Two balls outside off stump. Both met with the full face of the bat but straight the fielders in the cover-point region. The next ball was slightly outside off; a small walk across the stumps and with the deftest of turns of the bat, the ball raced away down toward the vacant mid wicket boundary and he picked up three. The entire stadium went berserk, the entire country went mad with joy and yet the man himself was more interested in changing his bat. After selecting a bat that he felt was best, he turned to the crowd and acknowledged their cheers with just a gentle wave of the left hand as if to say, ‘Thank you folks, but I have some unfinished business to tend to.’ A milestone that was thought to be unattainable: 17000 runs in One Day Internationals, had just been achieved, and the only reaction from the man who got it? A nonchalant wave. There was a more important task in hand, winning the match. That, ladies and gentleman, sums up the man for you. It has, is and will always be ‘India first’.
What can further be said about the man who has carried the hopes of a nation on his shoulders for two decades? 17000 runs in ODIs, 30000 plus in all forms of the game, approaching a century of centuries and yet, the innate values remain the same; the same boyish charm, the same enthusiasm and the same passion that has driven this remarkable journey.
Watching his innings last night, was a throwback to the nineties, not only did I witness the same uninhibited and free flowing innings that typified the man in the last decade of the 20th century, but also the familiar theme of a lone ranger fighting against the tide, valiantly and not giving in, even when all the odds were stacked firmly against him. His innings was such a treat to watch that the commentators were quite lost for words. ‘Genius’, ‘Brilliant’, ‘Outstanding’, ‘Sensational’, ‘Incredible’ seemed to be the only words that were being spoken when he was batting.
His undying passion for the game and love for the country was highlighted further during the post match press conference. Looking at his forlorn face, you would never have guessed that here stood a man, who had scaled Everest already, had discovered a peak higher than it, and scaled that too. His disappointment at India having lost the match outweighed the sense of achievement; that, typifies the man. When Arun Lal asked him, ‘Sachin what keeps you going?’ He replied ‘I guess it’s the passion for the game and the desire to play for India.’ If anyone else had said this, they could be forgiven for sounding a bit clichéd but when Sachin says this, everyone has a lump in their throat because they all know that there is nothing but genuineness there.
So, 17000 has been scaled. 45 tons in One day cricket. He’s got most of the records that matter and keeps breaking his own. Yet, in spite of all this, he’s always due for a big score, every time he comes out to bat. ‘What next?’ one may be tempted to ask. Only Sachin can answer that.
He’s been called many things: ‘Master Blaster’, ‘The Little Master’, ‘Tondulkar’, ‘Genius’, ‘The little champion’ and many many more but ultimately, the great man will want to be known thus :
Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar – Indian Cricketer.