December 28, 2012

Tendulkar, the 'normaliser'

Following Sachin Tendulkar 's recent retirement from one-day internationals, a number of people shared their favorite memory of him
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Following Sachin Tendulkar's recent retirement from one-day internationals, a number of people shared their favorite memory of him. Perhaps the most commonly mentioned one was his ‘Desert Storm’ innings against Australia in 1998 in Sharjah. My favorite memory of the man is from the same year, against the same opponent, but in a different tournament, at a different venue. But first, some background.

I moved from India to the United States in the summer of 1998, immediately after I completed my bachelors degree in engineering. The final semester of the BE degree allowed the students some latitude in determining their workload. With an India-Australia series scheduled, it was no surprise that my final semester workload left plenty of time for me to watch cricket matches. I thus followed Australia's 1998 tour of India and the subsequent Sharjah triangular tournament with great interest. I too have fond memories of both the Desert Storm innings and the century that followed in the tournament’s final, on Tendulkar’s 25th birthday. Apart from being perhaps the zenith of Tendulkar's one-day batsmanship, it was among the last few cricket matches I saw before I traveled to the USA.

Everything about moving to the USA. was new. My ticket to Chicago was the first air ticket my middle-class parents had bought in 15 years – you see, we generally traveled by train or bus. I moved from Chennai, a metropolitan city of seven million residents, to a small Midwestern college town with barely 100,000. I was living in an apartment with a room-mate for the first time in my life, having always lived at home with my family through school and college. I was solely responsible for my food, my laundry. I was a graduate student and a teaching assistant – my first job and first income. Graduate study was daunting. Grading was on a competitive scale. My university was ranked among the top ten in the country. My fellow graduate students had been winning medals at International Mathematics Olympiads, while I was skipping college classes for cricket matches. In trying to catch up, I burnt so much midnight oil that I feel largely responsible for the hole in the ozone layer.

It wasn't just a foreign country, it was a foreign life.

I wasn't complaining though. I was sleeping on a comfortable bed, food was varied and plentiful, I made new friends from different backgrounds, the autumn weather was mild, and the world-class campus was resplendent in breathtaking fall colours. But that made it even less like home. In Chennai, autumn temperatures are in excess of 35C – just like summer, spring, and winter temperatures – and there's no such thing as a maple tree. In Chennai, one rarely heard Hindi on the street. In this strangely friendly new world, one heard Spanish and Chinese and English spoken with a southern American twang, in addition to Hindi. I missed home. Phone calls were too expensive for someone still converting every dollar spent into rupees. Internet connections in India were unreliable.

My Indian friends and I learned to follow cricket through Cricinfo, it became our browser home page. But reading the term ‘cover drive’ is a lot different from watching the stroke itself.

Thus, when I first heard that Mick Jagger's company, Jagged Internetworks, would be carrying the 1998 Wills International Cup telecast from Dhaka, I was ecstatic. Two equally fanatical friends and I made a date to stay up all night and watch India's game against Australia in the Sun SPARC computer lab, over the university's high-speed network. It was the first cricket all three of us would be watching since leaving India several months earlier. I had never used a Sun SPARC computer or a high-speed network in India. I'd never streamed a video over the internet in India. It was going to be a very new experience.

As it frequently happened in the 1990s, India were soon 8 for 2 in the third over. Both Sourav Ganguly and Mohammad Azharuddin – India's second and third-best one-day batsmen in the Tendulkar era – were gone. And then Tendulkar exploded. He smashed 141 sublime runs, before taking four wickets at a crucial stage, including those of Steve Waugh and Michael Bevan.

I'd love to say that I can remember clearly all the wonderful shots he played. But apart from a lofted drive or two, I can't remember any. The innings had deeper meaning for me than the shots it contained. The shots he played were special not because of their ingenuity, but because of their familiarity. Tendulkar was demolishing Australia, like he had before I left India, and I was watching it, like I had in India. It represented a sense of normalcy. Everything had changed in my life, but nothing had in the world. I could deal with the change. A Tendulkar cover drive still looked the same. It wasn't a new world, it was the same one. In that match, to me, Tendulkar wasn't the master or the destroyer, he was merely the ‘normaliser’.

It was also during that game that I first appreciated the power and promise of the internet in helping me bridge the divide between the old days and the new. Sure, I'd sent email and browsed the web before. The world's first popular web browser was created at the very university campus I was sitting in. But this was 1998. Facebook and Skype were five years away. YouTube was non-existent. Even Google was only in its infancy. But if I could use online media to watch Tendulkar live, I might use it in future to see mom and dad live, stay in touch with family in Chennai and Gujarat. If I could stream the genius of Tendulkar live via the internet, then I could stream the genius of AR Rahman and Lata Mangeshkar. I could watch and listen to the firecrackers go off on Diwali night in Chennai … It wasn't all that foreign a land or all that foreign a life after all.

As India completed yet another victory over Australia that year, perhaps for the first time in this new home, I felt happy. And then it was 6am. The Mathematics Olympians were awake.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Gaurav on December 29, 2012, 17:09 GMT

    Lovely article samarth...We've all been growing up with sachin and it felt like my own experience poured out on my laptop screen while reading your article...

    Sach is Life...:)

  • Nikhil on December 29, 2012, 16:49 GMT

    Excellent article from a true Sachin fan :) I loved the line "reading the term ‘cover drive’ is a lot different from watching the stroke itself." Too good :)

    -Nikhil.

  • abhi on December 29, 2012, 16:11 GMT

    very true! nicely written.

  • Kedar Pandit on December 29, 2012, 14:31 GMT

    Very well written mate! As a generation before you, I can nonetheless relate to your angst and mental situation fully. I first saw SRT at my old coach's nets at Shivaji Park, Bombay where I learned to play cricket as a kid in the mid 70's. I could immediately see the special talent and spoke to my old coach who told me with considerable pride that although he had produced a lot of national level players (he most certainly had!), this lad would be the best ever. His words sound propehtic 25 years on. Regarding your own life experiences, they are most certainly a right of passage for a number of us I am sure. But you have truly encapsulated them well. As some one who did this a decade before you, albeit in England, I can completely relate to the sentiments. In my day, there was no internet and to read up on test cricket in India, one had to go to the local library and read a decent broadsheet like Daily Telegraph or The Times with dedicated cricket correspeondents and be satisfied!

  • V on December 29, 2012, 12:35 GMT

    Very well written. The story of many of our lives as we moved in the late 90's -- I almost never (scratch that - never) post on articles, but this one touched a chord.

  • Ari on December 29, 2012, 10:12 GMT

    Nice blog, except for drumming the grad school. Similar story here, moved to US begin 1999.Tendulkar and Ganguly helped me continue "feeling india" over the years.

  • kabir on December 29, 2012, 6:11 GMT

    Tendulkar was indeed a normalising factor, a constant for us Indian cricket lovers in the rapidly changing '90s. It will be that Tendulkar who will come to my mind when I remember the great man.

  • urban legend on December 29, 2012, 4:59 GMT

    THIS - Both Sourav Ganguly and Mohammad Azharuddin – India's second and third-best one-day batsmen in the Tendulkar era – were gone. And then Tendulkar exploded. He smashed 141 sublime runs, before taking four wickets at a crucial stage, including those of Steve Waugh and Michael Bevan.

  • Sid Parekh on December 29, 2012, 4:50 GMT

    Awesome recap! From one Chennai Gujju to another, kudos!

  • Thakur Sahib on December 28, 2012, 23:03 GMT

    Wonderful post. I had goosebumps reading it; so similar to countless experience of Desis in mother country and in strange lands. I am amazed when analyzing Tendulkar's contribution, non-indians always go for stats and then muse why we revere him so. While for us, indians, Tendulkar has never been about batting solely but about growing up, about being positive, being connected and so much more strands interwoven in the fabric of cricket. And their in lies greatness of Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. He is connected to us like no one ever has, he still is.

  • Gaurav on December 29, 2012, 17:09 GMT

    Lovely article samarth...We've all been growing up with sachin and it felt like my own experience poured out on my laptop screen while reading your article...

    Sach is Life...:)

  • Nikhil on December 29, 2012, 16:49 GMT

    Excellent article from a true Sachin fan :) I loved the line "reading the term ‘cover drive’ is a lot different from watching the stroke itself." Too good :)

    -Nikhil.

  • abhi on December 29, 2012, 16:11 GMT

    very true! nicely written.

  • Kedar Pandit on December 29, 2012, 14:31 GMT

    Very well written mate! As a generation before you, I can nonetheless relate to your angst and mental situation fully. I first saw SRT at my old coach's nets at Shivaji Park, Bombay where I learned to play cricket as a kid in the mid 70's. I could immediately see the special talent and spoke to my old coach who told me with considerable pride that although he had produced a lot of national level players (he most certainly had!), this lad would be the best ever. His words sound propehtic 25 years on. Regarding your own life experiences, they are most certainly a right of passage for a number of us I am sure. But you have truly encapsulated them well. As some one who did this a decade before you, albeit in England, I can completely relate to the sentiments. In my day, there was no internet and to read up on test cricket in India, one had to go to the local library and read a decent broadsheet like Daily Telegraph or The Times with dedicated cricket correspeondents and be satisfied!

  • V on December 29, 2012, 12:35 GMT

    Very well written. The story of many of our lives as we moved in the late 90's -- I almost never (scratch that - never) post on articles, but this one touched a chord.

  • Ari on December 29, 2012, 10:12 GMT

    Nice blog, except for drumming the grad school. Similar story here, moved to US begin 1999.Tendulkar and Ganguly helped me continue "feeling india" over the years.

  • kabir on December 29, 2012, 6:11 GMT

    Tendulkar was indeed a normalising factor, a constant for us Indian cricket lovers in the rapidly changing '90s. It will be that Tendulkar who will come to my mind when I remember the great man.

  • urban legend on December 29, 2012, 4:59 GMT

    THIS - Both Sourav Ganguly and Mohammad Azharuddin – India's second and third-best one-day batsmen in the Tendulkar era – were gone. And then Tendulkar exploded. He smashed 141 sublime runs, before taking four wickets at a crucial stage, including those of Steve Waugh and Michael Bevan.

  • Sid Parekh on December 29, 2012, 4:50 GMT

    Awesome recap! From one Chennai Gujju to another, kudos!

  • Thakur Sahib on December 28, 2012, 23:03 GMT

    Wonderful post. I had goosebumps reading it; so similar to countless experience of Desis in mother country and in strange lands. I am amazed when analyzing Tendulkar's contribution, non-indians always go for stats and then muse why we revere him so. While for us, indians, Tendulkar has never been about batting solely but about growing up, about being positive, being connected and so much more strands interwoven in the fabric of cricket. And their in lies greatness of Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. He is connected to us like no one ever has, he still is.

  • Nik Patel on December 28, 2012, 22:17 GMT

    I remember this. I came from India in fall 1997 and going through college around same time. He had scored somewhat 10-15 centuries in 1998 and cricinfo/tendulkar was normalizer in my life as well...

  • Rahul on December 28, 2012, 18:26 GMT

    I must say, I don't come across too many articles that interest me, but this one was entertaining and well written. Good Read! Interesting to see how Tendulkar affected so many people in so many personal ways.

  • Rohit on December 28, 2012, 18:11 GMT

    Thanks for sharing your experience. It was pleasant read :)

  • Anonymous on December 28, 2012, 18:00 GMT

    I still vividly remember that match - it was a classic case of Sachin defeating the Australians with a little help from his team-mates.

  • Hari Narayana on December 28, 2012, 18:00 GMT

    Sums up well of the 90's era of Engineering brain drains from India... I was one among them. I always wondered why those first 2 years of matches in US were still flush in my memory, though I have watched cricket all my life for a middle-aged man now. These are stuff that still leave us connected to the roots though being re-planted elsewhere.

  • Another_Tendulkar_Fan on December 28, 2012, 17:43 GMT

    I can relate to every word of this piece or writing. I have done and lived through pretty much the same change in life. I dont remember much of his innings either from a lot of matches, but I still feel the excitement that I always had seeing him at the of the ground. Tendulkar will be missed dearly. R.I.P ODIs for me.

  • Gautham Ramesh on December 28, 2012, 17:36 GMT

    Hi Samarth, great write up! I vividly remember watching the live stream as well, not abroad, but in Bangalore for pure novelty's sake :) Despite having access to a TV right next to me, I sort of had to check out what all this hullabaloo was about, in the good old choppy days of 28Kbps modems. Might sound pathetic, but it is definitely nostalgic...

  • Arun on December 28, 2012, 16:06 GMT

    Very nice article Sam. A whole generation of us - EE graduates moving to the US in the late 90s completely associate with the sentiments in this article. A superlative piece of writing!

  • A Fan on December 28, 2012, 16:06 GMT

    Brilliant article.

  • Ivan on December 28, 2012, 15:27 GMT

    Good read Samarth! I too left India around that time so have only watched Tendulkar on TV. I had watched a couple of ODI's live in Bangalore but he didn't get many runs in them so cricinfo and live streaming were constant companions. The 2003 WC in SA was when I was in University in Chicago and Tendulkar was of course the player of the tournament. That innings against Pakistan when he scored 90 odd and helped us chased down 270 will remain etched in memory. As will many many others. Didn't think of him as the 'normalizer' but that can be an apt way of describing the familiarity that he brought to us expats. Thanks for sharing!

  • Ambrish on December 28, 2012, 13:47 GMT

    Great recollection Samarth. I still remember the exchanges we had over rec.sport.cricket (rsc) during those times, when live streaming over the web was a largely unknown quantity. Cricinfo itself was started by a few rsc regulars and has now taken rapid strides to be where it is today. Hope you remember me from our rsc days. Many thanks for reviving those wonderful memories.

  • chakde on December 28, 2012, 13:38 GMT

    good article, related to,how a single man can mean in different situations to billions of faithfuls.but,you could have cut on your own routine.

  • chakde on December 28, 2012, 13:38 GMT

    good article, related to,how a single man can mean in different situations to billions of faithfuls.but,you could have cut on your own routine.

  • Sandesh N Parkar on December 28, 2012, 13:32 GMT

    Beautiful piece Samarth. Thanks for sharing! You have stated a very important point here. For us true fans, Tendulkar was never a mere cricketer. He was much more. Something for each one of us. And that's exactly why we will miss him that much more :)

  • Karthik Sathuragiri on December 28, 2012, 13:15 GMT

    I remember this clearly and it was one of his best innings. I would rate it below the 175 against Australia. The similarity in both innings was striking, the ball just went exactly where he wanted and he was in full flow. The only difference is in the match you mentioned he took 4 wickets as well. What genius!

  • sushil on December 28, 2012, 10:52 GMT

    Very nice. very emotional. Loved it.

  • Rajesh on December 28, 2012, 10:42 GMT

    Great article .. Your experiences will be shared by many of us who worked overseas and found Tendulkar as a common constant. Sadly this common constant that has covered a generation will no longer be playing.. Same year in 1998 If you recall another Giant of NBA Michael Jordan retired after putting his famous 3 pointer..

  • Anonymous on December 28, 2012, 9:28 GMT

    Thoroughly enjoyed, Samarth. I ve just recalled the match,thru your channel, probably with few more shots than you remember. I guess it was Azhar's 300th Match as well. At the presentations, Sachin confirmed that we had to win for Azhar's milestone as well. Good stuff friend. All my friends in USA have forgot cricket, not Sachin I believe. Nice refreshing experience.

  • Scott Steiner on December 28, 2012, 9:20 GMT

    Great article romanticizing Tendulkar's "great batting". Dude, get a life! Most of Tendulkar's "success" took place on nice patha wickets. "Yet another victory over Australia that year". Tell me how many test series India have won agains Australia or South Africa oustide of India? Since youre big on mathematics, I'll give you a clue. It is a whole number between -1 and positive 1. Yup... ZERO. Do yourself a favor and devote your writings to the TRUE GOD of cricket, Jacques Kallis.

  • Anand on December 28, 2012, 8:35 GMT

    Thanks for sharing! Loved reading this piece!

  • rohit on December 28, 2012, 8:30 GMT

    Tendulkar, the normaliser. Tendulkar, the constant. Very well written. The world is altogether a new place now.

  • Mithun on December 28, 2012, 8:14 GMT

    You went to UIUC didn't you? Well I landed up there on 2002. Similar story arc with the 2003 world cup and Sachin's heroic defiance of Shoaib Akhtar and team became the 'normaliser' in our lives. Cheers for a very upbeat and realistic article.

  • Ganesh on December 28, 2012, 6:59 GMT

    Thoroughly enjoyed reading this :)

  • Dingo Haley on December 28, 2012, 6:31 GMT

    Using the University's Sun SPARC computer lab for watching a cricket match is misusing infrastructure not to mention wasting bandwidth that is paid for by the tax-payer.

  • JK on December 28, 2012, 6:12 GMT

    Your story is eerily similar to mine, and I suspect, thousands of us who attended grad school here in the US. I appreciate the lucid style you have adopted. Sachin was indeed the normalizer for us. Then, for a while in the early 2000s, we were spoilt by greats like RD, VVS, etc contributing to big India wins abroad...Those were the "India Shining" days...

  • kannan on December 28, 2012, 6:02 GMT

    Superbly penned thoughts, Samarth. You must be the same age as i am. I do remember this particular game, very well. I still remember how he set up Steve Waugh (c&b) in that game. Fr those of us who grew up watching his single handed and single minded epics, it is hard to rationalise when it comes to letting him go. But, i have taken that leap of faith. I think Tendulkar has to go, right now. By delaying his departure from tests, he is making the people who adored and loved him, think differently now. There should be no emotion in elite sport. He has to go, NOW.

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  • kannan on December 28, 2012, 6:02 GMT

    Superbly penned thoughts, Samarth. You must be the same age as i am. I do remember this particular game, very well. I still remember how he set up Steve Waugh (c&b) in that game. Fr those of us who grew up watching his single handed and single minded epics, it is hard to rationalise when it comes to letting him go. But, i have taken that leap of faith. I think Tendulkar has to go, right now. By delaying his departure from tests, he is making the people who adored and loved him, think differently now. There should be no emotion in elite sport. He has to go, NOW.

  • JK on December 28, 2012, 6:12 GMT

    Your story is eerily similar to mine, and I suspect, thousands of us who attended grad school here in the US. I appreciate the lucid style you have adopted. Sachin was indeed the normalizer for us. Then, for a while in the early 2000s, we were spoilt by greats like RD, VVS, etc contributing to big India wins abroad...Those were the "India Shining" days...

  • Dingo Haley on December 28, 2012, 6:31 GMT

    Using the University's Sun SPARC computer lab for watching a cricket match is misusing infrastructure not to mention wasting bandwidth that is paid for by the tax-payer.

  • Ganesh on December 28, 2012, 6:59 GMT

    Thoroughly enjoyed reading this :)

  • Mithun on December 28, 2012, 8:14 GMT

    You went to UIUC didn't you? Well I landed up there on 2002. Similar story arc with the 2003 world cup and Sachin's heroic defiance of Shoaib Akhtar and team became the 'normaliser' in our lives. Cheers for a very upbeat and realistic article.

  • rohit on December 28, 2012, 8:30 GMT

    Tendulkar, the normaliser. Tendulkar, the constant. Very well written. The world is altogether a new place now.

  • Anand on December 28, 2012, 8:35 GMT

    Thanks for sharing! Loved reading this piece!

  • Scott Steiner on December 28, 2012, 9:20 GMT

    Great article romanticizing Tendulkar's "great batting". Dude, get a life! Most of Tendulkar's "success" took place on nice patha wickets. "Yet another victory over Australia that year". Tell me how many test series India have won agains Australia or South Africa oustide of India? Since youre big on mathematics, I'll give you a clue. It is a whole number between -1 and positive 1. Yup... ZERO. Do yourself a favor and devote your writings to the TRUE GOD of cricket, Jacques Kallis.

  • Anonymous on December 28, 2012, 9:28 GMT

    Thoroughly enjoyed, Samarth. I ve just recalled the match,thru your channel, probably with few more shots than you remember. I guess it was Azhar's 300th Match as well. At the presentations, Sachin confirmed that we had to win for Azhar's milestone as well. Good stuff friend. All my friends in USA have forgot cricket, not Sachin I believe. Nice refreshing experience.

  • Rajesh on December 28, 2012, 10:42 GMT

    Great article .. Your experiences will be shared by many of us who worked overseas and found Tendulkar as a common constant. Sadly this common constant that has covered a generation will no longer be playing.. Same year in 1998 If you recall another Giant of NBA Michael Jordan retired after putting his famous 3 pointer..