Friday, November 20, 2009

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sachin @20 and still counting....

Blood on his face, a fresh-faced 16 old boy on the vicious pitches of Pakistan signalled his arrival with 2 squeaky words- ‘Main khelega’.This was the story told by Navjot Singh Sidhu who saw the incident from other end when Waqar Younis bouncer greeted Sachin in his first test match at Pakistan.Since then 20 long years have passed and there are innumerable stories about Sachin and his immortality going around and probably will go around for many many years to come.In a way I feel lucky to have been born in a generation which sees the best of this Cricketing genius and as Murali (highest wicket taken in Test and ODI) aptly said "There will not be anybody like him ever".

While growing up in remote mining Colony situated near Chhindwada district in Southern MP I didn't have much to things to cling onto but Cricket.Perhaps I inherited this legacy from my father and grandmother who were themselves an ardent Cricket follower.Probably I fully gained conscious of the game and its amazing folklore when I was 9 years old during 1992 world Cup.I distinctly remember the match India played Pakistan at Sydney.I came from school carrying truckload of books , travelling for one and half hour in school bus to join my Dad sitting in drawing room while Pakistan was chasing a modest Indian total of 216.I enjoyed the moment when Javed Miandad imitated Kiran More by jumping in despair as Pakistan lost the match which gave India a chance to qualify for next round.In presentation ceremony we saw a 19 year old kid named Man of the Match award for his half century and 2 wicket.My father remarked bluntly in awe, 'Ei Unnis Bochorer Chele Indiar cricket future'( This 19 year old kid is Indian Cricket's future). Incidently India won only 2 matches at 1992 World cup and for both the matches this 19 year old kid was "Man of the Match". At such a tender age of 19 he carried such an enormous burden of expectation every time he goes out to bat and was incidently the highest run getter from India at 1992 World Cup.

As the time went by I also graduated for following Cricket to enamoring Cricket and perhaps the single biggest reason was undoubtedly Sachin Tendulkar.There were lots of occasions since then when we see a touch of brilliance from him like a last over magic at Hero Cup semifinal victory at eden against South Africa.Then the year 1994 happened. I remember waking up early in the morning to watch when India play ODIs at Newzealand .In 3rd ODI India was about to chase Newzealand's modest total of 165 runs.Sidhu being injured could not open the inings. Incidently Sachin asked to open the innings and unknowingly Indian ODI cricket history was written that day.(Amazingly how Sidhu's denial has given Indian Cricket a lot.Saurav Ganguly was included in Indian team when Sidhu refused to play test match in England in 1996).Sachin slammed an hapless Newzealand attack to all parts of the ground to score a quick fire 49 ball 84 before being caught and bowled by Mathew Hart.It was only after his Dismissal people in the colony realized the day was Holi and started a late Holi celebration.In days to come Sachin scored his much awaited first ODI century against Australia at Colambo and from then on the saga of hitting ODI centuries didnt stop with amazing frequency.

1996 was perhaps the year when I was at my peak of Cricket fanaticism.I had Sachin's 'Cricket Samrat'(Hindi Cricket monthly Magazine) poster pasted all over my room.Incidently my scores at exams starts plummeting at the very rate Sachin was scoring runs.1996 World cup was the worst thing to have happened during my Std 8th Annual Exams.I used to wake up at 5 o'clock in the morning to study to have studied around 8 hours by the time match starts.Sachin performance at 1996 was stupendous as he single handedly took India to Semifinal which ended in rather sad note at Edens.The 90 odd runs which he scored in Wankhede against Australia was stupendous.Again he ended up scoring highest runs in the world Cup for India.

1997 was rather subdued as he was handed the baton of Indian Cricket in the form of Captaincy to be taken back from him at early 1998.But 1998 was perhaps the magical year of Indian cricket as India went on to win almost all the major tournaments all across the globe thanks to galore of Sachin's amazing performances.A lot has been written about how Sachin lamed Aussies in India and then on Sharjah and I would not be able to add anything new to it.But there was one inning which almost went unnoticed among all the innings he played during this time.When Aussie came to India for 3 test match series they were to play a 3 day practice match against Mumbai,current Ranji Champion at Wankhede Stadium.Australia played with their full strength as this the only practice matches to be played before Tests starts.In an amazing turn of events Mumbai beat the mighty Australia within 2 and half days thanks the first double ton by Sachin in first Class cricket on 2nd day and a 5 wicket my Nilesh Kulkarni at 3rd day.Sachin score 204* in and around 190 ball which to till date many people who were privileged enough to watch the innings rated as his best till date.Moreover it was this match which gave India enough confidence to beat Australia subsequently in Test series.

As the days went by I also drew myself a distance from Cricket.I went to School Hostel in Nagpur where TV was allowed to be on only for 2 hours that too only Doordarshan.When I left school hostel after one year as my father was transfered to Nagpur, I forced my parents not to have TV for the whole year as I didn't wanted to be distracted for an all important 12th Std.But the greatest of all prizes came during my board exams.India was to play South Africa for 5th and defining match at Nagpur at VCA.I gave my 4th paper and there was a gap of 7 days till next paper.My father picked me up directly from school and took me to VCA where indian team was practicing.It was here I first had a glimpsed of Sachin practicing as Nikhil Chopda was being hit all round the net by Sachin.He seems like a small-highted concentrated Dot from distance who moves around the stadium with amazing grace. We came out of the stadium and brought 2 tickets for next day match between India and South Africa in black.Next day my excitement had no boundaries.We reached the ground early to have a good seat.South Africa piled up a huge total of 300 + on the board as India were to play next.Sachin scored a sublime 90 odd runs as India lost the match by just 10 runs.That was the first time I saw Sachin playing sitting in the pavellion and the excitement somehow remains was unparalleled.

Three years later I saw Sachin scoring his first test ton at Eden Gardens on 4th day of the Test match against WestIndies.Watching Sachin scored a crucial test saving ton in front of 100,000 people that day at Edens was something very very special and will go with me for a long time.Later Carl Hooper the then West Indies Captain described that innings as the greatest he saw from an opponent .I will probably tell my grandchildren that I witnessed the moments when Sachin score his Maiden Ton an Edens.Over the years we saw him rewriting the cricket history books in whatever way possible be it in Test Cricket or One-Day Cricket.Perhaps a much deserved yet elusive world cup trophy at 2 April, 2011 at Wankhede would be a fitting end to this glorious saga.

But certainly he is more then what statistician have to say about him.There is a certain romanticism involved with him which remains unparalleled in nations heart.He is perhaps the only the only person who is revered by everybody across caste,class,creed,religion and region.How hard it is to sum up what Tendulkar means to us all? For many like me growing up in an India that was falling prey to turmoil , he was a ray of hope, helping craft a national imaginary that looked solid and resolute. He was a sign of India’s resurgence, a quiet reassurance that things, if not alright yet, were certain to get better.As he celebrates his 20 years in international cricket, it needs to be put on record that Sachin is the only cricketer who, when he steps out to bat in Sydney, Barbados, Lahore, Cape Town or even Lord’s, gets the same standing ovation.Perhaps its his honest passion for the game which drives him more than anything else.At such a tender age, when everybody in the world says you are the greatest, I wonder how hard it is not to be complacent and distracted.The focus and commitment which he has shown for 20 years can only come from true love and passion for the thing which you do and nothing else.

For a country with a sporting record such as ours, he has given us a dream and has helped us turn it into reality day in and day out, year after year.It’s time we go a step further and place Tendulkar on that unique pedestal that no Indian has ever aspired to, the one reserved for Owens, Carl Lewis, Pele, Michael Phelps,Muhammad Ali,Federar and Usain Bolt. He is India’s contribution to the history of world sport, a man who gave us recognition on the pitch for 20 long years and continues to do so in anything he does.

Perhaps three different banners at three different parts of the world on three different times sums it up best :-

"I will see God when I die, but till then I will see Sachin!" -- Sharjah.

"Commit all your crimes when Sachin is batting. They will go unnoticed because even the Lord is watching" --Sydney.

"Thanks for all the memories" -- Eden.

Monday, November 2, 2009

An interesting proposition !!

An interesting proffer I saw in newspaper today !!