Indian cricket February 22, 2013

The Sachin Tendulkar Experience

Kali Kishore
Was it visual? A shotmaking feast of such delicious complexity, that one could often taste it in layers? Was it vicarious? The lower middle-class, living its most vivid world-beating fantasies through an aberration within their ilk

I've often wondered what the Sachin Tendulkar experience was? Was it visual? A shotmaking feast of such delicious complexity, that one could often taste it in layers? Was it vicarious? The lower middle-class, living its most vivid world-beating fantasies through an aberration within their ilk. Was it a lesson in values and a personal work-ethic? The need to remain rooted to your nature, and never allowing your desire and focus to dip. Was it, dare I say, an advertisement for the pedants? Strike-rate falling as the hundred neared, the obsession with the weight of the bat, the irritation with the slightest movement of the sight-screen.

The Sachin Tendulkar experience may not be of a singular nature, but it does exist as a collective summation, having a nature completely of its own in the Indian cricket lover's consciousness. Breathing collectively when he walked out, squealing at the straight drive, laughing at his commercials, using his innings as milestones and checkpoints in life (Where were you when Desert Storm happened?), and clinging on to hope when he was batting.

This is, the quintessential, wholesome Tendulkar experience. I wasn't satisfied with it, however. Call it the unsatisfactory feeling of being part of a crowd, or the refusal to accept that the whole is indeed greater than the sum of the parts.

A huge reason as to why I'm demanding a unique Sachin experience for myself, is because I grew up a stone's throw away from the MIG cricket club and Sahitya Sahawas, the colony in Bandra East that housed among other poets and authors, Ramesh Tendulkar. If I may be permitted to be foolish enough to cite proximity as a valid reason to count my Sachin experience as unique, I shall proceed.

As a kid, I used to play cricket at MIG, and in and around Bandra East for almost the whole of the year, except during the monsoons. As a seven-year-old, I once noticed amidst the Chetaks and Vespas that were parked in one of the building compounds, a black BMW. I stupidly asked who it belonged to, and with a thwack on my head, I was told that it was 'Sachin ka, aur kiska' (It is Sachin's, who else?).

Trips to that side of MIG colony became more and more fascinating, because we hoped we'd get to see a silhouette in the window, or get an impromptu batting lesson, who knows? Especially when the Opel Astra from Desert Storm showed up, and we tried to observe from a distance all the dents and bumps from the jumping cricketers in Sharjah. Trying our best to figure out who dented what.

A while later, it was all over the papers that he had bought a Ferrari, but it wasn't parked in Sahitya Sahawas. Reet, whose father worked in customs, claimed to know of its whereabouts, and boasted that Sachin had even taken him for a drive. It became sort of an urban legend in Bombay after that, Sachin's Red Ferrari, and I would pester my father for late-night rides on Marine Drive in the hope of catching a glimpse.

It was then that I nurtured my first wish of actually meeting the man in flesh and blood, and not just in a flash of red. It was ironic, therefore, that when my wish was actually granted, he was in red racing overalls, tearing up a go-karting track. It was 2003, and we had moved to Chennai. MRF was hosting a go-karting competition, and had called in Sachin, Steve Waugh and Brian Lara to kick it off.

My father was good friends with TA Sekhar, who oversees the MRF Pace Foundation, and got us tickets for the event. At the end of it all, we were taken to the back of the room where the press conference was being held. Steve Waugh came out first, and dismissed us with a "Fast, guys" as the photographer fumbled with the camera. Lara was next. He kept staring at a photograph of Sachin and himself that I had given him to sign. He was taller than I thought he'd be.

Then he entered. I noticed the face first. We get so used to seeing the cheery or poker-faced Tendulkar behind shades, that we don't often factor in the fatigue he experiences. It was written all over his cheekbones. The collective demands of the nation had manifested themselves as mere hollows in his cheeks. That impressed me thoroughly.

Later, we moved to Hyderabad. I was in university in America, when Sachin launched into the Australian attack at Uppal, and my brother was triumphantly texting me from the stadium. It was then that I felt the entire weight of the Sachin Tendulkar experience. There was the breathtaking batting, the overdependence on it, and the eventual collapse after his wicket.

But above all, there was the jealousy towards the sibling. Jealousy because he was witnessing something that I wasn't, and something that I would appreciate in far greater measure. The same jealousy that I felt in Chennai, when the sibling's cheeks were patted and pulled, and mine were ignored, although I had seen the world in Sachin's cheeks. The same jealousy that I felt when the sibling was bought Castle Grayskull in a jiffy, because he was younger, whereas I had to beg and plead for a single He-Man toy.

Then there was the hunting for the fake MRF sticker to stick on the bat, and the reliving of Chennai, Sharjah, Nottingham and Cape Town in the colony parking decks, and then remembering these names for the Geography exam. There were the family ice cream night-outs to Marine Drive, where eager eyes would look out for a red Ferrari, but would wander towards a bus stand with an Aladdin poster that was there for the longest time, replaying the entire movie with all the songs in my head, while the ice-cream melted insignificantly.

My Sachin Tendulkar experience, I then realised, was the experience of my childhood. It is therefore, naturally different from the others, immensely special and the parts themselves, forget their sum, are certainly greater than the whole. It's no fault of mine that I straddle between my life and his career. They are, but contiguous entities.

Sachin himself has straddled between the image of the cherubic sixteen-year-old, and that of the elder statesman. It's no fault of mine that I hold on dearly to my childhood. It was, but the happiest time of my life. It is, perhaps, no fault of mine that I see his retirement, (or at least the partial announcement of it) as the complete emergence of the elder statesman. I could be wrong here, and I hope to God that I am, but I think it's time to finally grow up.

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  • testli5504537 on February 25, 2013, 4:43 GMT

    I absolutely love the descriptions and the 'feel' this article generates! Really well written!

  • testli5504537 on February 24, 2013, 3:31 GMT

    Very nicely written personal experience!!! I cannot imagine cricket without Sachin. I grew up watching Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev and Ravi Shastri and I moved to Canada in 1987. Sunil Gavaskar came to Canada for a Fund Raising cricket game at York University. I was very fortunate to visit him and have pictures with him and got his autograph. I am, hoping to meet my Cricket God Sachin Tendulkar in Canada ( before or after his retirement does not matter to me). God bless him with lots of more strength to continue playing and saving Indian team!!!

  • testli5504537 on February 24, 2013, 2:53 GMT

    wonderful piece.sachin has remained sachin all through these 23 years, he will not grow up, be sure.many will stop watchin cricket once sacnin is not there. he is a role model. but unfortunately nobody in indian cricket seems actually trying to follow him.they are more interested in modelling. t-20 has killed cricket.t-20 should not be called cricket.

  • testli5504537 on February 24, 2013, 2:38 GMT

    Amazing player. Is Kohli the only replacement for him when he eventually retires?

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  • testli5504537 on February 24, 2013, 2:13 GMT

    Wonderful piece, seemed like I was reliving my very early days with fond images of Sachin, and all his innings flashed through my head providing sheer pleasure for they have always been such a delight. He happens to be the lone entity who has had such a grip on time that all these years seemed still despite many proofs that it's not so. Would love to see him continue for few more years. His imprints will remain indelible for aeons not just as a cricketer but as a perfect role model that will inspire many more generations!!

  • testli5504537 on February 24, 2013, 1:49 GMT

    "It’s no fault of mine that I straddle between my life and his career. They are, but contiguous entities. " -- its a masterpiece..never commented on any article before but this was too good to resist.. I know I will write abt him when this guy retires and it will be very close to what you just of the best articles abt HIM..ever.

  • testli5504537 on February 23, 2013, 21:53 GMT

    Dear Mr. Tendulkar,

    I am one of the millions whom you have graced when we have been wasted and wounded, dejected and rejected ,shackled and drawn; When we have felt , lost and low ,had our faith shaken

    but never hopeless-

    for there was always a Tendulkar innings;

    We need your heart,; We have felt weak, but never forsaken

    -for there was always a tendulkar innings.

    Looking for a road map,which will let us believe, in belief,

    Trudging through the dark in a world gone awry., holding steadfast in personal tragedies.

    For there was always a tendulakr innings

    When we have stood like a greek amongst his ruins, nothing look forward to with hope, nothing to look backward to with pride

    , mr tendulkar you have said, it will be all right-

    For there was always a tendulkar innings

    We have stood thru the drought, we have stood the flood, Wherever the road of good intentions has gone dry as a bone, You have made us feel, the world’s gonna change,- everything will be all right.

  • testli5504537 on February 23, 2013, 20:02 GMT

    What a wonderful note !

  • testli5504537 on February 23, 2013, 19:18 GMT

    I was there for that 175 against Australia at Hyderabad ..... a day of extreme highs and Lows ....

  • testli5504537 on February 23, 2013, 18:54 GMT

    united state is non cricket playing nation still the president of the nation once had a very special(in many ways) comment on the sachin tendulkar he said "i dont know about cricket but still i watch cricket to see sachin playing....not because i love his play its because to know the reason why my country's production goes down by 5% when he is batting

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