Fifty years ago, the Tendulkar family welcomed the arrival of their fourth child in the literary coterie of suburban Mumbai. They decided to call him Sachin.
This was India in the early 1970s – a still young nation in the grip of license raj; Where “Eliminate Poverty” and “Unity in Diversity” were chanted, two years before the Emergency was imposed, and a decade before the Indian team would be the toast of the world playing cricket at Lord’s.
The country, unaware of the arrival of the future icon, gradually learned about Sachin in the latter half of the decade. First, when, at the age of 14, he became noticed for his intense appetite for runs on the Mumbai grounds; Then when he broke into the Indian team in the 16th Cup, scaring the veterans of the time in a specially organized net session; And finally in 1989, when he danced down the track for a ghimire Abdul Qadir in Peshawar, and put aside a bloody nose to stand in for Waqar Younis in Sialkot.
For the 1990s India, freshly open to the world, Sachin became the face of a generation waiting to catch its breath. A generation he may be a product of, but one he will also define. Thus, over the next 20 years, Sachin was a constant as the country acquired new services, amenities, beverages, automobiles, communication networks and TV channels, and was plagued by communal violence and political instability. His legend grew and endured in such a way that the personal histories of entire populations were seamlessly intertwined with his milestones.
We remember where we were when he first walked onto the field as a curly-haired boy in an India jersey. We remember what we were doing when he opened the innings for the first time in an ODI on a cold morning in Auckland in 1994. Sharjah in 1998 when it destroyed Australia in “Desert Storm”. It fell only in Chennai, Pakistan. In 2004 in Sydney when he scored 241 runs. When he pushed the limits of the ODI format by scoring a double century in his 21-year career at Gwalior. When India won the 2011 World Cup at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, he was carried on the shoulders by eccentric teammates. And as he, now 40, wept in his home ground, in front of a stand bearing his name, he said goodbye to a game that had changed his image.
For children in the 80s, young adults in the 90s, young careerists in the 2000s and managers in the 2010s, for large swaths of India, Tendulkar’s memory was full of our own highs and lows, romance and heartbreak. , Promotion and Passover.
Over the past decade, it is hard to imagine Sachin without cricket, but perhaps most difficult is how our own dry, dreary lives can no longer be enlivened by his brilliance.
As a cricket writer in the first half of my journalistic career, I had rare opportunities to get a glimpse of Sachin’s mind and personality. In 2002, for example, Sachin winked at me at the Barbados airport to point out that the correct way to greet people in the Caribbean is with a fist on the heart. In Lahore, on the 2004 tour of Pakistan, Sachin was trailing 19–16 in a table-tennis doubles match with me; And while I was planning my next serve, my ambidextrous opponent shifted the paddle from his right hand to his left, ended the proceedings with five angry strokes, and flashed a mischievous grin. On the flight between tests, Sachin, playing snake on a Nokia phone two seats away, suddenly latched onto my shirt and handed me his handset – the screen was all black, the snake had nothing left to eat.
These were the moments that offered some insight into an otherwise closed personality’s love of people and customs, his innate mischievous streak, and his competitive hunger.
Sachin, the cricketer, was a phenom, but he was not perfect – and neither could anyone be. He had failures and follies like any man. It can be said that he did not always speak for the collective interest of the players in disputes within the Indian board or team. His love for milestones, particularly centuries, was sometimes so consuming that a statistical aspect was created simply by combining two different formats of cricket – and the pursuit of this anomaly, the 100th international century, consumed his batting between the springs. of 2011 and 2012. That he could not always handle the endgame as smoothly as his colleagues VVS Laxman, MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli, and now Rishabh Pant. Unlike the almighty cricket god we like to remember him as, Sachin usually succeeds and sometimes fails.
But these relative weaknesses added an important layer to what Sachin meant to a generation of Indians who identified with him passionately rather than taking anything away from him.
So, when Sachin turns 50, the question is not what the milestone is for him, but what it means for us. For starters, it tells us that we’re all getting older—the hair on the temples is thinning, the sideburns are graying. The world we once lived in, full of countless possibilities, is now behind us. And we, the products of that common time and place, may be divided by class, caste, ideology or politics, but there will always be one thing that binds us – a cricketer whose bat hitting the ball was the sound of our arrival. age