SachinTwenty

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Twenty years ago.

It was  in game reduced to a charity match that which we first saw the reason for the hype. A sixteen year old had gone to Pakistan, amidst some media frenzy (for the time that is) with none other than the great Sunil Gavaskar gifting him his pads with a statement of the sort “This kid plays as good as me. And can play way more strokes than I ever could.”  While people remember the savage flood of sixes against Qadir and Mushtaq, what I remember is how, of all the players in the Indian team, only he showed a willingness to fight and give it his all, respecting the time of people like me who were watching the game when they were supposed to be studying Life Science, something that  the rest of the team could not be bothered as they went through the motions, talking and laughing, since it was not an official match (as if anything involving India and Pakistan can be unofficial). It would prove to be one of the defining characteristics of the man for twenty years— his commitment, his seriousness and his utter professionalism.

Trying to understand the legend that is Sachin, one needs to look at him through two prisms—that of the game and that of everything but that.

Whether Sachin is the greatest batsman after Bradman has been debated threadbare on many forums with reams of statistics drawn from Statsguru and it is not my intent to go over that. Arguing about the greatness of a batsman with numbers and averages is to me mostly an exercise in futility, somewhat like evaluating movies based on box office collections or the taste of food by its glycemic index.

I therefore go by two things.

First is the evaluation of experts, people who have played the game and not done too poorly themselves, people like Don Bradman, Hanif Mohammed and Shane Warne and his contemporaries around the world, for whom the general consensus is that overall Sachin has been the greatest batsman of modern times.

And second is the evidence of my eyes. My favorite thing about Sachin, what I feel sets him apart from other greats like Ponting, is his balance. It is what I believe is the secret of his shot-making, what makes him move the ball two feet away from the fielder at square leg or lean back and work the ball over the slips or rock back and thump it through cover point, all with equal dexterity. It is that sense of balance he loses when he goes out of form—-which is when you will find him falling over to the front (like how he got out in the 2007 World Cup match against Sri Lanka—possibly the lowest point of his career) or reaching out for the ball, a game defect caused by a slight disturbance in weight transference, triggered with increasing frequency by his dodgy back and shoulders.

What however makes him what he is, the God of all Indian cricket fans, is not just  his technique or his ability to dominate bowling.

It is that for decades he has represented one thing.

Hope.

Maybe the batsmen at the other end suck. Maybe they have sold out to bookies. It does not matter.

As long as he is at the crease, anything is possible.  The vendor selling nuts knows it.  Grandmother knows it. So does the opposition captain.

One of the characteristics of his greatness as a batsman is he, more than any of his contemporaries (Sehwag comes close somewhat to this at his best) can play the same irrespective of the pitch.  Numerous times I have seen matches where it has seemed that Sachin and his partner batsman are batting on different pitches—-nowhere more evident that in that semi-final at the Eden Gardens when as long as he was batting, one could not quite understand what a minefield that pitch had become, why Sanjay Manjrekar at the other end was playing the ball with his chest and thighs, whereas Sachin was playing with consummate ease. Once he got out  then we realized what had come to pass.

But in order to fully understand Sachin the phenomenon, as an identity that subsumes Sachin the sportsman, one needs to take a step back and look at him from a non-cricketing perspective.

To call him India’s most famous sportsman ever is like calling Mahatma Gandhi the country’s most famous politician.

Sachin is much more.

He is a cultural icon, someone who has his place booked in the history books. No not just cricketing history. National history. This is because of what Sachin represents—- the epitome of the Indian dream. A man from middle-class origins, not a star-son or the scion of a political dynasty who rises to the very top by the dint of his own merit, not because he looks good or can shake his body but because he has a genuine skill which very few in the world have, an inspiring success story in a country where the odds against you are mounted in every domain unless you are an “insider” with “jugaad”.

But that’s just half the story. What makes Sachin “God” is because once he has attained fame, he has still held onto the values Indians adore—-that of being humble, unassuming, possessing a commitment to his work which is emphatic without being aggressive, well-defined without being brash.

Putting it in an another way, his supreme quality in life is that he has maintained balance. Just like he does when he is in sublime batting form.

He may drive a Ferrari and may be one of the biggest names in the country but he is found in the same building he grew up in, still playing cricket with the locality boys when his schedule permits. He does not compromise his dignity on the field or off it. Unlike his colleagues who punch cameramen, shout at groundsmen and in general behave like brats after attaining a fraction of what he has achieved, Sachin never for once in his life has ever betrayed a “I am a VIP so stand aside” attitude, being  unfailingly polite to everyone from ground-staff to fans, at the same time not compromising on his privacy or his personal space. Without getting into eyeball-to-eyeball slanging matches, he has been as aggressive on the field as the best of them. Anyone who has tried to verbally intimidate  him, from McGrath to Kasprowicz have realized Sachin’s toughness after being hit into the stands, as players all over the world recognize that abusing him is like spitting at the sun, the froth goes up and lands up in your own face.

To me personally Sachin’s most endearing quality is that he still cares. Unlike his colleagues who hang out with groupies after a defeat shrugging it off as a bad day in office, even after twenty years he still feels the pain of a defeat, just like the fans do. It is a pain that even a cynic like me recognizes to be genuine and while I may chuckle at displays of overt patriotism in a sport where the only thing that matters is money, my throat still chokes up seeing Sachin kissing that little square on his helmet after scoring a century or when he says post-match that he has lived his dream of playing for India for twenty years. It is so straight-from-the-heart, an emotion stemming from such a  child-like conviction in the honor of representing one’s country that it melts the most cynical of us.

It makes us want to believe. That there is something greater than us, our wallets and our lives.  Yes it makes us believe. At least for a few seconds.

This is the magic of Sachin.

This is why he is different.

And this is why we love him.

[Photos courtesy: The Independent and Mid-Day]

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77 thoughts on “SachinTwenty

  1. his talent is both a blessing and a curse to the team. we never think that the team will collapse when ganguly or dravid get out, but sachin getting out does put that thought in the heads of the fans. he may not be a reliable finisher but he sure is the most reliable person on the team. I used to hope that someone like yuvraj or rohit sharma could take his place, but thats not happening. i am just sad that my kids will not have someone like sachin to hold as an example

  2. Of course there cannot be another Sachin in India. But what pains me is that his colleagues though having the privilege to be with him have not learned his professionalism, humility and never say die attitude.

  3. I’ve read reams of paper containing praises about Sachin but no analyst, no ex-great, no critic or fan has touched this aspect of Sachin’s personality – “Sachin’s most endearing quality is that he still cares”
    How true.
    People are a little happier all around, everyone has a little spring in their feet, a smile on their face, a tune on their lips – when Sachin has had a good day at the office.

  4. I have a very selfish point of view on Sachin.

    Sachin made me appreciate myself better.Yes.He made me appreciate that the Lord Almighty has blessed me with eyes, ears, and a brain to analyze,He’s been kind to me for the last 20 years I was able to see,feel and experience His special creation.

    I thank God.Period.

  5. I love this post …….. this should def be read by all those who criticize sachin …
    I cant understand how pple can criticize a player like him. The opposition would have seen his tapes a million time over 20 yrs n the 175 vs Aus only proves that its hard to find a mistake in his technique …. any plan they come up with to get him out seldom works ….. Again thnx for writing abt GOD of Cricket 🙂

  6. Beautifully written! I had goosebumps all over while reading and had to wipe a few tears. This is an amazing tribute and the observations made will ring true to Sachin fans and detractors alike. Can’t wait to read your book.

  7. ‘Arguing about the greatness of a batsman with numbers and averages is to me mostly an exercise in futility, somewhat like evaluating movies based on box office collections or the taste of food by its glycemic index.’
    As genuine an observation as genuine Sachin has remained to his art throughout his career. I have always felt that to fans , the work of their idol is like a piece of art much more than the science of statistics these figures reduce them to. For a fan the best perspective one can provide is of a fan’s dil se , and in that regard the post is worth trasuring. For me cricket began with the Sachin in 1996 and the way his overpaid and over hyped colleagues are going about, it might as well end with Sachin retiring, at least Indian cricket will.
    And I found this while searching on net , an article on 14 year old Sachin

    http://www.cricinfo.com/magazine/content/story/434247.html

  8. His down to earth personality, makes us respect him much more than any other cricketer in history. He was among the only biggies who were not involved in match fixing case unlike Jadeja n Azhar. we have never seen Sachin giving remarks about other cricketer or teams.

  9. “Sachin never for once in his life has ever betrayed a “I am a VIP so stand aside” attitude,”

    You mean except on that one occasion when he had his sponsors pay his endorsement fee in the form of a car and thought it should be allowed to be imported duty-free just because he was a celebrity?

  10. Some of my favorite Sachin moments: Shoaib Akhtar being hit for a six in a run chase over Pakistan in the 2003 World Cup! His devastation of Shane Warne in Chennai! The Sharjah innings against Australia that remains one of his best One-day knocks ever! Oh Dear.. He is the BEST

  11. I too am a Sachin-bhakt and your words are like a bhajan to my ears. I happened to meet Sachin at a corporate event a few months ago, and wrote this blog about that encounter, expressing very similar sentiments to yours.

  12. Very well written article, the best I have read so far in my life about this living legend. I was just watching his interview in TIMESNOW and was so overwhelmed by his magnanimous personality!! Sachin Tendulkar is undoubtly a great human!! He is truly the “GOD of Indian cricket”.

  13. Whenever India is playing a match and Sachin is playing in the team, the first thing i check during the Indian batting innings is the amount of runs scored by Sachin. Needless to say i don’t feel disappointed or hopeless when a Sidhu, Ganguly, Viru gets out early the way i feel distraught when Tendlya gets out cheaply. As you have rightly pointed out he epitomizes the most important thing which a an average common man like myself always aspires ; HOPE & OPTIMISM. As long as he is at the crease there is always a chance.

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  15. Very different from what you usually write. This is not what I like reading- eyelids a flutter and fawning and if you will pardon me, a bit nauseating. Somewhat like Voltaire’s ode to the Prince of Vendome. I do hope you come out of this saccharine mood quickly and unleash yor vitriol on the latest cinema or political event. Now that makes very good reading for me!

  16. Great writing GB. Really magical. The greatest skill you have is u put on paper what exactly an ordinary man thinks but cannot express.

    BTW, Neither Bradman nor Sachin is the greatest batsman. Australians don’t have any history or great culture, so they hang on to anybody who performs well and hype them to be greats. Also, there is lot of sponsors’ support in Sachin’s success.

    In my opinion, VVS Laxman is the greatest batsman of all time. He can conquer any kind of bowling attack. He has golden silky wrists. He has no sponsor support, no management support, no support from inside the team, but he never feels defeated. Whenever he goes on to bat, he bats like a champion and scores. You can find many other batsman like Sachin like Ponting, Gavaskar, Bradman, Border, etc. but there is no other Laxman. Laxman is unique and is the greatest batsman in cricket’s history. Pity that nobody cares about him.

  17. Thank You for this post! Though I have been guilty of being a harsh critic of Sachin due to his inability to finish off games, this post reminded me yet again as to why Sachin can never be disliked, as to why Sachin during my childhood ,esp the 1998 season, when a coming-downthe track and hitting the first ball of a spinner(saqlain, warne etc) for a monster 6 was a guarantee enervated the entire day..
    Long Live Sachin- the only sporting God of India

  18. Great writing GB. The best I have read on Sachin’s 20.
    Yeah, he still cares.
    May be Sachin is the last one who cares.. and thats not an entertaining thought !!!

  19. Man I wanted someone to write a piece like this for Sachin. You did it and did it with an equal dexterity, love and straight from the heart feeling as are the attributes of the great man. Thanks a lot GB

  20. @Mohan
    Any links to support the claim that sachin “had his sponsors pay his endorsement fee in the form of a car”? From what I recall as being reported, Fiat gifted him the ferrari on the occasion of scoring 29 centuries. The law at that time stated that automibiles can have duty waived if its won as a prize and not as a gift. So it is a slightly grey thing to see that as gift or prize. Even when it became an issue, sachin had offered to pay the duty but Fiat stepped in to pay that. Now this case can be seen as a me-VIP for most celebrities, but the way sachin has carried himself over a long period of time, its not easy to see this the way it would be for most ppl trying to evade taxes.

  21. I think Sachin completely embodies the Karma Yoga that Krishna preaches in the Gita, being attached to his game, his whole game and nothing but his game. Hence he remains the consummate professional, leading as you say, an absolutely down-to-earth life outside of the field. Odd to get so explicitly religious, but then the man is a God after all.

  22. @X:

    1. He was Fiat’s brand ambassador at the time.
    2. Fiat could have imported the car themselves and gifted him the car in India. Or he could have told Fiat to deliver the gift to Bombay paying whatever taxes necessary.
    3. 29 centuries and England of all places seemed an odd occasion/place to give him a gift. It wasn’t even a world record or anything.
    4. The court saw it as salary-masquerading-as-gift. RK Laxman wrote a cartoon showing a kid saying that he wants to be a cricketer so that all his income from endorsing colas, soaps, toothpaste can be made tax-free. A high court judge saw the cartoon and that’s when it occurred to him that this was a case of tax evasion and issued a warrant to Sachin and Fiat.

    @HP: Perhaps. But here it was borderline legal – there was some deception and political string-pulling involved (showing salary as a gift and then writing to the Finance Minister to get duty exemption on it). Even if I ask my US-based employer to pay part of my salary as a BMW “gifted” in the US, govt won’t care. They will say, if you want to bring it to India, pay the duty. More importantly, most citizens don’t go around claiming that working for the country is the biggest motivation for them etc. So we can’t equate it with an ordinary citizen.

  23. wonderful great bong….read it thrice…. and still loving it..sachin is an entire episode in each one of our’s lives…beautiful post…

  24. @Mohan:
    I still dont see any concrete reason to believe that it HAS to be the case where sachin made Fiat gift a ferrari in lieu of his endorsement fee. that is an assumption on your part. whether 29 centuries is an achievement or not is again subjective, since bradmans feat of 29 centuries was equaled, moreover u too must be aware that in many other less-than-this-record occasions too, big brands/rich-sports-enthusiasts gift sportspersons, even if they dont directly hire the guy as ambassador.

    why does it seem so improbable(again,considering tendulkar’s overall behaviour) to you that sachin simply wrote to ministry whether ferrari gift can come under the law of automobiles as prize can be waived off, ministry felt that such a big sportsperson can be given this waiver,there was furore, sachin offered to pay but fiat paid in the end? i know in many other cases its not seen like it is shown to be, but in this case, considering sachin’s behaviour, be just as it was?

  25. A lot maybe said about the batsman, about the person, about the husband, the cricketer, the father. But what has not been said is about the love… The warmth, the status, the sheer worship that this country has showered on Sachin. It is the greatest gift of God to carry the hope of so many millions of people when you enter the field and coming off it with success in more times than one.

    Humility stems from the fact that you know that all this has been given by God and so you thank him instead of believing that this all was created by you.

    I Thank the god for this great admiration

    for some special moments in Sachins Life visit

    mypicstrange.blogspot.com

  26. Kishor – no, the greatest batsman has to be Kumble. He had this trick where he hit the ball with an accurate speed that it never reached the boundary, and the fielder had to run all the way to stop it. In the meantime, Kumble could run three, the fielder would get tired of running after the ball, and get out when his batting turn came.

    See, now THAT is a stroke of genius. VVSL? Huh, he should try in his next life.

  27. X: another point I forgot to list last time. That is, Sachin’s known passion for Formula 1 and fast cars. And the fact that he cares so much about his Ferrari that he doesn’t even let his wife touch it. Put it all together, the balance of probability is that he wanted to get a Ferrari and he got it through the gift route. His overall behaviour doesn’t come into picture. Considering that this is a financial deal, in all probability his auditor would have come up with the idea and Sachin would have been told that all he needs to do is to write a letter to the government requesting duty waiver. If Sachin’s view towards paying taxes is anything like that of an average citizen (i.e. all the taxes go straight to politicians’ pockets), then he wouldn’t have considered it a big deal either.

  28. My baba once told me if he had a son like Sachin…I was a bit angry then….
    Now, I say, if I had a son like Sachin….

  29. @mohan:
    he has passion for a lot of stuff, including food and restaurants, which is also visible in his business endeavours. so that is just reading too much into the situ. His overall behaviour definitely does matter if his request for waiver is to be bracketed with “I am VIP, stand aside” attitude prevalent amongst the influential in india. And why are you ignoring the fact that when it did become an issue, tendulkar had promptly offered to pay the taxes? Doesnt that say something about his attitude?

  30. addendum to previous comment: Overall, it can be simply put down as a goofup on both sachin,auditor and fiat’s part. as you said, fiat cd hv brought it to india and gifted it to him to avoid all the brouhaha, so a clear case of oversight on all parties. As I said before, with most people this very issue can be seen as VIP attitude based on their past behaviour, but sachin’s record does justify to attribute this incident to oversight on his part more than anything else.

  31. I still remember waking up much before the crack of dawn many many yeears ago and watch with bleary eyes the demolition job that Sachin was carrying out on the Kiwis…..even now when the highlights of his awesome career are telecast, the mind goes back to the time and place where I had witnessed the extraordinary ‘phenomenon’ being unravelled in our ordinary lives. So much so, that I shudder to think what would have been left of our existence had God’s blessing in the form of Sachin not been around for so long! This, to me, is his biggest draw : amidst all the vagaries in each and every walk of life, despite the fickleness and uncertainties confronting us each day, Sachin has unfailingly made us happy through all these years…Thank you Almighty, Thanks a lot Sachin.

  32. very off the topic GB…but pls pls pls write one on the Bhatt family and how Mr. Mahesh Bhatt is so quiet for a change and has no opinion..Looking forward to a hilarious post from you 🙂

  33. Who is the person going by name X above having debate with Mohan? Is he SRT himself? He seems to know a lot about the incident and is trying to explain Sachin’s point of view and has not verbally attacked Mohan even once. Too nice a guy, just like SRT!!

  34. Best tribute I have read! Fantastic read, every Sachin fan feels the same but you have put our thoughts and feelings in to words and I thank you for it! 🙂

  35. @X: Let me just say that I find the oversight argument bit hard to accept. It was not like it was something done in a rash moment. Sachin pursued this duty waiver for months writing multiple letters to various ministries, lobbying through Pramod Mahajan, etc. I find it hard to believe that during all that time it never once occurred to him to ask Fiat to pay the duty and get the damn thing to India. It is worth noting that even when the furor broke out neither Sachin nor Fiat offered to pay the duty immediately. Some NGO’s even started collecting chanda on the streets to pay Sachin and he still kept quiet. It was only when the court issued them a notice that Fiat finally agreed to pay the duty.

  36. HUMILITY!!!! is wat sets him apart. The other gr icons i admire from the time that i have started to understand things are Amir Khan, Kum,ble, Dravid and Amitabh Bacchan but even they are not close to Sachin… class apart he is.

  37. Very well written, and a good perspective.

    I am not a cricket fan, and often feel that cricket gets much more than its’ fair share of importance in India. But when I watch Sachin bat, I see the quality that takes him beyond a sport and makes him a national icon. Your point about calling Sachin a sportsman is akin to calling Gandhi a politician is very apt, and struck a chord.

  38. @Mohan:
    Couldnt really get any report with exact dates on this issue.But the closest is this wiki entry (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sachin_Tendulkar#Controversy_over_Ferrari_customs_waiver):
    “In commemorating Sachin Tendulkar’s feat of equalling Don Bradman’s 29 centuries in Test Cricket, automotive giant Ferrari invited Sachin Tendulkar to its paddock in Silverstone on the eve of the British Grand Prix (July 23, 2002) to receive a Ferrari 360 Modena from the legendary F1 racer Michael Schumacher.[96] On September 4, 2002 India’s then finance minister Jaswant Singh wrote to Sachin telling him that the government will waive customs duty imposed on the car as a measure to applaud his feat.However the rules at the time stated that the customs duty can be waived only when receiving an automobile as a prize and not as a gift. It is claimed that the proposals to change the law (Customs Act) was put forth in Financial Bill in February 2003 and amended was passed as a law in May 2003. Subsequently the Ferrari was allowed to be brought to India without payment of the customs duty (Rs 1.13 Crores or 120% on the car value of Rs 75 Lakhs).[98] When the move to waive customs duty became public in July 2003, political and social activists protested the waiver[99] and filed PIL in the Delhi High Court. With the controversy snowballing, Sachin offered to pay the customs duty and the tab was finally picked up by Ferrari.[100] Tendulkar has been seen taking his Ferrari 360 Modena for late-night drives in Mumbai.”

    Doesnt seem like “pursued for months” and “wrote to various ministries”. The issue became public in July 2003, and this cricinfo article (http://www.cricinfo.com/india/content/story/124935.html) dated Aug 14 2003, mentions Fiat being willing to pay. So duration wise it doesnt seem as huge as you make it out to be.

  39. X: Here’s a Hindu article which states that he had written to Jaswant Singh and Pramod Mahajan: http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/mp/2003/09/15/stories/2003091501990100.htm “What do they think of the letter Tendulkar wrote to Pramod Mahajan and Jaswant Singh?”

    So the car was “gifted” in July 2002 and it was not until a year later that the duty-waiver was finally approved and he could import the car. If it was an oversight on his part, I would think a year is more than enough time to correct that oversight.

    It is not true either that the issue became public only in July 2003. Here is an article by Sucheta Dalal which was published on Rediff in Sep 2002. http://www.suchetadalal.com/?id=18afbcf2-6f1d-ced5-492e822f995d&base=sub_sections_content&f&t=Sorry%2C+Sachin%2C+this+is+just+not+cricket!

    Some of us had been discussing this on newsgroups back in Jan 2003 here: http://groups.google.com/group/rec.sport.cricket/browse_frm/thread/f9e16f0a2d98e773/4778d451f5df7865#4778d451f5df7865 “Is Sachin Greedy?”

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  42. You seem to belong to a monotheistic group that believes Sachin is God, and that there is only one God. Sachin is undoubtedly a great cricketer, but to accentuate his greatness further, you don’t have to put down all the other cricketers who have played with him. After all, greatness is not a zero-sum game. I refer to the sentences which begin with the words, “Unlike his colleagues…” that seem to imply that certain attributes such as “commitment, sportsmanship” were unique to Sachin.

    There have been others who have shown equal or more commitment to the cause of the team ( eg. Dravid, Kumble), who have demonstrated their technical skills on difficult pitches on which Sachin had succumbed ( eg Dravid, Laxman on numerous occassions), who feel the pain of defeat as much as Sachin does ( eg. Dravid, Kumble again) and who have displayed exemplary sportsmanship, dignity and humility right through their careers (eg, Dravid, Kumble again).

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  45. Anything is possible when Sachin is on crease… As a young kid I’ve seen both Sarjah matches and can’t express how much I still remember every moment in the room along with around 15 friends watching together.
    Thanks for bringing these memories, just one line to add > There are few carores of ppl like me who still watch cricket only because Sachin still plays 🙂

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