Here comes our Narottam Puri, the commentator with his silky voice. Here comes our little cricket master. The excitement in the air, its flow in the veins, its manifestation in the breathing, to tell the scores, to inform about every wicket fall – that was the love for cricket that I lived, a love that Sachin Tendulkar became the last symbolism of.
I was mad about cricket. For elders and friends, I was a walking data-bank on cricket. Plans to plan the next day, the next summer holidays for cricketing adventures always cornered the maximum chunk of whatever little grey-matter I used to have then.
That was until the gentleman’s game started getting more colourful.
Plain, white, simple – cricket was an immaculate love of many. Being colourful is good, is precious, but it didn’t suit the modern version of cricket. Cricket became less and less inspiring and connecting as it got more and more colourful.
As Sachin Tendulkar retires from cricket, the nostalgia of being a cricket-crazy boy revisits me again. For me, Sachin was its last embodiment and I believe there would many others sharing this feeling.
Sachin Tendulkar, for millions, is, undoubtedly, the last cricketing icon who has become synonymous with the game.
Sachin began in an era when cricket happened to be like a religion for the fans, the fans who were in hundreds of millions. Soon, performance and the spirit of sportsmanship made him the most bankable star of it. His aura spread further with the progress of his career. He came to be adorned as the god of cricket in a cricket-crazy country that India was.
After the likes of Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev and Kris Srikkanth hanged their boots, Sachin was the only player many would watch a match for. For me (and for millions others), any cricketing game was restricted to the duration Sachin was batting (if India was looking to slip in the game).
Then, the whole nation crooned to the rhythm of each shot, followed pace of each delivery.
Sachin became the reason for hoping against the hope in Indian cricket, even if he was running out of form, even if he was being written off.
That was when cricket happened to be like a religion in India.
Cricket is not religion anymore. Like any other game involving big money, it has become a hotbed of controversies.
Cricket ceased to be a gentleman’s game the day the first big match-fixing scandal broke involving Indian and South African players.
It was a shocker. It humiliated my feelings, my passion, my zeal for the game (and so of millions others). I followed and played cricket with such an uncontrollable love for the game that I didn’t care much even for my board exams.
The loss of interest was sudden when the scandal broke and with every subsequent cricketing scandal, it grew into apathy.
Scores became irrelevant. Outcome didn’t matter anymore. When the cricket statistician in me died a silent death I couldn’t realize.
But, there was still one connect left.
That was Sachin Tendulkar.
A down-to-earth cricketing god, drawn away from controversies, talking and living humility, talking and living cricket!
Though the fixing scandals took away cricket’s soul that made it a game of gentlemen; that made people passionate about it; that added the feeling of nationalism at stake with every moment of a match, it was STILL different when Sachin would come to play.
I would watch him playing. I would still sit and cheer for India as long as he was batting or bowling. I would still revisit the moments of nervous break-down like situations when the game was in critical situation and when we all would be expecting Sachin to deliver victory for us, for India.
Though cricket lost its gentlemanly character but Sachin continued to be the eternal brand ambassador of cricket’s gentlemanly era.
The ‘gentleman’ and the ‘master-blaster’ icons that the Indian cricket has produced include great names like Gavaskar, Kapil, Srikkanth, and Ganguly but Sachin is the last and the longest-lasting one and he’ll remain so.
Watching each delivery with fingers crossed, holding the breath, employing and exercising superstitious gestures like being glued to a place, in a particular posture, or not speaking and so on – that was the love of cricket and Sachin only multiplied the joy of it by taking the spirit of the game to the higher levels.
That would not be the case anymore.
©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/