That kid was me – and for those who are still confused, I refer to the kid doing the “watching”- and I discovered, very soon afterwards, that I was wrong… Fortunately for me, giving me elite company are several leading batsmen (and some bowlers too!) from the last two decades who have had the same silly thought cross their minds when they watched Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar bat. But right now, I’m just one among millions of ordinary cricket lovers, who have found themselves compelled to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboards) by one spectacular ODI innings that could either inspire aspiring batsmen for decades or make them choose an alternative sport that has more achievable records. 200* has never been seen on an ODI scorecard before!
But I didn’t write this post to say “Cricket is religion, and Sachin is God”, since it has been said too many times before, including in this very sentence. I wrote this to express my observations on how Sachin has been an inspiration in ways unrelated to cricket or even sport. Some of you may not agree with what I infer, but this post is to share with you what has worked for me… and maybe, could work for you…
Sachin resigning as captain
The short period of time that Sachin spent as captain of the Indian ODI team, was not a glorious one, but he realised soon after, that he could continue to influence and inspire the rest of his team without being the designated number-one in the pecking order. What he did next, was to resign from captaincy, and put in a strong recommendation for Saurav Ganguly to be made captain. The rest is history!
This happened nearly a decade ago, coinciding with a phase in my career where I strongly believed (wrongly so!), that I had outgrown my job. I remember telling myself that as long as I can find ways to be better at my job, I cannot possibly outgrow it. I also remember telling myself that growth, performance, seniority and designation are unrelated to each other; one need not be the designated leader to be the best. Looking back, I think I was right… after watching Sachin’s epic innings, I’m sure I was right!
An older Sachin, but hungrier than ever
20 years, 608 international matches, 31045 runs, 93 hundreds, 147 fifties and still no signs of slowing down! He has stated repeatedly (I wonder why they keep asking, though!) that he still feels as enthusiastic about the game as he did when he was a kid, and that’s what keeps him going. The one thing his modesty keeps him from saying, is that he still doesn’t have to worry about being selected, since he keeps performing consistently, and exceeds the back-breaking expectations of a billion fans most days that he plays!
Let me emphasize my point by leaving you with two facts to chew on…
The youngest member of the current Indian squad was 11 months old when Sachin faced his first ball in International Cricket!
India’s main strike bowler in the current series has 130 wickets in ODIs, Sachin has 154!
5’5” in height… taller than most in stature!
I think his longevity is a result of prodigious talent, a passion for excellence and childish enthusiasm, and a hunger to keep playing. Now, you might say prodigious talent is not a gift all of us have, but the other factors are not difficult to cultivate… and all this counts for nothing, if it weren’t for the secret ingredient – humility, a rare commodity among sporting stars! Watching him in the post-match presentation walk back and forth four times to carry back the various medals/trophies/cheques/silver bats he was awarded, was a little funny. But when he was given the mike, he had a great opportunity to publicly vindicate himself by mocking the detractors and retirement-predictors that have plagued him for a few years now. Among those were a certain pair of Chappell’s (pun intended!), who had earned enough infamy for their family three decades ago, decided to earn some more, one of them by questioning Sachin’s attitude to the game, and the other by calling on him to retire. But when his time came to speak, all he did was to thank his fans for standing behind him in tough times, and admitting that he made mistakes as a batsman. That little speech reminded a lot of us why it’s called the “Gentleman’s Game”!
Opting out of the T20 World Cup… Cowardice… or wisdom?
There are times when a decision may seem to be completely inexplicable, and may have extraordinarily brilliant results. Sachin’s decision (along with Saurav and Rahul) to opt out of the T20 World Cup in 2007 was initially slammed as a cowardly decision, but how can you find fault with something that eventually led to the first world cup after 1983, as well as one of the most successful captains in world cricket today? Couple this with Sachin’s decision to relinquish captaincy to Saurav Ganguly in 2000, and we got the most accomplished Test Captain India ever had!
There is a lesson there too… Yes, it is important to lead from the front when you can; it is even more important and heroic to step out of the way of a more capable leader, when the situation demands it. Everyone may not understand then, but they do get it eventually.
And so much more…
Sachin Tendulkar is as human as the rest of us, he has also been the subject of a lot of criticism; a lot is spoken about how money is as important to him as cricket. But the man’s got a duty to his family as much as to his fans, why grudge somebody his livelihood? A Senile political leader (this time, pun not intended!) recently questioned Sachin’s commitment to his home state… this time, unlike the Greg Chappell comments, he decided not to react, and the entire country did instead! I don’t think anybody in the world has had a billion people tell him to shut up all at once, but this “leader” did! And it was such a tidal wave of support for Sachin that uncharacteristically for the “leader”, he promptly let go of SRT, but through force of habit immediately found a certain SRK’s backside to clamp his dentures on! But I detract, this isn’t about him…
I guess one of the things that appeals to people of all kinds around the world about Sachin is that he probably inspires a lot more people subconsciously than one could imagine, not all of them batsmen, not even cricketers.
I could go on… but this is a blog and not a book, so I’ll leave only these many of my thoughts with you… that is, if you’re still awake!
Maybe you could add to this with your own thoughts and make it a series of blogs. You know, if 200 runs by one man in a one day international are possible, anything’s possible!
Now if only he would oblige us with a Test 300… and a hundred hundreds!