Sachin and cricket have become synonymous with each other, one merged into the other seamlessly, and if I may add, with humility

On the eve of his 40th birthday, Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar was provoked by Dickie Bird, arguably one of the greatest umpires.

Sachin need not get worked up. Everybody has a right of opinion on SRT. And because this great little phenomenon has lasted long, it has invited more opinions, both positive and negative. We must therefore gracefully acknowledge both.

Sachin had appeared on the world cricket scene like a storm, destroying the bowlers all around. So, whenever the opportunity presented a humble trundler with Sachin’s scalp, it became a solitary moment of triumph for posterity for quite a few.

There were greats such as Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, and a host of others who faced Sachin in his prime and were duly subjugated. Then there were some very ordinary bowlers who surprised themselves by seeing his walk back to the pavilion. No doubt, Sachin’s was, and still is, the most prized wicket.

Ultimate glory

Admittedly, some of the mortals like us would derive some vicarious pleasure by pulling SRT down on some pretext or the other. I suppose that is the sole prerogative of some of the social historians like us. For me personally, Sachin and cricket have become synonymous with each other, one merged into the other seamlessly, and if I may add, with humility. That, for me, is the ultimate glory of cricket and the cricketer.

When I see mounds of mediocrity floating around SRT, I shudder at the disparity of it all — why should one person be blessed with all the virtues of the game while the rest look like also-rans?

For the commercially inclined, SRT becomes a currency voucher; seriously how many of us are willing to give Sachin space for his commitment to the art of batsmanship alone? His enthusiasm for the minutest detail in preparing himself for any competition? His being on the road tirelessly for nearly 24 years? His balance of mind in the most adverse circumstances?

Admittedly, some of us are not willing to accept that the reflexes of an international athlete slow down with age and SRT can never be an exception. We would still want Sachin to annihilate bowlers in the same fashion as he did Shane Warne in Sharjah many years ago.

Non-controversial

Perhaps, SRT himself might have given, most inadvertently, good enough reason for his followers to be over-possessive about his rare ability. The fact that Sachin, during his very long innings, has not been embroiled in any major personal controversy is a tribute to his modesty as much as it is to his fierce motivation to keep the glitterati at bay at any cost. Mind you, we are talking about a man from Mumbai, not a villager from Amritsar.

SRT’s critics have grown post-World Cup triumph in 2011 and the reason for this preposterous development also rests with Sachin himself. Well, for a start, Sachin’s bat has not quite done enough talking for the master. But how many of us are willing to acknowledge that middle age whirlpool has already engulfed our very own SRT.

Also, another fact is that Sachin has such a vast collection of records against his name that his critics can safely vouch and claim Sachin played for records — again very cruelly judgmental. How do we explain he never scored a triple hundred or a hundred in each innings of a Test match? Records, like wild flowers, just happen. And if the career-span of a person is almost two-and-a-half decades, then it is only natural that quite a few milestones will fall by the way side most obligingly.

Politics

If I had any personal issue with SRT, it was with his decision to join Rajya Sabha. Somehow I’m not convinced Sachin is cut out for politics. But here again, we must give Sachin the space to decide for himself. At the risk of repeating myself, Sachin’s biggest misfortune has been that there is no Neville Cardus to describe him in prose beyond compare. Sir Donald Bradman, Sir Gary Sobers, Sir Jack Hobbs, Alec Bedser, Ray Lindwall, Keith Miller, Dennis Compton and a host of others were made immortals by the genius of Cardus.

And finally, I’d like to wish ‘Sacho’ all the very best for his 40th birthday, which is entirely a Tendulkar family affair. 

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