Mihir Bose, a renowned sports journalist, once said that Barack Obama, then President of the United States, wished to meet Sachin Tendulkar. “Why does the GDP of my country go down by 5% every time this man bats,” Obama had asked. There was indeed something about the man. There was something about Sachin that would not stop time, but would make you forget that the clock is still moving.
At a very young age, I was introduced by my brother to the phenomenon called Sachin Tendulkar in 2003. The phenomenon, by then, had gripped the whole country. From a child prodigy, Sachin Tendulkar had moved on to become one of the most feared batsman to play the game. From thereon professionally, he grew much faster to become the batting great, the little master, the superman from India, the ‘God’ of Cricket. But for fans, he was not merely a cricketer, he was neither limited to being the Indian Superman or the maestro or the powerhouse—he developed into a feeling. A feeling that we cherished, and still do in the form of memories.
In 2011, India won its second ever World Cup and Tendulkar, his only one. Although the World Cup will be remembered for Yuvraj Singh’s heroics and that MS Dhoni towering, match-sealing six in the final against Sri Lanka, the match that will stay with me all my life is the one against South Africa. It was a match that witnessed a classic Tendulkar inning, and I co-incidentally watched the match in a classic Tendulkar-fan manner.
The World Cup was being played at the time when my class X final exams were taking place. I was not allowed to watch the matches as I had to prepare for exams. After the toss, it was decided that India would bat first. Just then, I told my parents, I got a call from my tuition centre, saying they are holding a special two-hour long class just before the exam. There was no such phone call. I lied as there was no way to convince my parents to let me watch the match, at least only till Sachin batted. I had missed his century against England earlier in the World Cup as my brother forced me to stay away in the other room, saying, “he scores in every match, you will fail all your exams.” I was ready to do anything to watch Sachin bat against South Africa uninterruptedly.
I spent the next two hours standing outside a TV showroom along with dozens of other fans, watching the match being telecast on various screens. Sachin came to open the innings with Sehwag and the duo soon started punishing the strong South African bowlers. Sachin looked settled for another big knock and Sehwag and then Gautam Gambhir supported him ably. Habitually, the little man piled up another century, his 99th international century, and got out in the 40th over after scoring 111 off just 101 balls. India looked settled for a marvellous total as the team scoresheet read, 267 for just two wickets and 62 balls to be played. But the ghost of the most part of his career, where he was the lone performer for the team always, returned to haunt. Gambhir followed him to the pavilion in the very next over, Yusuf Pathan two balls after Gambhir and the rest of the wickets fell like the proverbial nine pins. From 267-2 in 39.4 overs when Sachin got out, India were bowled out for 296 with eight balls still to spare.
A classic Tendulkar inning, wasn’t it? Where till the time he was at the crease, a victory looked like a cake-walk for India and as soon as he departed, the team managed to lose the match by three wickets, as they put up merely 29 runs after his departure. But do I regret lying? Hell no! That was a Tendulkar fan witnessing an unadulterated Tendulkar innings. Happy birthday, Master Blaster!