April 22, 1998. The sixth game of Coca Cola cup, at Sharjah Cricket Stadium. A fast paced 101 from Mr.Cricket Micheal Bevan took Australia to a daunting 284 and left India needing 254 to kick out New Zealand on net run rate and march into the final against the Ausies. The stage was all set for the young blood of India to pounce on. Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar opened the innings. That night there were apparently two sand storms – a merciless one from the gods above and the other…even brutal than the previous from the master below. Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar broke the Australian bowling attack for the first time. His 143 from 131 balls was enough to guide India onto safe shores accomplishing 250 of 46 overs and reaching the final. (The to-get score of 254 was reduced to 237 due to the storm). I loved it. I’d never thought India could ever be so hungry for a win. And I was true, it wasn’t the team, but the hunger in one man that made the day for a whole nation. And a couple of days later an almost fairy tale ending was crafted when the master batsman scored a scintillating 134 of 131 balls, taking the great Shane Warne to a ride over the stadium on multiple occasions. And hence it started. And 12 years later, on Feb 24, 2010 this little man silenced all his critics by achieving the almost impossible 200 run mark in a limited over game against a might South African pace attack, annihilating the ball time and again. And now with a recent dip in form his character is being questioned with a fresh vigour.
There is no doubt in the fact that Sachin’s performances have dipped of late and the way he is getting out (clean bowled and plump leg befores) is not doing any good to his confidence or the team’s trust in him. Having said that, it is imperative that the team does its best to reinstall his confidence and make him feel at ease with the situation. This is not a player who basked in the glory of a couple of quick centuries or one who has shown great potential but failed to deliver at the big stage.This is a stubborn vulture that has withered many a storm not some fragile sparrow. His achievements for his country are unparalleled in his sport, for that matter he is unparalleled by any other cricketer up-to this point and is comparable only with a handful of sportsmen across time and space. The master, like every other sportsman has had some rough patches and now is just one such a time. And it is a well known fact – his soft corner to left arm spin. So just because he has another of his rough patches should he call it a day on the love of his life? Rubbish. I attribute all this hype of Sachin becoming old and losing his reflexes shit to the media. Not that it is false but the way in which it is being overplayed. What business does the media have to telecast the same question “Is Sachin too old for cricket? Should he call it a day? When should Sachin retire?” kind of crap six times every thirty minutes? There are other players who have gone through bad times and have been ignored by the media, there are players in the current team who have been underperforming yet have not been given the stick. Then why scape goat the master? If at all Sachin should retire, it should be of his own will. By God, we all know what that man has done for this team and that he has earned the right to decide where and when to hang his bat by himself. Any interference in this matter from external sources least by some idiot reporter sitting in front of a recording device never having faced the firing line of Akthars and Brett Lees or ‘analysts’ who react to make headlines for themselves. The media is in no way portraying the interests of the fans or the cricket board in this issue. They want their stories and that is what every weak performance is giving them…more stories. It is high time that the team,the selectors and fans speak out for themselves and reestablish confidence in this great man who has single handedly carried the pride and prestige of Indian cricket throughout the seven continents for over two decades.
Some proponents of world cricket might argue that the older players must make way for the younger players to shine in the game. So tell me Sunny, where were these young talents you speak of when the English shoved the stumps so hard into the team’s ass that we had to rely on a 38 year old Rahul Dravid to open the innings in follow on after he had already batted out rather battled out single handedly through the entire tiring first innings without support. Where were the young guns when an injured Jack Kallis had to rip out every drop of sweat having to get South Africa to a draw against the devastating Aussie attack. Players like Ponting, Kallis, Dravid, Sanath and Sachin to mention a few are true legends of the game and deserve more than what we give them. It is appalling how the media portrays them for a single failure. It is not the abilities of these great men that have declined but it is us the viewers and the media that has fallen in its standards by leaps. It is a shame how these great men are treated after sheding so much of their lives, taking a bashing from the ball and being put through the knife countless times for the sport. Sachin plays for personal records you say? Mind you before you speak that this is a player who was in tears after his team lost and refused to collect the man of the match award after a valiant century that was put into ashes by his teammates; a player who put behind his father’s death and played with all his heart to lead his team to victory. He put behind surgery after surgery to give his all for his team and the game and the least he deserves is some respect. The way we handled the Dravid situation amidst all the media mess and the way Sachin is being pounced on leads me to think that we don’t deserve these great players. The media and the public have fallen to abysmal depths in treating them the way they have been.
As Rahul Dravid said “This is the time Sachin is needed more than ever”. In the wake of Dravid and Laxman’s retirement, the last thing we need is another pillar walking away from the team. So the next time somebody or some channel points a finger at the great man I urge them to remember the 119 he scored in England as a 17 year old to fight off England at their home, the 169 he made to avoid a shameful collapse in the 2nd test at Capetown in 1997 and the match winning knock of 103 against England in Chennai in 2008. Any comment or complaint against this genius would only show how fallen we are to not have noticed the pains he had and he is currently in to do what he has always done…give his best for his team and his country game after game. I sincerely pray that the nation can grow to a level of sensibility and sensitivity to empathize with and support one of the true greats of the game. After all this is our one chance to stand by him after all the years he has done it for us.