We will speak about a short man with curly hair.

It will be a long, lonely walk. But like someone once said…

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Tricky Ponting

I discovered Ponting the same time that I discovered Sachin Tendulkar, which was the same time I discovered cricket.

Outlook had released a special World Cup edition in 1996 which had articles, pictures, and profiles of all the teams. Ricky Ponting was featured as a young, aggressive batsman who could change the match with his strokeplay.

Of course, after the World Cup, Sachin shot to astronomical levels of achievement, and was quickly hailed as the greatest of his era, along with Lara and Akram. Ponting’s rise wasn’t meteoric – it was a carefully crafted road that would take him to the pinnacle of world cricket.

Comparisons with Sachin are inevitable, and I am sure Indian fans have begun flooding blogs, websites, and YouTube with ‘Sachin is better. Jai Hind!’ sort of remarks. Both of them got recognition around the same time, they both started young, and had boyish looks and an attacking style of batting. But Sachin and Ponting travelled diverse paths to the same destination.

Sachin was destined for glory from the beginning. He was a lotus in a dirty pond full of mediocre cricketers, so much that his singular achievements in a team game gave the nation a sense of pride and achievement.

Ponting broke into the team that already had a range of stars. From David Boon to the Waugh brothers, to Taylor, Ponting had to cement his place by shoving away bigger stars. He had to fight for his place.

While Sachin was the Arjuna – a mix of skill and character, always ready to take the right path, Ponting was like Karna. Supremely confident of his abilities, and audacious enough to stick to his own decisions.

While one was soft-spoken, polite, and politically correct, the other was brash, rude, and fiercely confident.

May be how they came into the teams, also chartered the course for the rest of their careers as well.

You would never find Ponting smiling and walking up to a batsman who was hit. You’d never find him sharing a friendly banter with an opposition bowler. None of that smiling, good-natured bubble gum romance that makes for great Cricinfo articles and biographies.

Cricket was a war for Ponting. A war that had to be won by gritting your teeth and fighting it out. If a ball went near him, he leapt at it. If a ball was pitched short, he shuffled across and hooked it over the boundary. There were no smiles, no mercy, no joy in celebrating the spirit of cricket. It was a bloody war!

It was no surprise that, like most Indians, I hated Ricky Ponting.

I hated his guts. I remember famously telling my classmates in school that I’d support Pakistan in a Pak vs Aus match. That was how much I hated the guy.

Of course, Ricky Ponting cared two hoots about how much I liked him.

He went on to become the captain of the Australian team in all three formats, compiling runs at home and abroad, and for about a decade, epitomising Aussie aggression for the rest of the world.

And then, the 2007 tour to Australia happened.

India was a resurgent side, a healthy mix of vintage class and new found aggression. Australia was simply Australia. Ready to fight till the last breath, no matter how ugly the situation got.

I remember being crestfallen that series. Umpiring decisions were awful, the third umpire was not referred to, a stupid, career-threatening charge was slapped on Harbhajan Singh, and to hammer the final nail in the coffin, after the match was over, I remember Anil Kumble standing on the field for the customary handshake, and the Australian team looking at him, and walking away.

It was the worst series I had witnessed in my life. Also, the highest run getter in the series was Sachin, for whom my respect shot up manifold.

When Ponting pushed Sharad Pawar off the victory podium, India seethed (Of course, two years later, when some random guy slapped Sharad Pawar, India cheered. But that’s another matter!)

My hatred for Ponting kept growing through the years. I couldn’t stand the smug expression he carried on the field, and off it.

They say that a villain’s greatest achievement is if the viewer wants to leap on to the screen and kill him.

As an Indian, I hated how Ricky Ponting thought of nothing but victory. Everything else was secondary.

As an Australian, may be that would have been the very reason I would have loved the guy.

May be that’s what makes Ricky Ponting great.

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