And it happens, in every sport, almost always. We talk about the accomplishments and the greatness of a player and somehow end up discussing numbers. Probably it is the numbers that accurately describe a player’s achievement. Or perhaps counting the numbers and immersing into statistics is an easy way to ignore the artist in a player – the class, the style, the temperament and so on, all these are not highlighted often enough.
In the time Sachin Tendulkar has played for India, we have talked about numbers and records to applaud him and to castigate him. However, news of his imminent retirement has stirred up the emotions. The debate whether he is the greatest batsman ever has taken a back seat. Almost no one is talking about his second-innings record. Suddenly, the anxiety of watching cricket without someone with whom we have grown up and grown old has surfaced; the dreadful imagination that there would not be any more Sachin moment has already started haunting.
Sachin has a huge number of admirers all over the cricketing world and not for a single wrong reason – not because of his face, smile or body. The words of appreciation in abundance come out from millions of cricket fans for him because of his exceptional batting abilities. The admiration for this man has always been on a different level. His presence on the wicket is what almost everyone wanted to see. To watch him walk up to the crease was the most favourite moment of many cricket fans. This was the moment when the noise travelled rhythmically from one stand to another in the stadium. It will end now. Two more tests, and all these will end.
The last 10 or 15 years have been the most brutal, malicious and selfish era in the history of cricket. A number of unpleasant incidents hit the game. But that did not affect Sachin. He kept going, his usual way. Two and a half decade in cricket, Sachin has remained untainted, desperate, persistent, always the one on whom we could rely in the bad times of cricket. Controversy and Sachin were always two things. He was censured quite a few times but never answered. It was his bat which appeared as both a sword and a shield in all such hard times. Perhaps this sets him apart. He was the man who did things right, who took Indian cricket on his head. He was the cricketer with whom we associated ourselves.
The moments of bliss that Sachin offered are innumerable. He was always the hope, the torch-bearer who carried our relentless demands and strains on his shoulder. Nothing was impossible when Sachin was on the crease. He was everything – the sheet anchor, the creator, the destroyer. Watching Sachin play brought unflappability and joy; his absence will bring uneasiness, a crummy feeling. And that feeling has actually started coming out.
Sachin will leave a space within us, a feeling of an inexplicable despair. The time might be right for him to say goodbye to cricket, but I suspect whether the game can afford to lose him. Cricket will only be miserable without him. Those deadly straight drives, elegant cover drives, effortless upper cuts, and charming paddle sweeps cannot be replaced. No one can replace Sachin Tendulkar.