If my mind was a 800 TB memory dump with 400 TB of images, Sachin would possibly occupy 100 TB of that space.
Sharjah 1998 : Shane Warne is being taken to the cleaners by Sachin. Shane Warne decides to come around the wicket. Shane Warne barely lets go of the ball. Sachin is half way down the track. The ball lands up in the hands of one of the thousands of adoring fans in the stadium. The crowd goes mad. A nation falls madly in love. The love story continues unabated. No breakups. Little squabbles, yes. But fights, no.
Chennai 1999 : India chase 271 for what would be one of the greatest victories of all time. Top order collapses. Dravid gets possibly the best delivery he'd face in his career. Ganguly gets out to what is described in gully cricket parlance as 'one pitch catch' (or was it two). Nayan joins Sachin. Mind goes back to Nayan's counter punching innings at Sharjah which almost everyone else seem to have forgotten. Hope surfaces. Sachin cuts and sweeps and sweeps. The author of this piece gets ready to celebrate with the other 40000 at the stadium. Sachin goes for his first ungainly swipe, Akram pouches the catch. India lose.
Once in a while comes this player whom everyone wants to own. Someone who you feel so privileged to watch and you are so in love with that you would seldom want to get into arguments about that player for the fear of hearing anything negative about him. Our generation possibly got insanely lucky in that regard : Pete Sampras, Roger Federer, Tiger Woods, Micheal Jordan, Micheal Schumacher and our very own Sachin Tendulkar. Of the lot, Sachin is perhaps the least global and the most endearing of the lot. For 20 long years, he has enthralled a nation, gave them a reason to celebrate, an object to deify and he has done so without as much as a whiff of celebrity like behaviour. When I was a kid, somewhere I heard this silly rule that if an individual lives on the same rented space for more than 12 years, he has ownership rights to the space. If that be the case, Sachin possibly owns a billion minds and hearts by now.
In some senses Sachin is more than a genius, he is like a genie to all of us. You could almost hear him whis(h)per 'Make a wish now and I'll make your wish come true'. There have been failures, yes, but then, if the Himalayas were just a continuous stretch of land at an altitude of 8000 metres, it'll cease to be the colossal mountain range it is and became just a tall plateau. For long periods of time Sachin has produced the runs with his team in ruins. Harsha Bhogle calls him the 10 for 2 man. The innings at Cape Town in 1997 when in the matter of 2 sessions, Sachin along with Azhar made Donald & Co look like club bowlers remains fresh in the mind. That it took a blinder of a catch (Adam Bacher) to put an end to that innings is an indication of how impenetrable Sachin can be on his best days.
For possibly the greatest batsman of all time, some of the most enduring images come from his bowling feats. His dismissal of Moin Khan late on the third day at Multan to ensure that India finished that day firmly on top would do even Shane Warne proud. Perhaps his first big moment in India is his last over heroics in the Hero cup semifinal. Hidden in the many heroics of the Adelaide test (referred to as Dravid's test) is a 2 wicket burst by Sachin to ensure that a fighting stand between Waugh and Martyn was cut short. This is perhaps the story of the man. There may have been victories where he would not have contributed with the bat, but hidden somewhere in the subtext would be that critical wicket, a crucial catch, a contribution which would have turned the tide in India's favour.
Comparisons will be drawn with Lara and Ponting. About their ability to close out matches or their ability to demolish the opposition in a manner unlike Sachin. But those critiques are for later. This is moment to cherish what Sachin has given to the millions of cricket connoisseurs across the globe. Millions are not numbers easily associated with people, but then so not are 30,000 international runs.
P.S : (PJ warning) The inspiration for the title comes from a mix of two other title contenders : An Ode to Sachin and Odu Sachin Odu.
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