NEW DELHI: His birthday becomes a national event and his feats national treasure. He cannot afford to relax or fail, for the nation prays for him.
The expectations from Sachin Tendulkar grow by the day, not to speak of the pressure that he encounters every time he steps on to the field. Yet, he remains a fierce competitor even 21 years after making his international debut.
The flair that he has brought to his batting in the Indian Premier League (IPL) only underlines the significance of class and technique.
Many batsmen, stroke-players and entertainers, run-accumulators and plunderers, have come to grace the game in the last two decades.
Tendulkar has outshone them all in all forms of the game, batting on his terms, setting new benchmarks.
His enthusiasm on the field is infectious. He just loves the company of the youngsters, many of who were learning to walk when Tendulkar was conquering hostile frontiers on the cricket field. It is this desire to compete with the young generation that Tendulkar considers is his “inner strength.”
Learning and imparting
He is learning and imparting. This process is very dear to him. When it comes to acquiring a new idea Tendulkar will not hesitate to pick the mind of a batsman half his age. It can be embarrassing at times for the youngest member of the team when he is asked by Tendulkar, “Was anything wrong (with my batting)?”
Tendulkar is so different. Coming from a land where saints and revolutionaries have captured the imagination of the young mind for centuries, he sits on a high pedestal, thanks to his cricketing achievements.
His clean image is an inspiration; his career a glowing example of a man's devotion to his art. His popularity crosses all borders. Who else can claim to command support of a full house when playing against the home team? Tendulkar was the most-loved opponent from the away team at all venues in the current IPL.
Look at Tendulkar in the ongoing IPL. His influence on the team is unmistakable. That Mumbai Indians has preformed consistently points to his leadership. He has guided the young Saurabh Tiwary and the temperamental Harbhajan Singh with some astute handling.
He has performed on the field and shepherded the lads well off it. No Mumbai Indians player can be spotted at the late night IPL parties.
There is also a distinct effort by Tendulkar to protect the correct way of batting. He is not creating a coaching manual on “how to bat” but only ensuring that batsmanship does not degenerate into a crude form due to constant exposure in Twenty20 cricket.
So what does he do? He plays proper cricketing shots. “Pure cricketing shots,” as Sunil Gavaskar sometimes reminds us when commentating.
It is a conscious endeavour by Tendulkar to avoid cross-batted heaves because he is aware of young aspirants, who revere him, looking to ape him. He would not be a party to “corrupt” their batting style and the best way to illustrate his point is to bat correctly even in Twenty20.
And that is what he has been doing precisely in this edition of the IPL. In 14 innings, he has hit 79 fours but sixes, only three!
Tendulkar has accumulated runs and fame with a religious zeal. All the adulation, and all the wealth that comes with it, has not spoilt him.
His greatest asset is his bat and the character that marks his cricket. His presence lends credibility and prosperity to a game that has been rocked of late by some ugly happenings. He will complete 37 on Saturday and as always make a silent pledge to serve cricket with unflinching loyalty.
He was born to play cricket. Many happy returns of the day Sachin! The nation is proud of you.