A story about Sachin
No one knows Sachin Tendulkar better than Sachin Tendulkar. If he thinks he can score international fifties and hundreds again, then he probably can, and right now among what must be a mind-ridden with doubt, there will be some semblance of confidence that he can come good again. If there wasn't he would've retired already. Now, I'm not for a minute going to tell Sachin Tendulkar what to do. He is arguably the greatest cricketer of the modern age and I'm an 18-year-old gap-year student.
But what I am going to do is tell you a story, a life story, and a story that relates to Tendulkar and what must be one of the most talked about retirements in the history of sport. When I was seven years old, my Dad returned from England's tour of India in 2001 with a BAS cricket bat. He'd got the bat from a factory where some of Tendulkar's bats are made, he'd even asked for Tendulkar's trademark red, blue and white grip to be applied to the little size four bat, and on the back, in a black ball point pen was Tendulkar's autograph.
For any cricket fan to possess such an item, it would mean the world to them, and to me, even at the age of seven, it did too. About three weeks after being given the bat, I sheepishly asked my Dad if he would be offended if I never used the bat in matches or at practice, as I didn't want the autograph to ever fade or for the bat to ever get damaged. In not using that bat I was looking to preserve the life of that autograph, my little piece of 'Sachin'.
Fans can actually do the same to players' careers. Arguably Tendulkar's last two years have been driven by a reluctance to let his millions of fans down. But this reluctance to not let down, and desire to satisfy the masses, can only last so long. The preservation of something that is dying often only serves to tarnish or ruin - I learnt this bitter lesson a year after receiving my autographed bat... I was now eight and the bat was a year old. Only a year.
But one day I discovered the autograph to be fading - even despite my disinclination to use it. In my naive, clumsy, eight-year-old kind of way, I took the radical decision of pulling my black gel pen out of my pencil case and re-drawing over the signature on the back of the bat. To my horror my Dad told me later that day that the autograph was now worthless - completely ruined.
I'd tried to preserve my little bit of Sachin by not using the bat, and that had worked. But such things only work for so long, and in seeking to revitalise my precious possession, by taking my own pen to the bat, I'd ruined it. Again, I won't claim to know more about Tendulkar than Tendulkar himself, and if he thinks he's got runs left in him, he's probably got runs left in him. But it will be one of sports great tragedies if it gets to the stage where Tendulkar's attempted preservation of what he has left, is only acting as detriment to his legacy and impact on the game.