Somehow Shikhar Dhawan’s 248 has made me miss Sachin Tendulkar all the more. Not that I was one of those hard-core Sachin fans when he was at his prime, but still as I go through the motions of watching the newer cricketing generation take its stance and come with such gems; I can’t help but wonder back about Sachin.
Today the team has fail-safes, if one player ends up falling short, promptly there’s another to carry the team through. But there was a time when there was only this one man, on whom the whole nation relied. And who, seldom did ever disappoint.
There’s so much to dwell on. The innumerable occasions in which he was the knight in shining armour – the 1996 World Cup where he single-handedly carried the country to the semi-final or the times where he tried his best and yet was helpless to do anything for the team.
When Sachin played, he notched victories for the country and in my family – amongst me and my cousins – he notched memories. We would re-enact his shot-making, discuss his score-line over and over again; over the course of years, these became a habit: if and when Sachin excelled, we had to follow this routine.
Where the 1996 World Cup saw us as kids, the next two world cups saw us as mature teens watching the way this man weaved his magic – and wrecked damage – for India. Of course, by the turn of the new century, thanks to certain indelible truths coming the country’s way, there was a newer team that set quite a few precedents for the future to come; the constant named Sachin Tendulkar never changed.
Especially in the 2003 World Cup where his name echoed with a magnitude so huge that it made almost every team quiver. Goosebumps still erupt when one thinks about the way he went on demolishing the Pakistani bowlers; chipping away at their morale alongside Sehwag to carve one of the most emphatic wins for India. Ganguly’s captaincy was much lauded in that World Cup but there again, it was this man who laid the foundations of victory in most of the matches that India played.
Two World Cups later – one of which can be remembered as a horrendous nightmare – the man had rightfully claimed the reward of being a part of a World Cup winning squad. This time though, we were all adults, watching the game with an understanding that only adulthood can bring.
There were no excessive displays and no falling back on the ‘routine’ but only a satisfaction that a dream had come true. Watching the rest of the team proudly hoist Sachin on their shoulders, that’s when it hit us that expectations had totally changed when it came to Sachin.
While at heart, the desire to see him score more – probably more effusively than ever before – raged as brightly as ever; Sachin wasn’t really expected to shoulder the mantle of securing a win for the country lone-handedly. There was a whole slew of players who took charge as adroitly as this man used to.
From the opening batsmen to the middle-order and then progressing to the lower-order; the contemporary version of the Indian team was truly a spangled one casting illuminations all across. The team then did need its idol, but the asking role had changed completely.
It then came as no surprise when Sachin called time on his ODI career. No surprises sure but definitely lots and lots of nostalgia and a sense of eerie disenchantment. No wearer of the no. 10 jersey would embody the qualities that the jersey number, was the first thought. Followed by the realisation that an epoch of Indian cricket had finally drawn to a close.
The sheer mastery with which Sachin overwhelmed each bowler that he faced was yet again visible in his decision to step away from the 50-over format. Months have gone by, the game too has moved on. But Sachin still lingers in the corner of a cricket fan’s mind. A corner, where no other player shall ever feature.