Sachin Tendulkar | Getty Images
Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar has turned 50, and the world of cricket collectively rises in adoring what everybody will acknowledge was one of the greatest players of the game. A teenaged prodigy that
he seemed only the other day has now reached the half-century mark. A landmark in his journey of life and something his fans will never forget to celebrate. They call him the God of cricket for a very good reason. His achievements have been mindboggling and perhaps will remain so for at least some time to come. What a journey it had been for this Mumbai man, from a 16-year-old kid thrown into the world of the unknown and from there then to rise and become the conqueror of all that he had surveyed!
Imagine one so young and on his debut series to Pakistan and getting knocked on his nose with a delivery from Waqar Younis, one of the fastest bowlers of that time! As Navjot Singh Sidhu, who was his partner when the incident happened at Sialkot, was to narrate at a forum many years later, he had almost thought at that moment that he had seen the last of a great talent! Psychologically that could have been a shattering experience, but, Sachin proved what discipline, determination couched in defiance and unmistakable talent can do in such dire moments. Play he did to make it a forgettable incident in his career, but more importantly, what followed was what turned out to be significant __ an unforgettable stretch of sheer mastery of the art called batting to capture the imagination of the cricket world.
A decade will go by in a few months after he called time to his career, but for his adoring fans the world over, time seems sitting still. For everything appear fresh in the mind about this unmatched cricketer. The confident walk to the middle, the quick settling down to business and then the array of strokes that come forth to send the crowd into raptures. Just as well that his landmark birthday has come in the midst of the blitz of stroke play that IPL has been brought in its wake. Here was a player whose batting art depicted the perfect blend of the classic artist and the big-hitting stroke makers of present times. Expect a glorious cover or straight drive, and he would bring everyone to their feet, or if the occasion needed a shot sailing over the fence, Sachin would oblige. Remember that famous desert storm attack on Australian bowling back in 1998? His 143 was considered one of the best one-day innings, where he smashed all the leading Aussie bowlers, including Shane Warne, all over the park!
There were many such moments that Sachin conjured up in the spectacular career that saw him soar at all levels. One significant aspect of his career was that many of his great moments in the middle had led to memorable Indian victories like the 2011 World Cup, where he finished top scorer, the 2008 C B series in Australia, Sharjah in 1998 and the Hero Cup in 1993. In many ways, his progress and popularity also signalled good times for Indian cricket’s financial position, with advertisements and rights money pouring in. Cricket has enriched India, and the players of the present generation are savouring the fruits of this newfound enviable position of the sport in the country.
‘Sachin is timeless’, his fans would cry for him even though he is out of active cricket, his deeds will remain an embodiment of everything that is about excellence in the sport. And now the MumbaCricket Association has decided to go one step further, erect a statue of this legend, a Bharat Ratna, at Wankhede stadium as a token of appreciation for what he had done. And it comes right at the time to also mark his half-century in life! There could not have been a better place than Mumbai, where his cricket love began, and yes, the Wankhede stadium where among others, he had also played his final international game, incidentally his 200th Test.
There is so much to look ahead for Sachin, not just as a cricket brain but one who is eager to guide his son Arjun on the path he had tread with such distinction. It must have been a rare moment for him to see his son make his debut in the IPL the other day. The dashing youngster, just 23 years, has shown his strong arms in his pace bowling, something that was fine-tuned by former Test cricketer and the incomparable Yuvraj Singh’s father. Yograj had some fine words on the young man’s work ethic, his single-minded devotion and his keenness to excel. To Yograj, Arjun was not just a bowler but a batter who could give a good whack to the ball. If Arjun’s batting exploits were to remind the former India player of his son Yuvraj’s explosive batting, then that speaks volumes of young Tendulkar’s readiness for the big occasion. Sure enough, Arjun, playing for Goa, has a century against Rajasthan on debut, a feat that came 34 years after his famous father had stroked an unbeaten 100 on debut against Gujarat at the Wankhede stadium!
Sachin and now Arjun! Will the story of Tendulkar continue in Indian cricket? It should script another fascinating chapter. For Sachin for sure, this will turn out to be the greatest gift that the sport would give him!