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Updated: April 24, 2013 15:28 IST

An affair to remember

Nirmal Shekar
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So, we didn’t think it would come to this, did we? It did not ever occur to us that some day we’d get here — more importantly, that some day, he would get here?

Of course, it is not as if Sachin Tendulkar woke up this morning to find out that he had just come out of a decades-long dream that was straight out of a fairytale, and discovered that he was not the original Sachin anymore.

The fault may lie in us; somehow it had seemed impossible to believe that The Boy Wonder would be a Forty-Something some time.

“Art is a lie that helps us see the truth,” said Pablo Picasso.

The Boy Wonder image in which we collectively enshrined Sachin was something that some of us, in our sober moments, knew was a make-believe; knew, too, that we would sometime in the future, have to face the truth.

Through one man’s journey from teen prodigy to Indian icon and cultural touchstone, many of us have lived out our own dreams. It has been a great ride lasting almost a quarter of a century.

Gentle reminder

But like all such journeys, this one has to end. And so it will, sooner than later. As the great man turns 40, it is a gentle reminder to his tens of millions of fans that getting mentally prepared for Life After Tendulkar in the world of cricket might actually be a sane thing to do.

As tributes pour in to celebrate one of the most astounding careers in the game’s long history, pointing to the very existence of a sunset might sound like heresy. But truth has to be confronted head on; and Sachin will probably do it sooner than his diehard fans would like him to.

Sachin has certainly withstood top level sport’s harsh winnowing process much better than most great cricketers. But the last year and a half have not been kind to him and to believe that age has nothing to do with this would be a fallacy. Sporting narratives cannot be reordered to suit our own fantasies.

On the other hand, the fact that he is closer to the exit door than ever before in an extraordinary life in cricket is hardly a reason not to celebrate a memorable landmark in the maestro’s life.

A symbol

For, Sachin is as much a symbol as a person. He has helped millions of Indians over three decades to construct their national identity — to weave their own proud narratives — in the bright light of his own personal success.

It is because of this the man has inspired not mere admiration, but a kind of reverence that is rarely witnessed in sport. And this is also the reason why the emotional bond between Sachin and his fans is of a kind never before seen in Indian sport — and it is unlikely to be recreated anytime in the near future.

In the recent Test series against Australia, fans were actually applauding the departure from the crease of a brilliant young man merely because the one walking in to take his place happened to be Sachin. Those fans knew that such moments may be vanishingly rare in international cricket.

Inseparable

Sachin and Sachin’s fans; they are as inseparable as Romeo and Juliet. You can’t think of one without thinking of the other. And the love has been unconditional. No other superstar-fan love affair in contemporary sport might have quite the same emotional valence to it.

This brings me to the heart of this column. Records apart, fame and money apart, even the famous Aristotelian ideal of self-actualisation — eudaimonia — apart, what is the meaning of a good sporting life?

I’d settle for happiness, not merely the champion’s own but the happiness he has provided to tens of millions of fans through his deeds — however transient, however illusory that emotion might be.

The late Douglas Adams, one of the greatest science fiction writers of all time, said that the meaning of life was 42. He also came up with something called the Infinite Improbability Drive in the all-time classic The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

To many in this country, now and again, the very meaning of life might have been Sachin; and they might have believed that it was some kind of Infinite Improbability Drive that helped produce a Sachin for Indian cricket.

RELATED NEWS

Tendulkar thanks his fansApril 24, 2013

It is rather surprising that he did not even read the public comment and
that of Dravid retiring gracefully, to wake up from dream, only now. Now
join the band wagon of Politics as well.

from:  Rammohan
Posted on: Apr 25, 2013 at 06:13 IST

To say that there has been an unusually large emphasis on one cricketer
is an understatement. While the man's genius is unquestionable, there is
no charm left in remembering his achievements in cricket. While the
writer has often indulged in wild comparisons to art and literature to
romanticize the game in general and the player in particular, it seems
like he (the writer)has lost his edge, much like the cricketer himself.

from:  Partha
Posted on: Apr 24, 2013 at 23:36 IST

Time has certainly passed so quickly ... vividly remember Sachin making
debug against Pakistan in 1989 as a bubbly teenage boy ... he has given
Indian fans so much of happeniness ... hope he has a couple of good
innings left in him and he walks into the sunset of his glorious career
...good writing as always by NS ....

from:  Srikant
Posted on: Apr 24, 2013 at 18:28 IST

In no democratic country do we see an army of Newspaper Owners, Editors and journalists doing all they can to propagate and highlight only one sport (cricket), that is ironically played in only four countries in the whole of Asia and is not a part of the Olympics or Asian Games. Very rarely do we see newspapers employing veteran players of other sports to offer their views on their chosen sports. For e.g we have not seen even one article by the great PT Usha on Athletics, Kamlesh Mehta on Table Tennis, Michael Ferreira on snooker, Prakash Padukone on Badminton etc.

from:  Ramesh
Posted on: Apr 24, 2013 at 15:19 IST

When he hangs his boots, hope it is not soon, I hope he is able to stun
the world with a magical innings.. The end is not far now...

from:  Lakshminarayanan Gururaj
Posted on: Apr 24, 2013 at 14:17 IST

Sachin Tendulkar was doubtless a phenomenon the like of which we might never see again. Yet cricket saps so much energy that age often turns a villain and this is precisely what is happening in Sachin's case as well. Once the quicksilver reflexes become a thing of the past, failures are bound to take the place of success. Sachin at 40 can but be a pale shadow of Sachin in his twenties and even thirties. No one is infallible, least of all in a sport like cricket and Sachin can take heart in that many of his records might never be broken atleast in his lifetime.

from:  C V ARAVIND
Posted on: Apr 24, 2013 at 06:11 IST
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