My Sachin Story

All of us have a Sachin story. For a generation and perhaps even more, he is the thread that runs through so many of our memories. Of faces, people, blurry TV screens, sleepless eyes, cheers, gaalis, of sitting-at-one-place-and-not-moving-lest-we-jinx, clenched fists, pumped arms, spilled Pepsis, crumbs on shirts, smiles, tears, desperation, and elation.  This is why all of us feel that we know him, and if time spent simply looking at someone and of being invested in his success is a measure of intimacy, then I suppose many of us would accept that we are closer to him than we are to quite a few cousins and uncles.

It’s strange really, this kind of personal relationship with an abstract entity, abstract in that we do not really know know him. Kind of the relationship those of faith have with God. No wonder then that that word is used in association with him, so often. No wonder that his passing leaves many empty, as if the string has been yanked out and our memories are now bouncing free, like colorful beads on the floor, and we fear that some of them will roll underneath the bed, never to be found.

As for me, little old me, I don’ t think that will happen.

But for that, I need to tell you my Sachin story.

My Sachin story began even before he started playing Test cricket.  Sportstar, which was our window to the world of cricket, (along with Sportsworld and Sportsweek and Indian Cricketer) brought tidings of this precocious talent, whom recently-retired Sunil Gavaskar had said was as good technically as him but with many more strokes, one boy by the name of Sachin Tendulkar. Why, I had thought, he is almost my age, just a few years older. The cricketing firmament was then dominated by uncle-types, the  Vengsarkars, and the Maninder Singhs. For the first time, here was someone from our age-group making it into the team,  and he played cricket just the way a schoolboy wants cricket to be played, not the walking-drive of Dilip Vengsarkar or the boring chapati shot of Shastri, but full-blooded, with lofted shots, hooks and pulls and booming drives. The older uncles, watching TV alongside, would periodically cry out, “He is a taroo” ( swashbuckler), “Does not have the technique of Gavaskar” and “Would he able to play that Chepauk pitch like Vishwanath?” and I rolled my eyes, like teenagers do, thinking to myself “What do they know?” The time was mine, the world was mine and Sachin was me, the projection of my aspirations on a scale I could scarcely comprehend, and every criticism of him was now personal, striking straight to the heart.  

I wanted to believe. In myself. In Sachin. That as long as he is there, there is hope. That it doesnt matter what the rest did. That no one else mattered.

Then I got older. I became cynical. With everything. Gods were for kids.

Why doesn’t he win more matches for India? Why does he accumulate runs? Why has he cut out that swivel pull? Why does he fail in critical matches? What about that Ferrari? And when will he retire? In all this, I forgot the connect between him and me,  and that what I saw in Sachin was myself reflected, calculating, without the carelessness of youth, intensely conscious of what is no longer possible, but persisting on.

And what I saw I did not like.

So I still cheered, perhaps out of force of habit, but I also sniggered. Wax statue. Hah. 199 Kgs of rose petals. Please.

Now that he is leaving (or gone, depending on when you are reading this), I am glad in a way. Because Sachin is now firmly in the past. And the great thing about the past, at least for me, is that I don’t question it in the way I do the present nor fear it the way I do the future. I do not care any more,  how effective Sachin was in chases, or whether he should have retired in 2011, or whether he was the greatest batsmen of the modern generation or not.

Because he is now in that happy place, the place where old loves and broken bicycles go.

Where you dont remember the falls and the jolts, the heartbreaks and the longing.

Where no questions are asked.

Where everything is fuzzy and comforting and tastes of Chocobar.

And where it is always two wickets down and Sachin in.

[Image courtesy: Guardian]

32 thoughts on “My Sachin Story

  1. Great observations !

  2. Sayandip Bhattacharya November 14, 2013 — 2:55 am

    “Because he is now in that happy place, the place where old loves and broken bicycles go.” – Brilliant!!

  3. The last line made me cry

  4. “Because he is now in that happy place, the place where old loves and broken bicycles go” — Wow, what a line!

    And the last line – made me shed some tears

    1. It seems to be from the 2003 movie Shortcut to happiness…the part about broken bicycles

      1. Though I have never even heard of the movie, feel free to accuse me of plagiarism

  5. Brilliant article with masterpiece lines like
    “Because he is now in that happy place, the place where old loves and broken bicycles go”
    “And where it is always two wickets down and Sachin in”

    Greatbong its a pleasure reading your blog 😉

  6. Now if that isn’t a tribute, then what is? Lovely post, simply lovely 😀

  7. My memories of Sachin are primarily ODI ones. I think of Sachin as principally a one day player who did well in tests. The reason for this is that in test matches there have actually been some amazing performances over the years by players not named Tendulkar. The 281, the Sehwag triples, the terrific Laxman half century efforts that won us games against Australia and SA, many great Dravid innings overseas in Australia and Pakistan. Sachin’s 136 against Pak in a losing cause, his assault in Cape Town in 1996, his battle against Steyn in 2011, all come below these other innings.

    Where Tendulkar has really ruled is in ODIs, where Sehwag, Laxman, Dravid: all have only average records. Sure Ganguly has also been good in ODIs, but Tendulkar has really been the boss. Think WC 1996, WC 2003, even WC 2011 – where he was quite good in the preliminary rounds. Also, the two Sharjah Desert storm innings against Australia, the 200, the ODIs against Pakistan in Pakistan in 2006… the list is endless. That is where he truly has made a mark.

    So, when I go down memory lane, it will not be the Sachin of two wickets down that I will remember, but Sachin the opener, taking guard against Shoaib Akhtar in WC 2003, or against Mcgrath in the Champions Trophy 2000.

    1. I agree that Sachin’s ODI achievements are the ones that really made him into a God in the eyes of Indian public. Sachin was the greatest ODI player. He owned the format. I suppose if he was only an average ODI player while having the same Test record as he has now then he probably would not have generated the kind of mania that we have seen over the years (though he would still get a great deal of adulation).

      That is not to say that Tendular’s test achivements are to be scoffed at. He is certainly one of the greatest of his generation but that’s the difference : greatest in ODI and one of the greatest in Tests. I think in Test cricket Tendular at his peak was slightly below some of the other greats of his era when they were at their best. Lara and Ponting especially were perhaps the greatest Test match batsmen of their generation when they were at their best. While Sachin had many a good innings in Test cricket (his debut hundred, 136 in chennai, 116 in Melbourne, 114 in Perth, 146 agains Steyn) he didn’t produce those magically monumental innings at crunch times which were the hallmark of Lara and Ponting at their very best. What is amazing about Sachin in Test cricket and where other greats fall short is Sachin’s longevity. He has been a top batsman for 24 years. He was still taming Steyn and company on bouncy South African wickets at the age of 38. Longevity of this scale requires dedication of the highest order.

    2. The list of he not turning up when it mattered is also endless..

  8. Thats the good thing about past.. everything looks good.. when sachin was the one man army aka mithun and sunny deol.. albeit in real life.
    Sometimes feel sad for the Y,Z and maybe in future AA,AB generations.. like so many other choices they have so many choices of cricketers.. we had just one to lookup to…

  9. Not accusing Great Bong of plagiarism…..this blog post depicts personal emotions;its not a PhD thesis where he needs to provide every possible reference! No surprise he has not heard of the movie. It was a pretty forgetful movie and the only thing that I happen to remember from it is this quote. I can’t seem to paraphrase it from memory, but it was on similar lines.

  10. Don’t follow cricket at all but admire your prose here. Loved this line: “No wonder that his passing leaves many empty, as if the string has been yanked out and our memories are now bouncing free, like colorful beads on the floor, and we fear that some of them will roll underneath the bed, never to be found” and your musings about the past in this piece.

  11. Man … too good. With your writings we of the 90s generation get taken back to our youth. Though I dont know you personally, it feels like I know you as a friend. I had similar experiences as you growing up in Hyderabad in 90s.

    Regarding Sachin the best innings have been the Sharjah innings when he destroyed Aus single handedly. But it felt painful to see him fail in crucial matches. For me more than Sachin, its the combination of Sachin, Ganguly and Dravid who were the heroes or the trinity.

  12. So I feel more blessed than you as that child in me never left when it came to sachin. In a way he remained my source of joy n inspiration that the cynic in me stayed away. Nonetheless a very good read. The way the match is progressing 15th Nov 1989 his career started and 15th Nov 2013 we might be seeing him one last time padding up and taking that walk.

  13. The void is sinking in now. 😦

  14. Captured a lot in these few words, Arnab! Tremendously well-worded, affectionate and real…for all of us belonging to that generation…

  15. Simply superb. Reminds me again, why I come here to read this blog.

  16. lovely post .. could relate to every word you wrote … sharing this on FB

  17. I can remember the last time I ate a chocobar. Wow it has been a long time

  18. “And where it is always two wickets down and Sachin in.” Magnificent.

  19. The last line packs a massive punch. Thanks.

  20. I have always had a strong emotional side but a very poor memory to go along with it. (Perhaps that’s why I can watch movies over and over again.) So with Sachin. I barely remember his trademark shots let alone particular innings. With the blitzkrieg of modern edge-of-the-seat cricket it is hard to remember how I prayed 250 would be chased down in 50 overs, how I tried to convince myself that Nayan Mongia can also bat when 5 were down, or how Robin Singh was our desperate excuse for an all rounder. Though I will envy those who will delve on his technical prowess or bowler domination by remembering particular innings of his, what I have understood for myself is that he gave me the privilege to hope when India was playing an international sport. He was my answer to world’s question that Amitabh had asked Shashi Kapoor in Deewaar – “Mere paas Sachin hai”. The ultimate statement of self-worth. He was the harbinger of many changes that we take for granted but were a common refrain then like “India lacks the killer instinct”. What he has done for Indian cricket, sports and the collective Indian confidence will be talked about and analyzed and his legend will grow. It appears that now he is firmly the second best player to have played, some even suggesting the best ever ! But for me the most memorable moment will be his farewell speech where he made it clear to all that Sachin Tendulkar is a product of quintessential Indian values. As far as I am concerned, the greatest innings he played for India were in those 20 minutes.

  21. That last line really summed it up. There’s a peter pan type world where it’s always two wickets down and sachin in.

  22. “And where it is always two wickets down and Sachin in.” U shouldnt have written these lines and made us all feel so so old. Now for the rest of our lives this will never happen. The cold cruelty of forever….(:

  23. Since he announced his retirement i avoided coming to the blog as i feared i would read something about him that i wouldn’t like (the hoopla or the late retirement) and now here i am doing something that i have hardly done in the past 6 years since i have started following the blog….leave a comment and shed 2 droplets of tears.

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