Why do we insist on seeing the 'real' Sachin?

You can ask as much as you want for a more "human", more "feelable, touchable" Sachin, but he'll probably not change - and that's a good thing
Rahul Bose November 17, 2013

Everyone has their own idea of what Tendulkar is really like © Getty Images
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Which is your favourite Sachin? The child who scooter-pillioned from maidan to maidan, playing three matches a day? The boy who stood on a deck set on fire by Waqar and Imran? The son of India who Lata Mangeshkar kisses on the forehead?

My favourite Sachin is the boy who scampers after the ball with the enthusiasm and delight of a cricketer playing his first inter-school match. The delight, the glee at having an open field to run in, a ball to chase, a day to spend under a cloudless sky - that, I believe, is the essence of Sachin.

We all have our favourite, and it is of that favourite we ask: is this the real Sachin? Perhaps one way of finding out is by imagining Tendulkar having played a different sport and then asking ourselves: Would anything change? Would he be different? What if he was a tennis player? What if he had been a tennis contemporary of one of his childhood heroes, John McEnroe?

Imagine McEnroe playing Sachin in a tennis match. John spewing and cursing, Tendulkar stoic, determined, aggressive. John thinking he'd steamroll this meek Indian kid through sheer intimidation, only to find Sachin, after a quick adjustment of his shorts, rifling forehand after forehand past him. (Would he play left- or right-handed?) Would Sachin ever exhort himself with a Murrayesque "Come on!" on breaking McEnroe after being a set down? Would he change his shirt to catcalls in the break? Pump his fists and thrust his crotch in a Becker hip-stutter on taking the fourth set to make it two-all? Would he collapse on his back, crying, when won 9-7 in the fifth? Throw his wrist bands and towels into the stands? What would his exultation be like when he lifted the cup at Wimbledon? Would he have, a few minutes before, clambered up clumsily to hug his trainer, his girlfriend, his mother? Or would he simply play controlled, aggressive tennis, emotions in check, VIP gallery unmolested, trophy kissed for the cameras, autographs for the ball boys, a ball or two hit high into the stands?

Would playing another sport have revealed the "real" Sachin to us? For the answer, we have to turn our gaze inwards.

Towards us. To our insolent impatience, our speed of dismissiveness, our propensity to fawn, our alacrity to scorn, our delusion in claiming greatness through our idols. Would you risk showing any more emotion than Tendulkar has if you were faced with the most volatile, excitable, mercurial crowd on earth? Would you risk being skinned one day and crowned the next? What would that do to your equilibrium, your focus, your sanity? And what if this extended into every corner, every millisecond of your private life? Would you air your opinions freely knowing they could start a riot? Take a stand knowing people might immolate themselves?

Would you risk showing any more emotion than Tendulkar has if you were faced with the most volatile, excitable, mercurial crowd on earth?

And so, when you retired would you change because you feel the pressure lift? Or, having descended one step below the pedestal, would the protective gild of idolatry lose one coat, making you 10% more vulnerable and open to the sharks? Would you breathe easier because you don't have to step into a cauldron of 50,000 people every week, or would it be suffocating to not ever play under a summer sky bleached by an Indian sun?

It was easier for McEnroe when he retired. Much easier. All he had to do was sober down. He gentled down. He relaxed, and so did we. It was a relief. Now, just to keep us interested he plays the odd exhibition match where he stokes the "You cannot be serious!" myth by giving us theatrical displays of mock anger.

With Sachin the question is different: do we really want to see him with his guard down? Because then there might have existed the possibility he would not have quite commanded the unquestioning respect of a young-blood Indian dressing room despite his records, his incredible cricket brain, his intense desire to maximise everybody's abilities. He mightn't have been listened to as intently as he sorted out technical glitches in tens of India debutantes, batsmen and bowlers. Captain after captain might have quietly and ever so slightly discounted his counsel to change the field, shuffle the batting order, effect a risky bowling change. Because he would not have had the aura. The halo.

You can ask as much as you want for a more "human", more "feelable, touchable" Sachin. But it's my bet he's never going to change. He's going to be the Sachin we've always known - considerate, gentle, fiercely determined, careful, kind, well brought up.

Lightning rods of a country's hopes and dreams don't have options, they have responsibilities. Thank your stars he never forgets that.

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Posted by Mridul on (November 25, 2013, 20:29 GMT)

World can only be at peace once India becomes strongest superpower because only Mother India can give birth to people like Gandhi and Tendulkar.

Posted by Naresh on (November 21, 2013, 10:45 GMT)

Never have I had so many tears for a sportsman than I have had for SACHIN. I followed his every game on cricinfo. I saw him play when he came to Zimbabwe with the "YOUNG INDIA" - there was Sachin, Ganguly, Dravid, Kumble and I think Harbajan as well.

Posted by Vandana on (November 19, 2013, 7:45 GMT)

Lovely piece of writing, words coming straight from your heart. I kept crying whole day and next day when I woke up, my first question to my husband was "what would Sachin be doing?". I kept wishing I could see him back on Cricket "Field" for something or the other. Its hard to see him go, can't believe the feeling is same for a good percentage of Indians (and non Indians) who love him as much I do. Don't know if I would be able to gather some courage to watch a match knowing he would never ever play as a batsmen, hope he continues his good form off field as well.May the brightest star keep shining.

Posted by Subrata on (November 18, 2013, 3:58 GMT)

Everything is said so much about him. I guess, somebody have to come up with another dictionary to write or say something about the greatest cricketer of my era. You know, your people and your countrymen praising you for what you did is an amazing feeling. But imagine the feeling when you are praised by the opposing team and most of the times, you are the reason why they felt so miserable. You teared their bowling attack, but still they love you. I join Mathew Hayden when he said,"I have seen God, he plays (or should I say played) at No. 4 for India in tests".

Posted by John on (November 17, 2013, 17:56 GMT)

Dignity as well as humility has always been a hallmark of Sachin's. We respect him all the more because he does not subscribe to the showmanship of so many modern players. Is a true gentleman not to be considered quite human?

Posted by Faisal on (November 17, 2013, 17:54 GMT)

Aazad Maidan sa Wamkhede tak ka safar (A boy's journey that started from Aazad Maidan and ended at Wankhede) what a man what a farewell

Posted by Ali on (November 17, 2013, 12:42 GMT)

What is this fascination with SRT? He faced a weak W.I. team.

Has SRT ever faced a W.I. team like Gavaskar (Garner, Roberts, Holding, Croft, etc.).

Gavaskar is India's greatest batsman. Left Indian in 1990 to Toronto via Instanbul and Bonn. Gavaskar is the greatest. Why no tribute to him? Shocking. Positively Shocking.

Posted by Shruti on (November 17, 2013, 12:23 GMT)

As big a player SRT has been the image of a middle class boy from Bandra making it big ,which he always maintained is what is more important.With SRT one associates humility . Gavaskar played in an era when electronic media in India was in its nascent stage and got a less propagated farewell and Kapil brought a situation on him before retiring when public started asking when instead of why?SRT ,probably ,with BCCI's blessings ended his career at just about the time before public could start demanding his scalp.The last couple of odd years havent exactly been the ones when SRT set the field ablaze with his batting.Centuries had dried up and frequent rattling of timber couldnt conceal the fact that reflexes were ,understandably,slowing.Be that as it may,nobody can begrudge the enormity of his statistical achievements.Dravid, Kumbleand Laxman have won more matches for India but when it comes to winning hearts with sheer talent ,nobody could beat SRT.

Posted by Android on (November 17, 2013, 11:32 GMT)

watching cricket will not be the same again for me, my heart will not beat faster when #4 will arrive at crease

Posted by Daison on (November 17, 2013, 7:44 GMT)

Rahul, I saw you were crying in Wankade yesterday. Well I too was crying at home. My 8 year old daughter asked why am I crying. She didnt understand my answer. One only has to remember the many times he made us believe in tough matches that until he is there we wont lose. When we saw Sachin making his entrance with his bat and all our hearts said to the opponents "now see if you can deal with what he is going to give you and win this match from India" That belief retired yesterday! Now how would I explain all that to my 8 year old!!!!


The man whom cricket loved back

Sambit Bal: Tendulkar was the biggest worshipper the game could ever find, and in that lay the foundation of his greatness

Tendulkar's perfect balance

Sharda Ugra: While the team, the country and the sport changed around him, Tendulkar remained constant

Why do we insist on seeing the 'real' Sachin?

Rahul Bose: You can ask as much as you want for a more "human", more "feelable, touchable" Sachin, but he'll probably not change - and that's a good thing

Zaltz Stats

The approximate number of people in India today who had not been born when Sachin Tendulkar made his Test debut in 1989 (calculated from these figures). His batting has been so erotically outstanding that the global population has increased by almost 2 billion during his career, with the biggest increase, understandably, in India itself.

I have played cricket for 24 years, it has been only 24 hours since retirement, and I think I should get at least 24 days to relax before deciding these things.

Sachin Tendulkar doesn't want to think of what lies ahead just yet