If India’s 1983 Prudential World Cup win in England under the inspirational Haryana Hurricane and iconic all- rounder Kapil Dev made me an avid cricket follower and writer, then in the years to follow Sachin Tendulkar gave me the impetus further passionately follow the game. This is the power of Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.
Before Sachin came along in 1989 as a 16 year –old prodigy the Indian sportspersons I admired were legendary Vijay Amritraj in Tennis, the handsome Prakash Padukone in Badminton and in cricket it was Kapil Dev. So when two of India’s greatest cricket players : Sunil Gavaskar called it quits in 1987 and Kapil Dev in 1994, Indian cricket was suddenly left starved of superstars. Sachin Tendulkar with his youthful exuberance and batting skills made the world sit up and take notice.The youngster soon graduated from a mere prodigy to a batsman with a Bradmanesque appetite for runs enabling him to set records that are unlikely to be broken.
It is not only runs or hundreds that make Sachin special and have earned him sobriquets like ‘ Mumbai Bomber’, ‘Little master’ or for that matter ‘ God of cricket’. His impact in the cricketing arena is nothing but colossal. He has been a great ambassador for the country and the game. In a country where cricket is religion and Sachin is God, Fame, adulation, money, superstardom can tempt sportsmen to have a feet of clay but Sachin remains untouched by all these and still remains humble and modest ever after achieving virtually everything.
Plenty had been written about his batting skills and the records that he has set. But what makes Sachin Tendulkar such rare sportsman is that he has despite his stupendous achievements has his feet firmly on the ground. Critics and former players and the media may have endlessly debated about his form, his fitness, why he is picking and choosing tournaments according to his wish, delaying his retirement plans, and why is blocking the space for the youngsters particularly so when he has achieved practically everything a cricketer wants in his life etc. But Tendulkar has kept silent and let his bat do the talking. He has often said that critics are doing their job and I am doing mine. As far as retirement he was quite blunt sometime back saying: “ Nobody told me to start playing cricket at 16 , so nobody can tell me when the time is for me to quit”.
On the field too he was as competitive as ever. Bowlers may have made grandiose plans to unsettle him before the match and also indulge in bravado talk like we will get Sachin, but Sachin took them head on the field and won many a hyped battle. Just ask Shane Warne, Shoaib Akhtar, Brett Lee Waqar Younis , Wasim Akram . I remember England seamer Andrew Caddick during the 2003 World Cup encounter against India during a pre- match chat with media said he had special plans for Sachin. But when the action came on the field Tendulkar was simply the master. Caddick one recalls bowled a bouncer to Sachin and the master with utter disdain sent the ball soaring into the stands for a majestic six. This was Tendulkar. He barely expressed his emotions on the field yet was competitive as ever. He never got into a war of words with bowlers or sledged or for that matter take his shirt off to prove his aggression. He went about his job with cool calm precision.
The rest they say is history and simply stuffs of legend. As badminton star Saina Nehwal says why Sachin is really special: “He is so calm and composed on the field. And a genius player to boot. So many achievements yet he is so humble”.Sachin Tendulkar along with ‘The Wall ‘ Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman were the fab four of Indian cricket. The foursome fashioned many Indian triumphs at home and abroad with their magical batting exploits.
Great players be it in field when they leave the stage leave behind a legacy hard to match. Will he be missed? Certainly a big yes. Great players whenever they leave the stage be it any sport and cricket is no exception leave behind a void that is hard to fill. Tendulkar with his child- like enthusiasm, integrity, commitment and eating, breathing and sleeping one and only cricket was profoundly an all-together different player. And clearly he was the Don Bradman of his generation. Now even after he has retired , the legend continues to inspire host of youngsters to take up the sport.