In a very creative banner ,i think, in the 1992 triangular One Day International Series in Australia, a few Australian kids had put up a a scoreboard showing 10-Dulkar and kept adding to the score as he scored 11- Dulkar, 15- Dulkar and so on. I dont remember how much he scored that day, but today nearly 18 years later , in test matches, it should read “14000”Dulkar. Records keep coming thick and fast as Sachin distances himself away from immediate competition. 10/10/10, as another banner, this time in India, proclaimed is “Ten”Dulkars day.
Sachin Tendulkar has been India’s talisman for the last 20 years and the weight of a Nation has hardly caused him to buckle or waver in his path. Always the team man, he has been the steel behind India’s rise to No 1. We must remember he started in an era when wickets around the world were still fast and not the flatbeds that we come across nowadays, when Imran Khan and Wasim Akram were at their best and India were still not considered a top – flight test nation. Indian batsmen were considered weak against the Short Ball and incapable of winning overseas. Kapil Dev was past his prime, no Gavaskar, Vishwanath or Amarnath to shoulder the batting responsibilities and a new captain in Azhar. He was almost the magic pill that the whole of India thought would overnight change our fortunes. Of course there was no magic pill but the Boy Wonder did not disappoint. He assumed the role of India’s premier batsman without fuss and many a time waged a lone hand against rampaging oppositions abroad. Until Dravid, Ganguly and later Lakshman grew in stature in the 2000s, the 90s saw Sachin playing the lone ranger save some odd bursts of genius from Azhar. Sometimes audiences would stop seeing the match once he got out. It was this weight of responsibility and a complete commitment to make India one of the best teams in the world , I feel that inhibited his growth as an out and out strokeplayer.
There is no point in discussing his talent and ability because God created him for cricket but he is only human(surprisingly so!!) and has faced quite a few disappointments. Captaincy did not sit well with him. His fourth innings performances were not upto scratch and couldn’t lead India to victories as his peer Lara did. There were questions regarding his slowing down in the 90s in ODIS to complete hundreds and allegations were that he was record hungry. In the late 90s and throughout 2000s, he had a string of injuries that affected his style and critics were onto him, calling for his head. He had to contend with new age players who sometimes had more flair, faced less pressure and had the advantages of facing weak bowling attacks and flat pitches the world over. The aura was fading slowly but surely.
This was all rubbish, of course. Sachin always had a single minded determination to contribute to the team’s cause. Slowly and surely he helped nurturing the best from succeeding generations into a World Beating unit. He did not worry about looking less attractive for the team’s cause or fielding in the deep and putting in the hard work or playing under younger captains. He has been the glue and always has contributed. His place in the side was kept on the basis of merit not just experience. There were some doubting Thomases, yours truly included, who thought that he was carrying it too far after 2007.
But the second wind has been spectacular. The young Robin has evolved into India’s Batman and mature batting masterclasses are seen every other innings. We no longer have to worry if he will carry us through to victory, since we have multiple super heroes now but he is always there to contribute and match the young guns. The crowds still come to watch him and all rise when Sachin walks in, as they did 20 years ago. The same sense of excitement and expectation remains.That is Sachin’s greatness, his legacy. 100 international hundreds is just around the corner, the elusive World Cup could be his crowning glory. Where he stands with respect to the his peers, other greats of different eras and achievements will always be a topic of debate but what cannot be argued is that for world cricket he is and has always been top draw, the master and the champion with timeless charm.
March on Great One to ‘15000’Dulkar – Set your own benchmarks!!!