‘You either die a hero or live long enough to become Sachin Tendulkar.’
This line, a custom version of Harvey Dent’s famous dialogue from The Dark Knight (2008), applies to a cricketing hero that chose to look painfully mortal before walking away into the sunset.
Maybe that is not such a bad thing. It keeps the beauty of the game in perspective, for no one player is bigger than the game. Sachin Tendulkar has made sure of that over the last two years.
For Sachin fans, it has often been about pure statistics.
200 tests. A million runs. 100 centuries. 24 years. 18000 ODI runs, 15000 Test Runs etc etc.
Yes, he outstayed his best days by a good two years. Yes, he should have left after the 2011 World Cup, on a high, instead of messing with his own averages and hurting his own fans. Yes, he shouldn’t have looked so mortal. But now that the man has called his own retirement, let us focus on what he has actually given Indian cricket.
It was never about the numbers or his longevity, but it was about what he could do at that time, at that place, to a population of over 100 million in a particular year or era. It was about what he could do, and what the others in his team couldn’t. It was because he, at many points in time, could accomplish feats that seemed supernatural in that era- but doesn’t seem very supernatural in this high scoring era. It was about the adjustments he made to prolong his career and move with the times.
It was about that 241 in Sydney, cutting out the off side.
It was about the 175 in 2008, scored in a losing cause against a raging Australian side while chasing 350.
It was about the Hero Cup final over in 1992.
It was about the 6 let offs in the semi final of the 2011 World Cup, a priceless 85- the best worst innings ever played.
It was about a priceless brave Cape Town Century (2011)- which I personally hope remains his LAST EVER TEST CENTURY- his best ever international innings- against the likes of Steyn and Ntini in full flow.
It was about his out of the blue 200 against a strong South African team at the age of 36- when he was in the best form of his career.
It was about the healing effect he had on a gigantic nation starved of sporting heroes.
The numbers that really matter-
-He was 15 when he played his first test match. It was an era where 15 year olds in India were only starting out in their cricketing careers. He broke barriers by doing just that.
-Admittedly, compared to Ponting’s 3 World Cup wins, his 1 World Cup win doesn’t seem like much. But he was the highest scorer for India in 3 out of 6 World Cups. Forget big matches, those are big tournaments.
-He remains the only player in domestic cricket to score a century on debut in Ranji, Irani and Dilip Trophy.This is an indicator of a player being way above his own country’s domestic levels. Even now, when he returns to Ranji cricket for an odd game, he invariably scores a century.
-The first ever 200 in an ODI game. This statistic mattered. In every way.
-An average of 9.5 in World Cup Finals.
-No Test century for 33 months since Jan 2011.
-Refusing to ever take charge and open the batting in tests, for fear of putting his record breaking feats in jeopardy.
-Refusing to bat at ANY other position in test cricket except no. 4
-Refusing to step down from the Mumbai Indians opening slot, instead going through 12 openers to find a suitable ‘partner’, when he should followed Ponting out.
In all likelihood, Sachin’s 200th test will be played at the Wankhede. The BCCI have fashioned this series for him, embarrassing the South African board in the process.
Yet, what the South African board does not understand is BCCI’s secret ambition of sending their BEST team to their shores, which is why they have had to schedule a special farewell series for their favorite son. This is a resounding message and one of their best decisions in recent years. This keeps everybody happy. In short, there will be a new no. 4 in South Africa.
Recently, there was an article about how the Napoli FC fans caused the earth to literally shake during their derby win in the Italian league, by stomping the ground in excitement during Gonzalo Higuain’s goal.
On 19th November 2013, expect the Earth to shake harder. This will be the only time India will celebrate Sachin Tendulkar’s wicket.