I guess the first thing that comes to mind when you see the headline of this blog is, 'Wait, is that possible? Are we not getting into unfamiliar territory with this news?'
I simply think that we got used to this great cricketer from Mumbai (Bombay, when he made his debut). The world has changed in the last 23 years that we have seen Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar play for India in his blue jersey in one-day internationals with the greatest of pride. Think of this for a minute - when Sachin made his debut:
- We didn't have facebook
- Google didn't exist
- Online shopping did not exist in India
- Mobile phones were a luxury
- There were hardly any malls in the country, except for a handful in Delhi or Bombay
- Imported goods were really just that - imported
- There were no 24 X 7 television channels
- Internet was the exclusive preserve of a few scientific organizations, that too, at primitive speeds. If anything, many of us visited the then ubiquitous cyber cafe to experience this new dimension to life called the Internet
Yet, this man has lived through all of this transformation that we have seen as a country and kept the hopes alive for all of us with his singular dedication and commitment to what he knew best - score runs for the national team in the international sphere.
Facing up to monstrous fast bowlers who were possibly double his height and weight, going to the farthest corners of the world to places that not too many Indians had even heard of and scaling heights in most places he went to, brought pride to all of us. It made us feel that here was someone who represented us in the world. He not only can hold his own, but prove to the world that we as Indians are really the best of the best.
Sachin, for me, symbolised that incredible belief that many of us at that time couldn't even fathom to think of i.e. dream big, play hard to conquer the world in the most professional way possible, without hurting anybody and yet standing firm in the face of any obstacle on the global stage. This boy-next-door that India has come to love, adore, respect, admire, fall in love with, and indeed revere to the point of seeing him become India's sporting icon, has clearly made me and many of my ilk think big in life and not to settle for less. Like one of the expert writers wrote on his blog recently, he mesmerised our country.
Perhaps, the lasting effect of this great man's impact on my life and people in my sphere is represented by this one line that my father told me in the '90s in my final year of college. 'Whatever you do, Arun, do it well. Try to use the Sachin attitude in whatever you do in life and you will go places'. I possibly never understood the significance of that short line from my father in 1998, but, I clearly understand every word of that statement now. My father was still working then and he clearly saw a great vision for India and for people like me. But, by using Tendulkar as an example, he was able to clearly demonstrate to me that here was a world-beater like non-other that he had seen in his long life, and that it makes perfect sense for a youngster like me to learn the virtues that Tendulkar represented in my own life.
Look at it this way. Sachin does not even know that I exist and scores of people like me. But, just look at the impact he has had on all of us, cutting across every discernible, stupid, man-made divisions that are all too common in our country. This man is loved and revered by one and all. How many Indians have managed to do that, with such universal effect? Sure, he has had his critics like every other celebrity, but the weight of his universal acceptance as India's champion is far heavier than what any critic might have to say. Incredible India is what we have heard, here is a truly incredible Indian!
I will miss the no.10 blue jersey on the cricket field, Sachin. Not for the records, for they are part of cricket folklore and there are far more qualified sports commentators to analyse those numbers than me. I will miss you for the sheer magnanimity of your presence at the centre of Indian cricket, for the incredible trust, confidence and positive attitude that you brought to billions of your fellow countrymen and for that pride in performance that you taught people like me (who grew up with you!).
I wish you the very best in anything that you choose to do in the future, but like I posted on my facebook page the other day, my lasting memory of you will be from 2 of your iconic knocks - the upper cut that you hit off Shoaib Akhtar in the 2003 World Cup match against Pakistan at the Centurion Cricket Ground, and the other is that unforgettable 143 against the Australians at Sharjah in 1998, when you really did knock out not only the sandstorm that hit the ground, but also the belief in the mighty Aussies at that time.
Irrespective of anything else, I have learnt from Sachin how one should never ever to give up in life. Hats off, champion! You really have made many, many, many Indians proud. I look forward to cherishing the last part of your Test match journey. Simply because, a large part of the Indian belief is halved with your retirement from ODIs. And it is not restricted to cricket. It is the belief that you taught us, that needs to be reinforced now, more than ever before, given the challenges that our country faces. Sons of the soil like you are indeed the driving force for that belief to be maintained and eventually increased, even after you finally leave the stage from international cricket. I will always think of you as the Belief Man of India.
I hope someone sensible makes a movie out of your career, as generations after us need to know what a fine Indian graced us.