I started writing this after Sachin called it a day from ODIs, it was in my drafts, and now it’s time to bid adieu from Test matches.
After the champion announced retirement from ODIs, zillions of posts were published. They mostly discuss records and they don’t lie. He has created records that were not even imagined when he made debut. But there is a wow factor beyond…
1988 (15 years old): He was playing for Shardashram Vidyamandir at this point and there was a joke when Sachin hits a straight drive, fielder should be loaned a scooter to fetch the ball. Sachin & Kambli were batting at 192 and 182 at close of play. Their coach had instructed them to declare the innings next morning. But Achrekar was away from the match and these 2 continued to bat next morning. They went on to make 664 run partnership. At lunch, Sachin called up coach to inform about the score and then the innings was declared immediately. This 15-year old was terrified by his coach but his hunger for scoring runs took over. After all, 15-year olds are excused for creating world records.
1989 (16): Sachin made his debut in a test series at Pakistan. Waqar made his debut in the same series. The 4th test match was at Sialkot, which was the fastest wicket ever seen. It had so much grass, cows could have bred there. The 16-year old got hit on his nose by a fiery Waqar bouncer and had blood pouring all over his jersey. Physio, 12th man, non-striker were running towards him with a stretcher. The kiddo put some water on his face and refused to leave the ground. Next ball he stood 1 step back in the crease anticipating the yorker and smashed a straight drive for a boundary. 16-year olds are not expected to have such courage.
1990 (17): Ranji Finals. Mumbai needed 355 from 67 overs to win the match against Haryana led by Kapil Dev at Wankhede. Word spread that Vengsarkar and Tendulkar have launched a counter-attack and reports said the turn out on 5th day was around 18,000. This is a time when there was no concept of power play mentality. Sachin smashed 96 of 75 balls launching himself against the likes of Kapil Dev and Chetan Sharma.
1998 (25): Warne nightmare. Very few would argue Warne was the best spinner ever. Shane Warne had a reputation to turn the ball on a glass and was expected to rock Indian batting line up. Sachin had practiced hard, added new shots to his armory and all were talking about Sachin-Warne contest. Sachin got stuck into him right from their practice match. He was in his climb and smashed Warne tirelessly. He just didn’t stop. After tour of India and Sharjah series, Warne admitted: I’ll be going to bed having nightmares of Sachin just running down the wicket and belting me back over the head for six. He knew what it would take to succeed against Warne and he went after it.
1998 (25): Sharjah! The finals of Coca Cola cup at Sharjah coincided with Sachin’s 25th birth day and the ritual of getting gifts was about to be reversed. But 2 days prior we had to play, almost like a semi final, Australia and make sure our run rate doesn’t fall below NZ. Sachin hit 143 runs in that match and that century of his had a major impact on at least my generation. All my society friends were just talking about how he hit those 6s, Tony Greig’s commentary, it was summer vacation and all of us were in his world. He gave the Oz bowlers 1 day break, before he again got stuck into them on his 25th. Many kids of my generation had found their hero. We started mimicking him in what ever ways we could. I remember he once said he prefers to wear his left pad before right. Since that day I am wearing my left sock before right…
1999 (26): Test match vs Pakistan at Chennai. Sachin hit a century in 2nd innings and was steering India towards victory. He was battling not only a Wasim-Waqar-Saqlain attack but also his own back. His back pain was gaining over his knock and he decided to go for boundaries as he could no longer run. But he perished with India needing just 17 and 3 wickets in hand. India went on to lose the match by 12 runs. It’s a very rare situation when Man of the Match is awarded to a player from losing team in a test match. But that knock of his was rarest of rare. He wasn’t ready to take the award and was weeping like a school boy in dressing room. He told his coach, Anshuman Gaekwad, his team lost because of him. He should have stayed longer to win the match. He was a sensation by this time but he never lost ground.
1999 (26): India had started another World Cup poorly losing 1st match. The worst was waiting for Sachin. He received the news of his father passing away and he flew back for final rituals. Some of us may know what kind of blow that is, others don’t even want to think about it. In the mean time, we had lost 2nd match too against Zimbabwe. Sachin to every ones surprise turned up for the 3rd match against Kenya. Before the match, Sachin was practicing at ground wearing black glasses. Harsha Bhogle asked if he could give a quick bite before the match, Sachin obliged. Harsha asked him how difficult is it for him to turn up after such a huge loss. Tendulkar was looking at mic and could not say a word for 30 sec. He removed his glasses and all Harsha saw was red eyes soaked in tears. That video was never broadcast. Sachin had hit 21 ODI centuries before that. To my knowledge all of them came when opening the innings. He came in at No. 4 in that match after almost 20 overs. I was watching this match with my Dad and my Dad knew that there is no way he won’t hit a century in this match. And of course, he wasn’t wrong!
2007 (34): T20 World Cup. Sachin withdrew from playing at T20 World Cup in SA that gave more youngsters a chance to prove themselves. May be he thought it’s a more demanding format than his body could handle. He had to start playing selectively to perform longer for India. Mind you, there was no skill shortage here. He’s till date the only Indian player to win Orange cap in IPL. Every player is the best judge of his game.
2010 (37): The money element. Sachin was offered the highest ever deal an Indian sportsperson had ever bagged. But he turned down the offer as it was to endorse alcohol. It’s not that he did’nt want more money, but it was not in line with his principles and values.
2011 (38): India wins WC. Sachin had conquered all possible records in batting and the world kept asking him what is he seeking for? And he and his team were after World Cup. The entire team was kicked to win it. He was the highest scorer for India and 2nd highest overall. By now he was not only playing as a cricketer, but also as a mentor for youngsters. That hug from Yuvraj, carrying on shoulder by Virat and Bhajji, was a small testament.
2012 (39): India tours Australia. Sachin was touring for the last time to play 4 test matches. He was struggling in this series. He’s by far the biggest crowd puller and this is not just in India. He walked in and out 16 times in 4 test matches. On all 16 occasions, there was not a single spectator in the stadium who did not give him a standing ovation. And this we are talking about Oz crowd. No records books will show this gesture.
2013 (40): Back to domestic cricket. He had a dismal test series against Australia late 2012. He was out of form but was still hungry. Australia was scheduled to tour India for 4 test matches in Feb 2013. He went back to domestic cricket to get back in touch. He played Ranji semis and finals and also participated in Irani cup. When the world was talking about his retirement, he was practicing longer than youngsters in the nets. He refused to stay failed at 40.
2013 (40): Vijay had scored 167 against Aus in a test match at Hyderabad. The fall of his wicket meant the entry of batsman at number 4. Whenever India plays a test match, the biggest cheer is when India’s number 4 comes out to bat. There is an explosion in the stadium. Sachin waited behind the boundary line until Vijay crossed him. Vijay was 5 years and 228 days when Sachin made his international debut.
There are so many more of such instances. People like him more for the way he has handled success and conducted himself. He’s easily the most analysed cricketer and a role model for young cricketers. I am so proud that he has represented India.