Every young kid who has lived to see the Sachin Tendulkar magic has a distinct memory of the genius. Those who recall his classics from the archives are fortunate, but those who have had one-on-one interactions should feel blessed. I am part of the latter group who lives to share an experience every kid in the 90s dreamed of, at a time when the entire nation was high on three alphabets – SRT.
My first Tendulkar moment was in the mid-90s – charity match in the small town of Mangalore in coastal Karnataka. A little boy purchased a ticket to watch Sachin. Sachin took off from the very first ball and it was just a matter of time until he got to his century. Mangalore went wild and the little boy caught in the frenzy, high on adrenaline, charged on to the pitch, desperate for a handshake. Almost there, just about to reach forward, at arm’s length … but caught by a cop who would lathi-charge him back. Life can be unfair. But the consolation for the boy was “I got to see him from so close”.
15 years on, the same boy happened to meet Sachin Tendulkar once again, this time at the Taj Lands End Hotel in Mumbai for the unveiling of the legend’s wax statue. Sachin was waiting to address the media when I went up to him and narrated the entire story. Quick to acknowledge that charity match, Sachin recalled a few moments just when I interrupted by saying, “That time I was denied the opportunity to shake hands with you and today 15 years on, I finally get my chance.”
Sachin’s reply was spontaneous and unassuming – “Oh it’s my pleasure”. With a lump in my throat I replied, “Sir, it’s my honour”. After exchanging a few more pleasantries I went back to my spot with the rest of the media but left with a lasting impression on my mind. Greatness sometimes is the willingness to acknowledge the presence of the lesser-known. A mind that’s respectful, a person who is compassionate and an individual who is considerate. Sachin has forever been an epitome of such values.
His life is a lesson on how to be a person before being a professional. His principles precede his passion which reflects the ideologies on which he has grown as an individual. While many attach education to one’s growth in life, Sachin’s upbringing and learning through observation underlines the importance of knowing what’s right and adapting around the don’ts. As said; formal education makes you a living but self-education makes you a fortune’ and clearly Sachin’s fortune is not about his fame, but what kind of person he still is even today.
While his humility is time and again spoken about off the field, his demeanour transforms into discipline on the field. It’s evident from the moment he sets out to bat, with that first glance up into the sky, bat under his left arm, putting on his gloves, few warm-up hops and skips and then some shadow practice. Indian cricket is largely built around the aura of an entry that is today synonymous with not just Indian cricket but even world cricket.
A few observations about Sachin Tendulkar indicate the unmatched focus, consistency and dedication he has maintained over the years. As a young kid, Sachin was often seen without a helmet, but after a point, one really cannot remember when was the last time he batted without a helmet, even when two spinners were bowling in tandem. Sachin’s century celebration of taking off his helmet has got more to do with the innings in context to the match rather than achieving the milestone.
Sachin has always enjoyed bowling, his animated field settings to the T speak about the involvement and seriousness with which he wants to excel in every situation. Also, the manner in which he chases the ball even today, Sachin hates when the batsmen chance a double when played to him, he even expresses it by hurling the ball to the strikers end from long-on, only to tell the batsmen, he is still very much in it.
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Even today Sachin shows desperation for that unlikely single, even today, this 39-year-old scampers back for that improbable double and time and again throws himself around on the field only to deny runs and defy age. This is an attitude indicator of an approach that has been built through a resolute mindset over the years. Something most contemporary cricketers don’t seem to achieve in the flash and brash of international and league cricket.
The current generation of cricketers who have had a chance to spend time with Sachin should consider themselves lucky. Observation and conversation will help them in their own careers. I’ve come across quite a few young cricketers who consider themselves the be all and end all of Indian cricket. I only hope they understand what it means to be standing in the company of Sachin Tendulkar.
This doesn’t aim to be PR copy, just an account from someone who has grown up admiring a teacher, who still admits he is learning. Cricket is very much in parallel to life – a leveller, an educator and a reminder – as Sachin the student continues to learn, let’s also imbibe from him – and walks the path of modesty, humility and humbleness. One can always write about his achievements, milestones and records but let’s admire and appreciate the person who hasn’t changed one bit with all the adulation and fame. For once, let’s applaud the person in him and not just the professional.
As Sachin Tendulkar turns 47, times have changed, people have as well, but Sachin Tendulkar, the individual hasn’t changed much like his straight drive with a full face of the bat.