My Memories of Sachin Tendulkar : By Hemanth

Dear Sachin,

I am writing this after an intensely emotional few days after you announced your retirement from Test Cricket. I knew it was coming, but didn’t want this to happen. It is one of those things where you expect the inevitable, but pray that it never happens, for it has been unthinkable that we would watch cricket matches knowing that Sachin Tendulkar doesn’t play the game anymore. It almost feels like a part of my body is going to leave me. I started watching cricket because of you, have been amazed at the way you took on the best in the world at the age of 16. 21 years passed since 1992, but I still remember as a kid watching in awe of how you faced the hostile Aussie attack like it was your own backyard. From then on, for my generation which grew up watching you, you gave us the confidence that we can be the best in the world

That was still an era where TV didn’t have too much of reach. Every time you were playing, I was doing whatever I could to catch a glimpse of you play, whether it was standing outside a shop, or spending nights in friends’ houses to watch you play or missing a train intentionally so that I could watch your full innings.

Through the 1990s your rise painfully coincided with India’s dismal performances abroad. Indian team was called a ‘one man army’ by the experts – especially abroad. But you never complained, always willing to do whatever it takes to give your best for the team.

During the dreadful match fixing saga, we heard stories of how you knew about matches being fixed and you were determined to prove them wrong and won matches for India. You were instrumental in getting the faith in the game restored when match fixing saga threatened it.

I prayed God on every day you went out to bat, that you should come out with flying colors. I wanted you to score a hundred or more and should result in an Indian victory – I saw no contradiction in both of them. After a series loss in India to Australia in 1998 -you scored two unbelievable back to back hundreds to win the tournament from India in Sharjah – which prompted Steve Waugh to say “we have not lost to India, we have lost to Sachin Tendulkar”.

You gave us innumerable memorable moments, but for me the most unforgettable moment was when you rushed to India when your father died in 1999 during the world cup matches. And to our astonishment, you returned back to play the next game against Kenya – after missing just one game (against Zimbabwe). As a teenager, it made a huge emotional imprint on my mind after seeing someone who, within days of a big personal tragedy, is ready to represent the country again. Showed us how much you valued the Indian cap. Watched your interview with your big glasses on to hide your emotions with almost tears rolling from my eyes. You scored a century and won the match for India. The battle as people said was not against the opposition bowlers, but with your own mind.

The historic test series against Pakistan in 1999 was another remarkable one, for you almost single handedly won the test match in Chepauk before being consumed by a dreaded back injury. India then stunningly collapsed and lost the match to Pakistan. We heard stories about how you cried in the dressing room and didn’t want to come out to collect the ‘man of the match’ trophy. By then we came to expect such things from you because you always put the team first, and did everything you could to win matches for India.

More than the number of runs, the way you came out from a lull in form, or a crisis by working harder, by reinventing yourself – are exemplary examples of what can be achieved if talent meets attitude. When you were getting caught in the slips by chasing wide deliveries in Australia – that Sidney innings during 2003-04 series where you just didn’t play a single cover drive showed us how you always treated yourself as a servant of the game.

After a bad series against New Zealand, we saw how came out all guns blazing in the world cup 2003. When dejected and mischievous fans attacked cricketers’ homes after the initial loss to Australia – I still remember your press conference where you assured the fans that you will do your best for India – and the rest is history – India looked unbeatable for the whole tournament before badly losing to Australia in the finals. That dejected face of yours when collecting the ‘man of the tournament’ trophy from Sir Garry Sobers is still very recent in my mind though 10 years have passed since then.

The biggest injury of your career in 2005 to your Tennis Elbow sent the whole country into a tizzy. We were looking at the possibility of Sachin Tendulkar not playing cricket again! Millions of prayers were answered and you started playing cricket again !. After a poor England Series at home where some the fair whether fans booed you on your home turf after getting out – you didn’t complain. Those couple of years, we saw a struggling Sachin Tendulkar, who scrambled for every run, who was getting hit on the body by fast bowlers – this coincided with a tumultuous time during Greg Chappell’s era. After the loss in 2007 WC against SriLanka, it looked like a dead end. You were 34 then, I thought you would never be a part of a World Cup winning team.

For me, the ‘second wind’ in your career started in Bristol in 2007, as you effortlessly played the Pakistani fast bowlers and helped India win the ODI series. You along with some other greats like Rahul Dravid, Laxman, Ganguly, and Kumble scripted an Indian test series victory in England. People who wrote headlines like ‘Endulkar’ suddenly turned around and started praising you. Such were the high standards set by you, that even a brief period of being in ‘out of form’ invited criticism from the ‘experts’. After being called as ‘Elephant in the room’ for failing in run chases, you played two memorable innings in 2008 against Australia to script a first multi nation tournament victory out of subcontinent after 1985. It was not a mere coincidence that your ‘second wind’ coincided with India’s rise to the no.1 spot in Test Cricket.

When just a week after the 26/11 attacks in 2008, India won a match against England in Chennai – in the same stadium where India lost to Pakistan in 1999 chasing. You turned the clock back and won the match for India. You dedicated the victory to the people who died in the attacks. Though cricket was a small thing compared to what happened, you gave us reasons to smile, at least temporarily after the horrific attacks.

Amidst all this, I kept praying that you would have a shot at the next world cup in 2011, it looked far and distant because you were already 34 and 18 years of international cricket, travelling across the contents took a huge toll on your body. As you started picking and choosing ODIs, we got a hint that you were aiming at the 2011 World Cup. By then you started affecting my psyche so much that, I treated your success as my success and your failure as mine, when people criticized, and I wanted you to prove them wrong. When you proved them wrong, I felt as if it was my own achievement!!

We all knew that we were onto something special from you when we saw you take on the mighty SA bowlers in 2011 on bouncy tracks at the age of 38. Your battle with Dale Steyn in Cape Town to save the match for India was an absolute gem.

And my prayers were answered!!, and how amazingly fairy tale story it was, the 2011 WC was India’s. It was one of the best moments for me. It remains one of the best memories of my life. Post that, contrary to many ‘predictions’ you wanted to continue playing. We knew the 100th hundred milestone was nearing, but you haven’t played for milestones. If you had played for milestones, you would never have been able to reach this stage. People forget that you skipped the ODI series against West Indies in 2011 at home to give yourself more time in Australia. If you wanted 100th hundred so desperately, you had the opportunity to play in a relatively easier series at home to get the 100th hundred out of the way.

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For me, the final phase started during the MCG boxing day test in Australia, where you looked like the old Sachin till you reached 70 odd and suddenly got out almost at the end of the day !. from then on the wait for the 100th hundred continued. We made it very difficult for you by making it a non-stop discussion point everywhere. Rather than another illustrious milestone that could be part of your career, it became a burden that you wanted to get rid of!.

Last two years has been a huge battle between the mind and the body. Your mind was as passionate as ever that didn’t want to give up – but body wasn’t holding up. It was a fascinating and sometimes excruciating battle for us to watch.

As the eventuality dawned last week, it has been impossible to digest. You gave me memories of a lifetime, moments of emotional trauma and moments of being on top of the world. Your impact transcends the statistics. It is beyond cricket, as I cope with this emotional moment, I wish you all the best for the rest of your life. I will remain your fan forever. I would like to see you go out with a bang in the coming series against West Indies with one final fairy tale ending. Will watch these two final matches with expectations, excitement and with heightened emotions.

We may see a better talent, or someone who may score more number of runs, but we may not see another Sachin Tendulkar. Thank you for the memories of a lifetime !!

This Article Was Written By : Hemanth. You Can Follow Him on Twitter Here