Batting for Sachin

STEADFAST FAN Saraswathi Vaidyanathan   | Photo Credit: PHOTO: M. KARUNAKARAN

Saraswathi Vaidyanathan is 87, but reels off facts and figures about her favourite cricketer Sachin Tendulkar effortlessly

As 87-year-old Saraswathi Vaidyanathan leans back on the couch, you almost expect her to pick up a pair of needles and start knitting. Instead she reaches for the television remote and surfs channels, only to stop at one telecasting cricket. There's a smile and a prayer on her lips — Sachin Tendulkar is at the crease. A Tendulkar fan and probably the seniormost member of the cricketer's fan club, she says, “I have been watching Sachin play from the time he started. He was 16 then. Twenty years now and he still does everything right.”

From Ranji Trophy to International cricket matches and IPL, Saraswathi watches them all. Though cricket is her passion, she also watches other sports for “time pass.” “I watch tennis but don't understand the game well. I like Roger Federer, Pete Sampras and John McEnroe,” she smiles. It was because of her late husband that she developed an interest in sport. Before television arrived, she was glued to the cricket commentary on radio.

Sharp memory

Saraswathi may be frail now but her memory remains as fresh as ever. She effortlessly rattles off Tendulkar's records and match figures and like a fond grandmother refers to him as chota bachcha. As I quiz her about his achievement, she says, “As of now, he has 314 runs in the IPL. Mumbai Indians have played 7 matches and won 6. In ODIs he has notched up 17,594 runs and in Test matches he has scored 13,447 runs…” “Do you remember the '93 Hero Cup match against South Africa?” she asks and adds, “In the last over, they needed 6 runs to win. The situation seemed impossible. Lekin yeh bachcha took the ball from Azharuddin's hand and bowled, resulting in a run-out and conceding only 3 runs. We won,” she claps.

Sceptical of the statistics available on the Internet this octogenarian keeps track of her favourite cricketer's achievements in her own way. Tiny scraps of paper with all the scores painstakingly written in neat handwriting are tucked away along with other prized possessions that include a couple of books on the cricketing genius gifted by her grandson. She secretly pulls out a few bits and shows them to me ensuring I handle them with care. All of a sudden, she chuckles. Saraswathi's face is bright with enthusiasm as she narrates another incident. “After the 1998 Sharjah Cup, Shane Warne said he used to get nightmares about Sachin. Sachin ko ‘Man of the Series' ke liye car mila.”

Here, Saraswathi's son interrupts, saying, “She is very sure some day Tendulkar will meet her. Once when she was asked if she wanted to meet her grandchildren in Australia, she said, “I don't want to meet anyone, I only want to meet Sachin Tendulkar.” Saraswathi now looks coy, blushes and says, “If I ever meet him, I'll tell him to keep playing with confidence and keep entertaining us.” And with that she goes back to telling me more anecdotes about the Little Genius and his numerous records.