Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Master

Like everyone, I have a few 'triggers' that when I hear them, instantly and vastly reduce my respect for the person who said it:

Saying Paul Coelho is your favorite author or Da Vinci Code your favorite book.
Believing in 9/11 conspiracy theories.
Using the word 'gay' or 'retarded' to describe something weak, foolish or silly.
Calling someone a 'slut' as an endearment.
Liking Ann Coulter.*

Judgemental? Absolutely. But once I hear any of those things (and there are others which I will keep private) it's just done. They may be the nicest, most pleasant people but somewhere inside, a knob on my internal respect bar is irretrievably broken.

Ranking high on that list is unthinking negativity towards Sachin Tendulkar. He doesn't need to be your favorite cricketer, and you may criticize his game. But if you dismiss Sachin out of hand or ask 'what has he ever done for India', I just can't think you are very smart. By this token, there are many ignoramuses out there. And today is another occasion to say 'I told you so'.

Indeed, I'm a little late to the party but it's time to celebrate....Sachin Tendulkar is now the highest run scorer in the both Test match and one-day cricket. He reached the milestone of 12,000 test cricket runs yesterday, surpassing Brian Lara's record.

For me, before there was anyone else, there was Sachin (ETA: actually there was Steffi Graf but that's a whole another blogpost). I first became a fan when my grand father (who shares my fanaticism for cricket) pointed out the picture of a scrawny kid, barely a few years older than me, saying "this boy will play for India" soon. Well, of course he was right but I don't think anyone could have predicted the career Sachin would go on to have.

Watching Sachin in full flow is an exhilarating experience (except I may have missed some of his greatest innings because I was too nervous to look!). I would argue that he is the greatest, given the amount of cricket played in the contemporary era, the quality of bowling he has faced and his ability to dominate both the test and one day formats, and the enormous pressure from a billion Indians.

And that's not even why I admire him so much. I admire Sachin because despite all his success, he comes across as a level-headed and humble person. Reams have been written about the pressure Sachin faces in India- from the expectations of a billion people who look to him for " remission from the lifelong anxiety of being Indian" as C.P. Surendran put it (quoted by Ramachandra Guha). Add to this the fact that he shouldered the responsibility of a dependent team for much of his early career. The nationalistic fervor. The public prayers. The accusations that he 'threw' matches when it turned out that he was quietly fighting the players that did. The debates over whether it's time for him to retire. The taunts of 'experts' who write him off when he goes through a minor slump. The petty insults from ignoramuses who accuse him of caring only about money if he fails to score a's relentless.

Through all of this cacophony, the man just goes about his life and plays cricket. Graciously. Honestly. With respect for the game and his opponents. And over and over, after every success, he resists the totally forgivable urge to say, I told you so.

Class act.

p.s. I met him once, at a dinner. I didn't do much rather than surreptitiously look at him and ask for an autograph and picture. He struck me as being very much like his cricketing and public persona- gracious, quiet and focused on cricket (he unconsciously practiced batting swings throughout the dinner!). One of the highlights of my life!

*I doubt this could happen knowing all of you but if I have offended any of my readers with these examples, just don't tell me, and all will continue as always : )


B. S. Prakash said...

Beautifully written--it was a joy to read and a fitting tribute to the great master.

Ranjana said...

that was a pleasure to read...i know you're crazy about cricket and sachin, but i couldnt agree with you more on the non-cricketing part of it; he really is a great guy, kept his feet on the ground. I've watched most of his great innings' (and the bad ones too!)and he's always a treat to watch.