New Delhi: One fine day, I noticed during play period at school that everyone was animatedly talking about a young cricketer who created ripples all across the world with his scintillating four sixes in an over of a renowned cricketer from Pakistan. I was unable to understand what happened as I had not started following cricket at that time and I am generally so bad at understanding anything which I have no idea about.
I could just understand that something big has happened. My next brush with him was when I started seeing matches during the 1992 world cup. Dressed in a navy-blue kit, he was looking like a kid. But his actions on the ground was contrary to his appearance. I was in awe with the way he was taking control of the game. My feelings got endorsement from the people surrounding me as they were watching the game with eyes wide open.
As my knowledge of the game grew, I understood that Indian team was in a transition as many senior cricketers were either at the dusk of their careers or had retired from the game. Amidst all this, Sachin was the new hope of Indian team. He used to take responsibility as well. He would play aggressively in limited overs games.
Sachin started playing in the middle-order initially. But a day came when he voluntarily said that he would like to open the innings. That happened on a day when Navjot Singh Sidhu was injured and there was a dilemma in the team management about the opening batsman. Skipper Mohammad Azharuddin agreed to the idea of Sachin opening the innings at Auckland in New Zealand. Rest as they say is history as Sachin blasted 82 runs from just 49 deliveries.
It was a great morning back in India. I reached school and my pals, with whom I used to talk about cricket, were all elated and overjoyed. We enthusiastically talked about that great innings. Those were not the days when such kind of innings used to played. It was quite rare. From there on, Sachin had cemented his place at the opening spot. Since that day till the end of his career, he mostly played as an opener.
However, despite Sachin becoming a phenomena in India, we were waiting curiously for his maiden hundred in ODI. Importance of centuries was very big those days and he waited for quite sometime before scoring his maiden ODI century. He took 79 games to score his first one. It was Singer Cup in Sri Lanka when he scored his first century. The anticipation was very big as the whole world was waiting for this from the prodigy. In my own account, I was waiting for this to happen with bated breath.
As he reached his nineties, the electricity was interrupted and I had to tune in a radio. And, there he was with his first century. My emotions were palpable and I felt that achievement as mine. My hopes of win in matches would revolve around Sachin. There was an attachment of sort. By this time, his game improved leaps and bounds. He would never repeat his mistakes which I feel was the recipe of his greatness. He could thrash any bowler opening the innings with utter disdain. One could feel the arrogance with which he treated bowlers.
I remember he got an opportunity to play domestic matches once during this phase and it was a real carnage. There were demands from domestic cricketers to ban him from playing domestic cricket. Of course, that were said in light manner. His popularity was touching new heights with every game that he played. Streets would get deserted while he used to be at the crease. If there was a TV shop with a unit in front, you could see people gathering there to get the sight of Sachin’s innings.
Just when he used to be dismissed, people used to immediately disperse from there. With just 6-7 years into international cricket, he was arguably the best batsman in the world leaving behind the stalwarts such as Brian Lara, Aravinda De Silva and Mark Waugh. The hallmark of his career was his exploits at the world cups. Every world cup that he played, he was one of the best scorers.
Sachin was also a phenomenon during the desert storm (as we fondly remember). By the end of 1998, I reckon he was at top of his game and bowlers would get jittery while bowling to him. Shane Warne had admitted that he used to get dreams of Sachin whacking him all over the park. This was probably the best phase of his career. Endorsements and deals came pouring in. Everything was happening with him.
With the World Tel deal, he was beyond cricket and would be around prominent sportsman across all sports. By this time, Bradman was also getting in awe of him. In his own words, he would see a reflection of him in Sachin. Bradman called him for a dinner Down Under and he just obliged. His camaraderie with ace F1 racer Michael Schumacher was also in headlines those days. Until this time, I used to completely idolise him and he was my hero.
My other prominent memory of Sachin was during the 2003 ODI World Cup campaign. As usual, Sachin was on mission during the world cup. He had always played supremely well in world cups in the past and the 2003 world cup was no exception. The game against Pakistan was a highly-anticipated one on both sides of the border. Sachin walked in and started to whack the bowlers. His upper cut six off Shoaib Akhtar had brought the crowd up on their feet. It was a thrilling start. He continued to dominate the Pakistani bowlers till the time he ensured a win in the game. The streets in Delhi saw people doing Bhangra in jubilation after the match.
Despite his spirited performances in all the world cups, he had to wait until 2011 to lift the trophy. In his own admission, Sachin took to cricket when India had lifted the 1983 world cup. He was a kid back then and he started playing the game seriously afterwards. It was a coveted dream for him to lift the trophy. That became possible in 2011 campaign. He was at the fag end of his career. But didn’t deter him to score big. He was again playing with great passion. He was hitting big sixes and also anchored the innings many times.
As an ardent fan, I am never short of words while describing Sachin Tendulkar. I can just go on and on. A book can be written on him. But these are just my prominent memories of him from his playing days. Sachin had never put a foot wrong. He just played all the games with great heart. Sachin was indeed a God in India. We wish Sachin Tendulkar a very happy birthday.