By Abhilasha Khaitan
Melbourne: I have a small request to make to editors regarding the coverage of Tuesday’s cricket: Please don’t allow the match report to begin with something that sounds like this: ‘Sachin Tendulkar will have to wait some more for his 100th hundred…’ The world’s best batsman – and yes, he gave another display of exactly why he continues to be that – deserves better.
To my mind, it is almost insulting and a flawed picture of his performance here and so far. The record the media has him chasing means absolutely nothing and gives the man’s rich career no new definition whatsoever. What, in fact, gives it fresh shape and direction is the manner in which a 38-year-old returns to his favourite playing ground for possibly the last time and wins the first game with no obvious effort. I ask you this: Why make his last few cricketing years about chasing a ridiculous number, overshadowing the mastery and child-like fervor that we continue to be privileged to watch.
From where I was sitting, Tendulkar’s 70 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground was worth its weight in tons – yes, even a hundred tons. It was wrapped in confidence, flair and consummate ease as he lived up to his larger-than-life legend in front of a largely knowledgeable, intense crowd that could not stop talking about him. It was all Tendulkar after tea on Tuesday, both on and around the field, with stories from as far back as his growing years being recounted by Australians in the Members’ Reserve where I was sitting, even while the protagonist, unconcerned with the drama around him, played his part with the bat. Even competitiveness was forgotten as some Aussies, caught up in the mood of the moment, were overheard saying: “Really hope we get to see his century. It’s bad for Australia but good for us.”
If the tone in this column is like that of a eulogy, I have no justification to offer. It was that kind of a day. The hundredth hundred be damned, this was history being created. A warrior had returned to reclaim his turf one more time, and a 50,000-plus crowd waited till the last over of the day’s play to watch him brandish his sword till his fall – completely against the run of play -- to an invigorated Peter Siddle. (This fresh burst of energy was after Rahul Dravid had been bowled by him in a similar fashion only a few overs earlier, but had been ruled not out after a third umpire review revealed that Siddle had overstepped.)
To the cynics who think it is cool to undermine Tendulkar’s genius at every given chance, I say step out of their own skins and perceive him from the eyes of other beholders. They will see what they like to ignore.
For me, an unapologetic Tendulkar fan, it was a revelation as well. I had expected a cynical interest at worst or a tempered enthusiasm at most, but I had not been prepared for the deep respect and genuine awe the maestro enjoys in the country and consequently the envy we face – the ‘you got him, we don’t’ variety. We’ve heard about it, read about it, but to be witnessing first-hand people from another nation give your country’s hero the adulation that is typically reserved for one’s own is a special, proud feeling -- yet another thing that we have to thank Tendulkar for.
It is almost a joke that babus and administrators are fighting over who gets the Bharat Ratna. Here’s someone who already plays that part and hardly needs officialdom’s stamp of recognition or, please do note, a statistical certificate that says ‘he has scored hundred 100s’. Seriously. Let’s get over it now.
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