This was written for a commemorative volume on Sachin, which was launched during his final Test Match...
We Maharashtrians are a funny lot. To begin with, we don’t really have too many contemporary heroes ( the last icon was Chhatrapati Shivaji). Despite the acute shortfall of people to adore and worship, we are the last ones to wake up and applaud ‘our’ achievers. It is so typical of the community’s mentality, that once one of our own does receive world- wide fame and recognition, we quickly appropriate the person and take credit for the spectacular success (“ After all, he/she is a Maharshtrian… it is in our genes” ). So it was with the Master Blaster. Today, we possessively call him ‘Aapla Tendlya’. Sachin Tendulkar is as Maharashtrian as kandey-pohey. He may be one of the biggest global celebrities alive, but scratch the surface and you’ll find a true-blue Shivaji Park product – as unpretentious as vada pao or dahi misal. This is perhaps his biggest strength. Sachin has never forgotten his roots. And not all the commemorative gold Coke cans in the world can change that. It is his down to earth attitude that keeps him sane and sensible…. that took him to the top of the game. And has kept him there for 25 long years.
Most high profile Maharashtrians are not entirely comfortable with fame. Think Lata Mangeshkar. Sachin has lived with adulation on a scale that very few human beings enjoy. But whether he is being carried on the shoulders of his team mates ( post-World Cup victory) or has fawning fans falling at his feet wherever he goes, the expression on his face rarely changes. He remains almost shockingly restrained . It is this restraint that has taken him to the pinnacle of his cricketing prowess. He gives nothing away – neither in defeat, nor when he is riding the wave. Some would call his behaviour robotic and programmed. I call it his Maharashtrian reserve. The community tends to frown on an open display of exhuberance in public. It is considered somewhat vulgar and déclassé. Modesty and reserve are highly prized virtues. Sachin has been raised to keep his head down and focus on the game. Period. This has clearly added to his character, particularly as a legendary cricketer whose every move makes it to the media. Sachin’s sang froid is both admirable and frightening. How can any super- celebrity remain this controlled, this untouched, this unmoved? Aaha. That’s why he is where he is in the competitive world of a multi-million dollar, high stakes game called cricket. Reticence rocks!
For 25 long years, Sachin has thrilled and mesmerized cricket fans across the world….even when he scores a duck – that is indeed some feat! What has baffled and frustrated critics is Sachin’s ability to walk away – image intact – no matter what the circumstances. Sachin is the original Inscrutable Indian. An enigma to all – fans, team mates, business associates. Everybody. But what nobody can take away from the God of Cricket, is his dedication to the game. Sachin breathes, eats, drinks, thinks, dreams, sweats and lives cricket. It is virtually impossible to separate the man from the game. Sachin IS cricket! He has served the game well. But the game has served him brilliantly, too. Today, Sachin ranks as one of the richest sports stars on Planet Earth. He has worked hard for his considerable wealth. What’s the bet he’ll work equally hard to grow it in the years to come. Sachin’s brain is as mighty as his brawn. Though,his razor sharp business acumen is the one trait he doesn’t share with the rest of the Maharashtrian community! Most of us are absolute duds when it comes to money matters.
Sachin’s single, most significant contribution to the game of cricket is a four letter word - H.O.P.E. When the 16- year- old prodigy walked into a packed stadium in Karachi to play his first test match , every kid who had ever held a bat and ball ( be it in Shivaji Park, Azad Maidan or the gullies of small town India ), started to believe he too could make it as a world class cricketer! And this feeling coming as it did at a time when desi cricket was in a pretty hopeless state, continues to inspire young, aspiring cricketers so many years later. It was sheer brilliance that dazzled the world back then. And continues to, even today. From a no-hoper, demoralized side, Sachin lifted India’s position almost single handedly to make it a world class team. This is why his debut against Pakistan on 15th November 1989 remains the single most defining moment in India’s cricket history.Those 15 runs he scored changed his destiny – and ours. A gutsy, curly mopped teenager from Mumbai confidently faced a tough Pakistani team without flinching ….. nothing was ever the same again!
People will be discussing the Sachin Era for decades to come. That is perhaps his greatest legacy. Once there was a Bradman. Now there is a Sachin.
Long live Cricket. Long live Sachin.