A fan's paean to Sachin Tendulkar

 
Sachin Tendulkar Tendulkar is an Indian icon

The "ridiculous thing", as an English cricket writer described Sachin Tendulkar's quest for his 100th international century, took a long time coming - in fact the longest since the time taken between his first hundred in 1990, and his second, 511 days later.

It also appeared to wear him - and his fans - out. The wait, as Mike Atherton said, had not "only become tiresome, as it shone a harsh light on Sachin himself and what is motivating him to continue". In the run up to his newest record, Tendulkar's batting reminded Atherton of a "novice learning the ropes rather than someone who has learnt them better than virtually everyone in history".

Artherton is exaggerating. Tendulkar's unending feats have a sense of deja vu about them. So it is once again time to join the celebrations, and sing a paean to a man about whom there isn't much left to be sung.

With the hundredth international hundred now under his belt, Tendulkar holds just about every batting record worth having in the game.

The numbers are simply mind-boggling: 22 years at the crease, over 630 Tests and one-day games around the world, 33,000 plus runs, highest number of centuries in both formats of the game. The ferociously talented batsman is also the leading scorer of Test runs, and had 16 centuries before he turned 25. A giddy fan can go on and on.

Of course, critics believe that the god of cricket is fallible.

Many say Tendulkar doesn't dominate a match and dictate its outcome as, say, Vivian Richards and Brian Lara did. Others say his record against arch rival Pakistan has been underwhelming, compared to, say, the swashbuckling Virender Sehwag.

Then there is Tendulkar's insipid record as a leader - he won 16% and lost 36% of the 25 Tests he captained with what was one of the strongest Indian sides. His record as a one-day captain (35% wins) is way below that of Saurav Ganguly (53% wins) and Mohammad Azharuddin (54% wins). Only 20 of Tendulkar's 50 Test centuries have led to victories for his team.

'Just happens'

But all this, in the end, are minor quibbles, fans say. "No one", wrote Peter Roebuck, one of the greatest cricket writers, "has played more breathtaking innings in the highest company, or scored more runs, or given more pleasure." The age and occasionally the game itself, Roebuck said, has belonged to him.

Tendulkar is an unusual superstar in a celebrity-addled world. After scaling peaks which no other batsman had climbed, the diminutive guru of a glorious game retains a disarming child-like quality and a self-effacing demeanour. "Had JM Barrie needed a cricketer for Neverland," writer Mukul Kesavan wrote once, "he might have dreamt up Sachin Tendulkar."

Sachin Tendulkar Tendulkar had a patchy record as captain

How does he do it? I had wondered last February, after he had fired one-day cricket's first double hundred two months short of his 37th birthday. Answers to such questions are usually elusive. I had more banal questions.

How has the game still not become an ordeal for him? How does he retain his appetite for the game after all he has achieved and nothing more can be asked of him? Trawling through his old interviews recently, I found some clues. "So long as I love playing the game, so long as I enjoy the sound of bat hitting ball, I'm going to do it. I don't have to force myself - it just happens," Tendulkar told an interviewer in 2006.

It just happens. It just happens while carrying the expectations of a billion moody fans, among other things. But this steely player isn't a buccaneer on field. Tendulkar is one of the most elegant players to have blessed the game. He's armed with razor sharp anticipation, perfect balance and a poise of stroke-making that makes batting looks ridiculously easy.

Tendulkar also dominates the game totally as the greatest sportsmen do. He's at once intensely Indian and global, a lodestar of the country's rising aspirations. "He is a modern man playing a modern game in a modern style in the modern world - and that's what makes him of supreme importance to his fellow Indians," wrote the inimitable Mark Marqusee. "He's a homegrown genius excelling in a global game, a world-beater bred in the heart of Mumbai's status-hungry middle class."

What next? Should Tendulkar now lay down his willow and ride into the sunset? Some say though his mind is sharp, his body - and reflexes - have grown slower. Or will runs just keep happening? Tendulkar is a national obsession in a country where cricket is the opium of the masses. When Tendulkar stops playing what will India get high on?

 
Soutik Biswas, Delhi correspondent Article written by Soutik Biswas Soutik Biswas Delhi correspondent

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1.

    'For me is the best batsman ever'. I will take this take this back if any other batsman is able to cross his record.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 2.

    Certainly the greatest batsman of his time & one of the greatest cricketers of all time. The arguments about whether he is the greatest will go on for ever (Bradman's still no. 1 I'd say). His cricketing feats have been breath taking but it's also his ability to keep his head when he's the focus of such adulation by a billion people that's truly incredible (many footballers could learn from him).

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 3.

    Very Simple: SRT (as he is popularly known) simply enjoys his game and approaches *all* of them with equal dedication. So it is a matter of focused concentration and devotion to the game which is coming across.

    That is why he appeals to so many. The records are just a pleasant and enjoyable side effect!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 4.

    Congratulations! However the last line of this writeup raises some questions for those who watch cricket. The stupidity in depending on one men, out of a lot, is obvious. 23 years for making 100 centuries can't happen unless God gives you extra length of life.After all people do retire and vacate places for others in a country of 1.2 billion living souls.Well done! But it is he who can decide.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 5.

    Congrats to Sachin. The nation is proud of you.
    @Amir, Although Sachin might have some more time left, he shouldn't be given the choice to decide when to retire. A number of greats, mostly recently Ponting, were dropped - that shows the professionalism of the organization, do what's best for the team. Always play your best 11, no free rides. You're only diminishing his greatness by saying so.

 

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