25 years, 200 Tests (well it will be soon), 463 ODIs, 100 centuries, 34273 runs. For so long, we thought that Sachin Tendulkar was defined by the numbers. They said he was playing for the record books. But now after the dust around his decision to retire has settled, almost no one is talking about those numbers or the records.
Rather the conversation has centred on the emotions – he evoked by his successes and his failures; and the emotional connection we had with Sachin wasn’t a simple one.
He has been around for so long that almost every Indian has his or her own very private Sachin moment… the day we watched him during our exams, or when we bunked work to sneak in for the chance to watch him in action; if India lost, blame it on Sachin; if India had a good day, kudos to Sachin. A bad day at work, Sachin could pick you up. A good day at work, he could make you want to party. For everything, Sachin was the answer.
But when Sachin failed – it felt like we all failed.
And that is why he isn't just a cricketer or a star – it is much more personal. Sachin didn't just define cricket, he also defined us... maybe not all of us... but many of us. So while yesterday was a blur with all the news and views, today is much more numbing.
Frankly put, it is a shitty feeling. And he isn't even gone yet.
Already images from his career are flashing before my eyes. Of course, that might have been a result of scouring YouTube for Tendulkar videos last night – watching the reruns, his battles with the bowlers, him taking on Shane Warne and winning, Desert Storm (over and over again and we aren't even talking about a war here), the centuries in the World Cup, the straight drive, the pull, the upper cut, the cover drive, the delicate paddle sweep, the heavy bat, Perth, the 169 against SA, the 241 at Sydney, the Hero Cup, Opening with Ganguly, Batting with Dravid, the declaration on 194, the 200 in ODIs, the loss in the World Cup final, the World Cup triumph, the struggle at Eden against England.
I am not going to put a year to any of that. You should know. Simply because Sachin was there and with him, so were we. Watching every little moment, every shot, straining to hear every word he said. I have a colleague who would type with her fingers crossed (that is difficult) so as to not jinx him. We haven’t switched places for fear to toppling the balance of the fates. We’ve also criticised him and shared more than a fair share of jokes too. But only because we know that he would still be there when we switched on our TV sets again.
You just want to embed those moments in your mind forever. We will have two more Tests – four innings, maybe less… to watch Tendulkar. To watch him walk up to the crease, look up at the sky, adjust the abdomen guard, present the straight bat, smile, lose his temper, attack the loose ball, adjust the helmet. Things he can do in his sleep, things we can all do in our sleep too.
In the Guardian, they mentioned how all of India came to a standstill when the news of Sachin’s retirement got around. Rest assured, when he does call it a day, all of India shall cry.
Really, a lot of people said that he was playing for himself. But now it feels like he was playing for us all this time... giving us hope and a dream... a dream that is now going to come to an end. Many of us might only reserve a scant glance for cricket now. Some might even stop watching completely.
We kept asking him to go... to preserve his legacy, to save himself while he can, to not get stuck in the rut – but now, at least a part of me wants him to stay. We will not see his like again.
So, there... this is a long, shitty feeling.