This was written before Sachin retired. I had every intention of posting it before that day. My PC stubbornly refused to start. It was right after the Kolkata test match. Before the world changed.
This is one of the most difficult times for you, Sir. This is one of those times when you have to dig deep and pull out a gem. And you did. Against England. You dug deep into that limitless talent pool of yours and pulled out one. It did not satiate many. They’re still calling for your head. It’s evident Sir, your time in the sun is running out.
Many say that cricket is the only life you’ve ever known. Well, cricket without you is a life I’ve never known too. And I don’t want to. I remember running home from school on match days to breathlessly scan the scoreboard. If the wickets column was anything but Zero, and you weren’t on strike I would frantically search the screen for the familiar short statured, wide legged figure at the other end, one hand on the hip and body weight resting on the bat handle. It had such a calming effect. It didn’t matter then if we were 10/1 or 10/3 because you were at the other end. Nothing mattered.
Just like the bowler never mattered to you. You were more concerned about the sight screen. It was just a white background for most batsmen but not for you. You were finicky about it. It used to be followed by the most ungainly, recognised and characteristic set of movements - that adjusting of the guard in the front of the pants. And you were ready. So were we. As the bowler went up in appeal, a billion heartbeats would stop, there would be a billion sharp intakes of breath followed by fervent prayers to various Gods. The umpire shakes his head and a billion would then sigh in relief.
As the bowler went back to the mark, the fervent prayers would resume. A nation would stop as the bowler steams in from the top of his run up. He pitches it just short and you pounce on it quickly. A reassuring thump off the back foot from the iconic MRF blade, that image of the ball searing through the covers, a quick nod of the helmeted head. And living rooms and stadiums would erupt in joy. The bowler charges in again and strays, every so slightly, onto the leg stump and it is followed by the trademark flick, not so much of a shot - just giving the ball direction. And all else is forgotten. The World is Sachin and Sachin is the world.
We all have tried to imitate that nod of the head, that ungainly adjusting of the guard but we could never even come close to playing THAT straight drive or the backfoot punch or the uppercut. Other batsmen could play the cover drive too. But none like you.
You made children complete their homework early, made housewives forget their daily chores. You made the ailing feel healthy and the healthy to call in sick at work. You’ve made the weak strut and the strong tremble. You’ve stopped Bombay, You’ve stopped India why, even Time stood still when you batted.
In those dark days of mediocrity and inconsistency, you were the only hope we could all look up to. In our eyes, you were Superman, the hero we all craved for. You wielded the willow like it was Thor’s hammer. Impregnable in defence, rock-solid yet destructive. The one who would offend and not defend. Yes, you were larger than life and we always expected too much from you and much less from the other ten. Yes, and we expected it every time. You were superhuman, yet a kid with our middle class values. An Aapla manoos. We were the junkies and you were our fix.
Yet, your time in the sun seem to be running out Sir. It’s painfully clear but yes it is. That twinkle in your eye seems to be missing now. You look worried. It worries us too.
It seems that it was not so long ago that every thing was alright. We remember it what it was like. We who have missed flights but not fights for you. We who turned living rooms into stadiums and stadiums into bull rings. We who have seen you spoil equations and destroy reputations. We who have seen you weather storms and invoke sandstorms. And now, we are just as flustered.
Yes, you are 39 now and questions about your future are bound to arise. Yes, the score board makes unhappy reading and you’ve fallen to better deliveries in the past but there still are legions – lots and lots of people who still believe in you and want you to do well. If you wish to retire, let it be your decision only and not because some half wit asked you to. Your time in the sun may be running out, but his never came.
May that day never come Sir, but if a day comes when you decide to call it a day and tuck that bat away; we will retire too. We will follow the odd game, cheer an Indian victory and even gasp when Kohli tries a Tendulkar, but it’ll never be the same. We are a generation that grew up watching you and learning from you. We know what it’ll mean when you would no longer be there. It means that our time in the sun, will be up too.