Saturday, December 29, 2012

Thanks a ton !

It has been almost a week now since the news of Sachin Tendulkar's retirement from ODI cricket came last Sunday. It was not unexpected - it did not shock me, and I have had some time to reflect on it. So many memories keep flooding my mind every time I think about him. And the overwhelming feeling that I have for him is that of gratitude.
I tried thinking about a life before I knew about Sachin and I did not have any recollections. Perhaps some old photographs can bring back some memories, but there will be nothing substantial. In essence, Sachin has been a part of all of my conscious life. I grew up as a child watching him play, I went through my years as a teenager watching him play, I (mis)spent my youth watching him play and I was going through my young (well, not so young) adulthood watching him play.... What I am trying to say is that for me, Sachin playing for India, has been one of the  very few constants in this ever changing world that we live in.
Every cricketer good or bad, ordinary or great leaves a unique impression. I think about Warne and I think of a ball spinning hard, I think about Lara and I see that high backlift and a flashing blade, I think about Kumble and I see the ball bouncing up in his hands at the start of his run up... and those steely eyes, I think about Mark Waugh and I see that flick shot, I think about Dravid and I see a straight bat and also at times a ball being left alone, I think about Ponting and I see that pull shot, I think about Sehwag and I see a flashing cut...
When I think about Sachin, I do not have one dominant vision - I have a hundred things coming up. I see shots all round the wicket - the cover drive on the up, the straight drive, the flick shot where he turns his bottom hand over to the top in his follow through, the paddle sweep, the lofted shot over mid on, the cut over slips, the pull shot out of the ground....I see him raising a bat after yet another milestone, I see him having a long conference with the bowler at mid-on (not my favourite image of his captaincy days - but it keeps coming back to me - he was so involved), I see him bowling seam up and I see him bowling spin, I see him running hard for the second and I see him taking a catch in the deep......... and I think about the roar of a crowd in the background and I see myself smiling....
I did not so much see him bat in his various innings.... I lived it. He was out there playing, but back in front of the TV Set, I was living it. Each and every ball was not just played by him and watched by me, it was experienced, emoted, lived. There was a time when I was a kid, that the night before a match, I imagined seeing him bat and the night after the match, I slept happy or sad depending on how it went. He got me hooked, involved,obsessed. Yes, there were finer points to worry about - the strike rate, the average, how would India qualify for the next round or the final, what would be a good total on this track, is the asking rate going out of hand, the quest of that elusive world cup.... But the simple joy of watching a ball being delivered and played by Sachin expertly to the boundary, that moment where the ball hits the middle of his bat... it is things like that which drew me into cricket in the first place and for the most part - his cricket has remained a joy to watch. I was "invested" into Sachin long before I understood the meaning of the word invest. And the "returns" have been far better than this accountant has had from anything else...
As someone of the generation that grew up with Sachin, this part of my life will be most precious. He was both, my very own personal hero and also a national treasure that I shared with fellow fans. Yes, I understand that this is the beginning of the end. And for all the joy that he has given, I thought it was a good time to say - Thanks a ton !
Pic: Courtesy Cricinfo.

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