Sunday, November 15, 2009

2 Decades of Power Play

“In a gentle way you can shake the world”

-- Mahatma Gandhi

Main khelega” said a squeaky voice from under the helmet covering the blood smeared face of a 5’ 6”body lying near the pitch. We’ve heard the story a hundred times from Sidhu (in an unmatched charismatic way that only he can manage), of how a 16 year old kid - who had no business being out of the comforts of school, leave alone facing the likes of Imran Khan, Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram at their fiercest bests in a cricket pitch – had refused to leave the ground despite being hit on the face by a Waqar Younis special. “Main khalega” – these are perhaps the two words which best sum up the hunger, sum up the attitude of the great man towards the game, during and even after 20 years from the incident. The world knew that the 16 year old had come of age.

Enough is already been written about him as he knocks off another milestone in his career. There are not enough superlatives to describe what he has done in these 20 years, so I will not even attempt to tread the path. But what amuses me, is, that despite all this, he could never please the critics enough. If the critics had had their way, he would never have made his debut at such a tender age. If the critics had had their way, he would have hung his boot by now. The world would not have known what they would have missed. For some time, he let the numbers do the talking on his behalf - 10K runs, 30 odd centuries. But after a certain point, perhaps even the numbers became so huge and unfathomable (and as meaningless as the age of “Baa” in the Indian television soap industry). Perhaps they should stop keeping track of his records and just employ the symbol for infinity and make the life of the statisticians easier. And by the way, the 20 years haven’t always been about the runs alone; but the manner, the precision, the style, the honesty and the simplicity with which he’s got them. It’s been about his flawless image; the fact that never once has he been involved in any tussle with the media or a team-mate or the opposition, any drunken escapade, any incriminating incident or any other spat that usually accompanies super stardom at a young age.

Margaret Thatcher once remarked that if her critics saw her walking on a river, they would say it was because she could not swim. The legend too, brought some changes to his batting style, at times adopting a more cautious, a more mature approach – cutting down on some of the aerial shots, cutting down on some of the flair. And people came up with theories of his reflexes betraying him. Mind you it was more out of choice than anything else; and one thing he did not cut down on, was class. Yet, as a reminder to his critics, he produced one of those innings time and again, as if taking it out from a shelf and placing it back there again. Aren’t we fortunate to have seen so many avtaars of the legend, each one special in its own realm, each one with genius written all over?

“ENDulkar?” screamed the headlines of the TOI after the Mumbai test against England in 2006. Well I hope whoever came up with this phrase has a good enough sense of humour to laugh at himself each time the man goes out to bat and comes up with something special, else life would have become miserable for him. But this has been the legend’s story all his life - some people have kept throwing stones at him and he has kept converting them into milestones, craftily and gently.

In the gentlest possible way, he has made billions celebrate and cheer, he’s given them a reason to rejoice, and to cry - a reason to live; in the gentlest possible way he has made a mockery of bowling attacks, slaughtered their confidence, given opponents sleepless nights; in the gentlest possible way he has shaken the world. It is difficult to imagine what life would have been without cricket and it is impossible to imagine what cricket would have been without Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.

P.S. – The quote by Gandhiji was used by the man himself to describe Harsha Bhogle, another legend in his own rights; but if anything, it fits seamlessly with Sachin.

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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Stay hungry, stay foolish

Well after the shock of the last post, I am back in this space. For those who are actually reading it (I won’t blame you if you’re not), don’t get scared by the title (it could very well have been a continuation of the last one - after all, the ‘great selectors’ did continue with the same team for the remainder of the series). Instead I choose to write about something, the very sight of which, even in print, makes the heart warm – friendship. Now, I know I am making a very controversial statement, but I stick my neck out and say that the same is not true for love – atleast not for everyone (well for me, it sometimes sends a chill down my spine :P).

Friends have always been the constant source of my strength. They groomed me to face the hard life by helping me brave the taxing weather of Jaipur - sitting in the canteen under a fan which never worked - when I could easily have spoilt myself by sitting in the comfort of the air conditioned lecture rooms or labs. They helped me become a better citizen by making me contribute to the government and the nation in a better way; after all, liquor has a higher tax associated with it when compared to soft drinks. They nurtured me to be better prepared for any adverse eventualities in life, by staying up all night with me, playing 29, at a time when I could have taken the easier route of studying to save my ass for the exam next day. Back in Shillong, they helped add wings to my imagination by providing me with ample opportunities to cook up stories to explain my inability to get back home at the given deadline. Friends, I could so easily have become a nerd had it not been for you guys. I’ll never be able to thank you enough in my entire lifetime.

We often take our friends for granted and either tend to forget to acknowledge them for all that they mean to us, or are unable to do so. When you visit a friend’s house and find your picture among others adorning his bedroom wall, why does it become so difficult to find the correct words to express how much it means to us? Or when you catch up with a friend after what looks like ages, why is it so difficult to tell them, in their times of grief, that you are concerned and sincerely hope things will get back on track for them? I guess, maybe because you know that they will understand. Well, you can kick friendship like a football and it’ll never break. Yet there are hurdles in friendship that, in retrospect, only make it more interesting. Well I’ve actually been involved in a physical fight with someone who is now one of the bestest friends I have, and had it not been for the timely entry of his driver, the world would have seen his last. Maybe a little kicking does friendship no harm.

A person who loses his wife is known as a widower. A person who loses his parents is called an orphan. But even the English language has not been able to come up with any word to describe the loss of a person who has lost a friend. I have also parted with friends at various stages - in my neighborhood, in school, in high school, college. True they were not the closest of friends to mean an end of the world for me, but it doesn’t always make you proud to end on a low. Although I’ve managed to reconcile with a couple over the years, but something always has the final say – my ego, the word whose spelling even a guy in the highest state of drunken stupor does not forget (some people will know whom am I referring to - sorry dude :D). Ah, maybe you shouldn’t kick friendship forever.

Well maybe as in life, so also in friendship – you win some, you lose some. The Geeta with all its wisdom says something which amounts to there are no friends and you fight all your battles alone. I have never been the wise types, and will prefer staying foolish and hungry for friends, especially if life is so much interesting this way.

To all my friends,
P. S. – I love Y!ou :)

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