Saturday, October 18, 2008

Harsha Bhogle on Sachin after he crosses 12K

It was a predictable, if slightly delayed, ascent. Sachin Tendulkar stands atop cricket's Everest but he isn't looking down at the cricketing world. That would be unlike him for he looks upon this game as a vehicle of fulfillment, as a servant rather than a master. There is a delicious irony to it. One of the most humble devotees of the game is himself an idol to so many.

Of course, he knew he was going to get there. Elbows and ankles and many lesser known joints that he brought into public consciousness were the only hurdles. He has always maintained that if he played enough he would get the record.

And so away from the public eye, in these last two or three years he worked on getting his body back into shape. Each time it was a more uphill battle than before, each time the odds against him returning as an equally good cricketer diminished but he kept trying.

He winced and he grimaced but his commitment to the game he loves saw him through. Tendulkar's phenomenal success lies as much in toil and perseverance and such hardy qualities as it does in the many gifts he has been bestowed with.

Yesterday he needed only 15 and instead of laying out a red carpet, Mohali did better. Daljit Singh gave him an excellent wicket to bat on, where the ball was coming onto bat and where shots could be played. This is where, these days, we see the original Tendulkar; on slow, low pitches where he has to bat to save a match he is like a miscast actor. Even there he delivers his lines, comes prepared, does what he has to but that is not him.

He would have loved the fact that he got to the record against Australia. They seek his wicket, the Aussies, they don't give him an inch, but they respect him mightily. Earlier this year in Australia, he got a standing ovation at every ground he played on and admitted later that it moved him enormously. Now he got 88 and showed he can still bat! An irreverent young generation, in a hurry to erase legend, will have to wait longer!

He is still only 35 but because he started so young, and couldn't sign a tour contract till he had scored three Test hundreds, it seems he has been around forever. On his first tour of England, he batted against Eddie Hemmings who started his first-class career seven years before Tendulkar was born. Now he shares a dressing room with young men who were in their nappies, or sometimes found even those unnecessary, when he scored his first century! But the zest, the limitless energy, the obsession with cricket hasn't dimmed. That, in itself, is extraordinary.

All his life he has had to confront mighty expectations; his own, which are scary, and those of his adoring fans which are probably scarier. It is a burden all great men have to carry and only some do lightly. Every time he has dropped a notch, India has moaned. We put up with corruption, don't mind poor toilets, manfully live through terrorism but cannot allow Tendulkar, in the end just a man, to fail occasionally. And yet the same people have loved him like no other cricketer in the history of the game has been loved.

The incomparable Don Bradman became part of folklore because he brought cheer to the people in depressing times. History has brought such depression upon us again as people see their savings evaporate, seemingly harmless cyclists become human bombs. There is much misery in our times. But there is also Tendulkar, who you know will be earnest and honest in his effort, who will let you forget your existence for a while, playing a real man in a real world.

Only a few are given the opportunity to spread such cheer. Through diligence and toil, and magical ability, Sachin Tendulkar has done that.


horizon said...