Growing up, watching a legend

Hero of the Hero Cup... Sachin Tendulkar is hugged by Ajay Jadeja and congratulated by a spectator after he bowled the crucial last over and India won the Hero Cup ODI semifinal against South Africa by two runs, at Eden Gardens, Calcutta on November 24, 1993.-

Sachin Tendulkar has retired from international cricket and what we have left with us are fond memories of the master blaster. Here is Shreedutta Chidananda’s take from a fan’s point of view.

24 November 1993

Compared to the stillness that follows dinner most nights, this is bedlam in the living room. As South Africa bungles the chase (an image that would grow increasingly familiar in the years to follow) and Indian fielders whirl around a smoky Eden Gardens in giddy celebration, there is much hooting and clapping in the household. To a child of six, India’s remarkable semifinal win in the Hero Cup is mildly confusing. Sachin Tendulkar, superhero batsman and the name on everyone’s lips, has, it would seem, bowled India to victory. But the occasion is all the more joyous for that reason. It doesn’t matter that it is past bedtime. Tendulkar’s limitless delight, when he restricts Brian McMillan to one off the last ball, is a feeling shared by the country; it is an over lived by every little boy in the land.

9 March 1998

Even before Shane Warne has come around the wicket, Tendulkar has cut and driven him with little discomfort. It is an edgy day’s play, not least because Warne has claimed him cheaply in the first innings. Although the two have met before, the arrival of a Professor Moriarty in Shane Warne, to Tendulkar’s Holmes, is a narrative seized upon eagerly. Such talk, of a threat to Tendulkar’s powers, is deeply unsettling to a schoolboy.

But when Warne goes around the wicket, Tendulkar cuts loose, dumping him beyond mid-wicket, driving him over long-on. It is perhaps a gamble but it is a tingling, nervous thrill, like watching a race-car take corner after corner at crazy speed. With the match still in the balance, Tendulkar’s dismemberment of the bowler lays down a marker for the series and for subsequent Warne trips to India. After four for 85 from the first innings, Warne is taken for 1/122 here, and 0/147 in the next Test. Tendulkar finishes on 155 not out. It is more than a century; it is a sounding of the klaxon, a chest-thumping statement. It is the sort only Tendulkar can make.

SACHIN TENDULKAR in full flow against the Aussies in Sharjah, in 1998.-K.V. KRISHNAN

22 April 1998

Nothing of Tendulkar’s innings is left to see. Stuck in a long journey home from a neighbouring town, all of that majesty is lost to the eyes. As news of India’s qualification for the final of the Coca Cola Cup in Sharjah is supplied on arrival, one question needs immediate answering: “Yaaru hodadiddu?” (Who scored?) “Inn yaaru.” (Who else.)

It pains to miss the ‘sandstorm hundred’, as the 143 would come to be known, but as if to console broken, young fans, Tendulkar would serve up another delicacy two days later.

24 April 1998

On his 25th birthday, Tendulkar puts Australia to the sword again. He is at the peak of his powers as a batsman, mowing down everyone in his path. It is not an image a man standing 5’5” in his shoes, with oversized shirt-sleeves and pads, would ordinarily evoke. But Tendulkar, as is clear to the world now, is no ordinary player. This night, he is waging another solo battle in the final, ripping Australia to shreds. Tom Moody and Warne are straight-driven for savage sixes; a hapless Michael Kasprowicz is clattered onto the roof; India’s players celebrate, sitting on the bonnet and hanging out of the windows of Tendulkar’s Player of the Tournament car.

23 March 2003

The pattern for much of the last decade, when India’s batting has rested and ridden on Tendulkar, has slowly changed. Things are different under Sourav Ganguly, although the final of the World Cup shows Tendulkar still carries the same heavyweight of expectation. Ricky Ponting destroys India’s bowlers and when Tendulkar is caught and bowled off a top edge for four, it is all over. It is deflating, simply because even now, when a task is this tall, there is only one man that can reach up.

A not so common sight...Sachin Tendulkar is bowled by Tim Southee in the second Test of the India-New Zealand series in Bangalore on September 3, 2012. Sachin was bowled thrice in succession during the series.-K. BHAGYA PRAKASH

22 March 2006

Things are different now. Tendulkar is back from tennis elbow, but it seems he may never be the same again. His own Wankhede Stadium has booed him, it seems, after going for 1 in the first innings. He is fighting in the second, trying to stave off an embarrassing loss to England. Shaun Udal, a balding, 37-year-old off-spinner straight out of some BBC archival footage from the 1930s, tosses one up. Tendulkar strides forward, but with none of the rampaging authority of old; this is a limp, weary front-foot, and Ian Bell holds a sharp catch at short leg. Udal is the sort of bowler the Tendulkar of 1998 would have pounded unconscious. This is all very disconcerting.

2007

For two years from December 2005, Tendulkar has not scored a Test hundred against anyone bar Bangladesh. We have not just grown up with him; we have grown older. We yearn for the Tendulkar of the 1990s, but this is a shattering reminder of how quickly we have aged ourselves, of time that will not come back. It holds up a mirror to our own lives, the end of our own childhoods, our easy, joyous days. If our heroes too are fallible, what hope is there for the rest of us?

2012

Tendulkar is struggling. He is an elder statesman now, the grand, old master the young ones dare not disrespect, but there is growing unease. He has been bowled thrice in a row — against, of all teams, New Zealand. It is painful to watch. He may have returned from the dark days of the elbow and shoulder injuries, the hundred last year at Cape Town may have been a master-class, but these multiple failures are crushing.

We passionately spring to his defence from cynical older relatives, whose fondness for casual ridicule is only surpassed by their bitterness. But in private, our own faith is tested.

2013

Gradually, acceptance has taken the place of disappointment. We only need one last hurrah, one final triumphant tale to go home with. It is all we ask.