There has been a raging debate on in my office as to whether a certain Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar is fit to be called the God of cricket. It all began with one banner at a match many years ago, where it was written - "Cricket is my religion - Sachin is my God" or something around those lines. This was brought during the IPL discussions and it has become quite a storm in the bulletin board here. This reminds me of a story which is worth telling.
It was the day before the 2003 World Cup final in South Africa against Australia. After much persuassion, I had agreed to go with my family to a place called Chandannagar (which is a small town about 30 kms) to spend the weekend with our relatives there. It is a small place where people are just as enthusiastic about cricket as any in the country. The house where I had gone was a large joint family and the entire conversations going around there revolved around the big match on the next day. The evening before the match, I heard fire crackers going off. When asked the reason, I got the reply from an uncle of mine that this is about the time when the Indians would be having their nets in Jo'burg and we are having a net-practice of our own of the celebrations for tomorrow. I went to sleep that night with a prayer on my lip hoping to have the greatest day of my life on the next day.
The next morning, I was woken up by the sounds of some puja happening nearby. I came down and enquired about it and was told that "Sachin Puja" has started. Taken aback a little, I thought that surely this is a joke. It must be that special prayers are being offered at the local temple for the finals, which is not really unexpected. I was asked to step out of the house to see for myself and about 50 yards outside the main door there was a small pandal (created a la Saraswati Puja style) where quite a few people had gathered. Stepping into the pandal, I saw an idol created of a man wearing the blue India shirt, with a bat in one hand and the helmet in another, somewhat resembling Sachin himself. I could not believe my eyes for a second. Here I was in Sourav Ganguly country and the people had gone nuts enough to create an idol of Sachin and worshipping him with great fervour and gusto.
Anyways I did not really approve of the idea of worshipping a living man (I have my own ideas about idol worship which are a matter of separate discussion) but this puja continued throughout the day. The match started in the afternoon with the entire family (all 4 generations of it) in front of the TV standing up for the national anthem. It is a moment that is well etched in my memory.
We all know how badly the game progressed and I am not going to elaborate on it here. We were supposed to go back to Kolkata in the evening and having to chase 360 odd meant I was in no mood really to sit and watch and did not mind getting up to go. So just as the Indian innings was starting, we got into the car. The Puja was still continuing with the same zeal. Just as the car reached in front of the pandal, the sound stopped all of a sudden. And then a phone call came to my uncle saying that Sachin is out !. What an ironical moment and one that is unforgettable for me.
Having told this story, let me tell you my take on the debate. In the Da Vinci Code, Robert Langdon tells Sophie in the end that - What matters is what you believe in.... And that is exactly my message to all those who believe that he is a God. Do not let anybody else tell you otherwise.
And for those, who while acknowledge his greatness but don't quite believe he is a God, that is fine but do not disrespect the belief of others.
For those who do not acknowledge his greatness, I really have nothing to tell them.
As for me, I feel I have been blessed to have seen the man play. It has been my life's honour to have him as one of my heroes. I love him unconditionally. He does not have to prove anything to me and he will always have my support. It is a pleasure to see him still playing and I know this for certain that our lives will be a little poorer when he stops padding up to bat.