The epitome of all contests

The Little Master with the legendary spinner Bishan Singh Bedi during a function organised to felicitate Ajit Wadekar's Warriors, the members of the 1971 team that toured the West Indies, in Mumbai. "I have been an unabashed fan of SRT," writes Bedi.-PTI

Indian ears are forever aching to hear that our very own SRT is a greater batsman than one Sir Donald Bradman! I’ll abstain from any comparison simply because comparisons are odious. Period. However, aren’t similarities a better way of putting across our Indian sense of pride and privilege? By Bishan Singh Bedi.

In a divine sense, two of the most precious places would be in the heart or prayers of the masses! Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar discovered that he had plenty of such spaces in his 200th Test. It was one last public appearance that left the fans ever so heavy in the heart. Not that SRT himself was any lighter, but his direct connect with his enormous following left no doubt about his famed popularity.

In his highly emotional farewell speech, SRT held his fans spellbound, again not by his own elocution but by an omnipotent force that ensured that he had his finger firmly on the public pulse, almost like a physician diagnosing his patient. SRT knew he was the doctor of many an Indian ailment — in the main, cricketing pride!

A puffed up chest that had ‘Proud to be an Indian’ inscribed on it was Tendulkar’s legacy, directly transported to his fans/subjects for a good part of 20 years! I am taking away four years as the take-off time in the legend’s splendid journey into a realm of greatness hitherto unfamiliar in Indian sport.

Having had the privilege of seeing a bud grow into such a wonderful blossom, or shall we say a seed into a giant oak, I honestly feel I’ve travelled ‘The Journey’ with SRT most conveniently and without ever having to use my debit card! Thank you Sachin, you have been extremely generous!

Reverting to SRT’s final speech to his fans, family and the cricketing fraternity, he left the ones present at the Wankhede Stadium dumbfounded and millions watching him on TV absolutely hypnotised, while his team-mates were visibly stunned into silence. They didn’t quite know what had hit them!

A lot of us were really surprised by his fluent extempore and details of to-the-point delivery of his farewell speech. It was so much like many of his superlative knocks, all at the altar of divinity called cricket.

I’m convinced it was not SRT speaking, but a ‘messenger’ of God Almighty who has resided within him all these years. It may sound like an exaggeration, but I find it rather prim and proper to write about dried up and trembling lips trying very hard to reach out to every worshipper of his. There is a quality of hero-worship that lives in all of us, whatever our age. The quality could have wavered but not the intent.

It was indeed a lovely amalgamation of gratitude reciprocated ever so hugely. Happily, for me, the love of cricket is not a slave of figures or technique; nor is it confined to the popularity polls of the commercial world! My love of cricket revolves around the intensity of competition by all fair means and I’d like to think SRT was the epitome of all contests, in all conditions and against all competitors. That is precisely the reason I have been an unabashed fan of SRT, not blindly really but with a fair amount of gumption to question him directly and not necessarily to fire salvos from the cold shoulders of the media. To my good fortune, SRT has always appreciated my stand without ever having to compromise his own!

Indian ears are forever aching to hear that our very own SRT is a greater batsman than one Sir Donald Bradman! Well, I think I’ll abstain from any comparison simply because comparisons are odious. Period. However, aren’t similarities a better way of putting across our Indian sense of pride and privilege? Sir Don himself expressed once to his wife, “I never saw myself bat (not quite believable!), but this kid seems to bat like I used to.” Initially, this harmless statement had Indians in an almost vice-like grip. But subsequently, it gave just about every cricket analyst a viable right to put SRT over and above Sir Don Bradman. Strange but true that even ex-Indian players started indulging, “... er, haven’t seen Bradman play...but....!!!” And lo behold, SRT was given the highest civilian award — the Bharat Ratna — barely minutes after he had finished his epoch speech.

Considering the public impact and sentiment, it appeared then that for once the powers that be had taken the right decision at the right time. But right now, there’s a feeling of palpable haste, with the much feared ‘politicisation’ of the award being observed as leaving a bad taste in the mouth. I suppose SRT’s life will be bisected/dissected as per the historians’ prerogative, and so be it.

SRT was very correct socially when he dedicated his Bharat Ratna to his mother. I thought it was a great gesture. But he went a step further and roped in all mothers who might have sacrificed a lot in the progress of their off springs! It had to be a masterstroke — yet again, with the providential help of course! Personally speaking, the Bharat Ratna for SRT is a major breakthrough for the Indian sporting fraternity. For all purposes, the Bharat Ratna will remain a political award with the lobbyists naturally coming into the fray (and frame)! It is to be hoped that sports people do not suddenly become too active to gain advantage!

For every Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar and the late Maj. Dhyan Chand there are many with a monumental gap between their dreams and action!!