It has happened - Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar has hit his 50th test century. And it once again set my memory rolling back to the past. I have always wanted to write this post every time he has hit a new record but I think everything has its time.
I was mad about cricket since 1986. The passion started in class VI when India brownwashed England in England 2-0. It intensified in 1987 when Gavaskar reached 10,000 runs in test cricket, the first batsman to do so. And then, World Cup happened in India. Although India lost in the semis (damn you Gooch, you with your sweep stroke!) the fever was all set. The greats of those days were Gavaskar, Imran Khan, Kapil Dev, Abdul Qadir, Vengsarkar, Krishnamachari Srikanth, Vivian Richards, Curtly Ambrose, Malcom Marshall, Gordon Greenidge etc. I was greatly influenced by Qadir, whose mesmerising action I completely imbibed. I was always running with his diagnol action, even when I walked on the road!
And then I heard about Sachin Tendulkar. It was 1988 and this boy shattered a few records with a record partnership of 664 in a school tournament in Bombay along with his classmate, Vinod Kambli. Kambli made 349 and Tendulkar 324. The newspaper article made a lot of their young age (they were 15 and I was 13). That impressed me :) The wonder boy made it to the Ranji team of Bombay very soon and hit 100 on debut against Gujrat. That was cool.....and then soon we heard that he was going to Pakistan in 1989.
He hit Qadir for four consecutive sixes in a practice game and that had me hooked. To me, no one was over Qadir and here was this tich of a boy, hitting him all over the ground. My Qadir fascination ended soon after :-)
He was playing for India when I was in school. He was there when I was in college and then when I was doing my MBA, he was murdering Warne & co. I had been placed and there was a lot of time in the final trimester of MBA when Australia toured India. Warne was massacred....and we were thrilled. Watching cricket in a hostel has its own charm....with the running commentary of 50 other people adding to the whole atmosphere.
I still rue the 136 in Chennai where India lost by 12 runs to Pakistan. I think it makes us realise that he too is human, not God. And that adds to his charm. Had he won every match for India, it would be less fascinating. It is the recognition of the fact that he too is like us, fallible and prone to mistakes, that makes him all the more appealing.
His 98 against Pakistan in 2003 WC was another innings that stands out in my memory. The aerial shot against Shoaib Akhtar was the pinnacle of that innings.
He is still out there....it is amazing that almost all my cricket memories are with Sachin. To me, he is Indian cricket. His humility, and his perseverance are commendable. He still practices and is the hardest working cricketer. That is what sets him apart from the others. It is not just a God-gifted ability or a natural talent but the honing and polishing of himself that makes him what he is.
Salutations, O great One! Play as long as you enjoy. We enjoy your craft!