SRT… a total surrender to cricket!

Sachin Tendulkar... sheer gold.-PTI

We must consider ourselves fortunate that SRT lived his cricketing greatness during our times — we saw him grow from a seedling to a giant oak in a matter of just less than a quarter of a century, writes Bishan Singh Bedi.

While the BCCI is still ‘deliberating’ the series in South Africa, maestro SRT has made up his mind, at long last, to say ‘good bye’ to the game he loved ever so dearly and diligently. To be honest, SRT too deliberated a long while before reaching the decisive moment!

There is a difference between the BCCI’s reluctance to tour SA for a three- or four-Test series (as annoying as the late invite to the West Indies to play a none-too-enterprising two-Test series at home) and SRT calling ‘time’ — the former’s job is to promote the highest competition, while the latter is entitled to make an individual call!

Be that as it may, I was aghast at the media reaction on both counts — lacklustre with the BCCI and over-reactive with SRT! I suppose it is the media’s prerogative to be calm, robust or lukewarm — I have no issues with that also. But to suggest that SRT’s retirement is ‘sad’ or ‘tragic’ smacks of utter ignorance! It would be tantamount to denouncing the phenomenon of ‘birth’ and ‘death’, so gloriously highlighted in our scriptures —what emerges must vanish, in fact birth is directly related with death, no matter how depressing it may sound.

Reality cannot be based on public opinion/following. We must consider ourselves fortunate that SRT lived his cricketing greatness during our times — we saw him grow from a seedling to a giant oak in a matter of just less than a quarter of a century. Should we then not be grateful for being a witness to a Kohinoor’s chiselling right at our doorstep?

Honestly, this is a moment to rejoice a career which touched the emotional chord of every Indian globally. This is the kind of pronouncement Indian ‘Rishis’ of yore were famous for. And when the precise end came they lit their own funeral pyre!

Tendulkar's celebrations were always simple, even if it was a small matter like the 100th international century.-PTI

No, it is not my intention to make SRT sound like a saint, but if we actually pause and think SRT was no less, albeit in the crowded and corrupted world of commerce of which he became an inadvertent soul mate!!

History will have already recorded SRT’s batting feats in proverbial letters of gold — also his gigantic stature as the most affluent Indian sportsman ever. But not many would have ventured to stray into his personal territory of ‘preparedness’ for every combat situation in Tests or ODIs.

Now, this is something every young cricketer vying for national colours must aspire to peep into. Yes, SRT was a genius but no genius was ever born sans the labour of love and passion. SRT’s humble Maharashtrian upbringing was his biggest asset. His “maryada-purshotam” qualities were directly imbibed from his devoted parents. Somewhere along the line, his elder brother Ajit too helped SRT concentrate on the game exclusively, while other ‘interests’ concerning commerce were taken care of.

Beyond that there’s not much to read into even though ‘human interest’ stories involving SRT may never subside. Yes, SRT was a role model like no other Indian sportsman. His total surrender to his discipline of cricket was paramount throughout his illustrious career. Not once did he ‘monkey’ around in jest or glee over any batting/team achievement, just a simple taking-off of the helmet and a trademark glare into the vacant sky accompanied by a silent prayer of gratitude was all that ‘our’ SRT indulged in…‘Our’ as in ‘our Don Bradman’ if I may please take the liberty!!

I’m a bit wary of comparisons — SRT vis a vis Sir Don Bradman or Sir Viv Richards or anybody for that matter. Aren’t we aware that comparisons are always odious? Yet we keep on ‘comparing’ for the heck of it!

Just as there won’t be another Bradman or Richards there is no likelihood of another SRT in a hurry! Well, there’s no harm in believing that SRT’s batting records will not be broken, not in our lifetime at least! But then, let’s not underestimate human tenacity. And let’s also keep in mind the maxim that ‘records are always made to be broken’!!

SRT has never scored a triple Test ton, nor did he ever score a hundred in each innings of a Test! Will he get to these milestones in the next two Tests? The chances are as remote as SRT walking on the moon!! Am I provoking the original Master Blaster? You bet.....!!!

The author, Bishan Singh Bedi,with the legend Tendulkar.-PTI

I’ve often wondered if SRT got his basic batting lessons in his mother’s womb! That’s why we often claim ‘a genius is always born’. I am inclined to go by our divine beliefs and credit SRT’s mother for all his greatness.

Of course, his childhood coach ‘Achrekar Sir’ helped the kid in his formative years. But that the ‘Child was the Father of the Man’ is almost a miracle. This is the kind of miracle folk tales are made of!!

In another 100 years, people will find it hard to believe that a certain SRT walked, nay, conquered the hallowed grounds of the cricket universe. Why, you may ask. I’m saddened by the thought that there is no Neville Cardus, Ray Robinson, CLR James or Jack Fingleton to fine prose SRT in black and white. Yes, that’s where history may not be able to do justice to the brilliance of SRT.

On a slightly sour note I’m having to register a mild protest — I was never impressed with SRT’s decision to take up a political position in RS as I felt in his entire career SRT never took a stand on issues which were more than vital — e.g. match-fixing and chucking!! His voice would have carried a lot of weight. But that didn’t happen. So, I’m a bit apprehensive about SRT rubbing shoulders with hard core....... you know what!!

Another aspect of SRT’s cricketing life is his mind-boggling capacity to keep controversies at bay at all times. I find it odd really that in his long life, on and off the field, SRT never blew his top even once!

Privately, I’ve heard of SRT having reservations about a few giants of Indian cricket, but it never quite caught up with the paparazzi!! To be fair to SRT, he was not the only one to keep mum on matters of international cricket concerns — there were quite a few who compromised!!!