November 18, 2013
And finally the maestro has left, and it’s hard to digest his loss. After watching him bat for more than two decades, I never adored his game as much as I adored Dravid and Laxman. But now when he has departed, I feel I miss him. It's only when someone leaves permanently, that we feel their absence. With this, the era of maverick Indian batting line-up that boasted of Sehwag, Dravid, Laxman, Ganguly and the Maestro himself that ruled world cricket for the last decade, comes to a sad end.
This gigantic line up would remain irreplaceable for years to come, together they produced some of India’s best wins both at home and overseas. There was a time when Indian batsmen crumbled under pressure and surrendered to hostile fast bowling, but this line up confronted world class bowling attack with class and character.
Making of a Brand
Over a period of time, the Little Master as often as he has been hailed, grew to become the Maestro of the game, graduating to becoming the finest batsman after Sir Donald Bradman to have played the game. Sachin’s game is delightful to watch, with varied shots, innovative techniques and zero respect for quality bowling; Tendulkar is one of the few geniuses in the history of the game. A god to millions of his fans and a ‘money-minting’ machine to the cricket boards and corporate dons, Tendulkar’s image and his cricketing brilliance were smartly and insidiously used to pump millions of dollars. Although he himself became one of the wealthiest individuals in India, it also saw the decline and the last nail on the coffin for India’s national sport hockey, which lost its minor fan following soon after the emergence of the ‘God’ like cricketer.
Over a period of time, with India’s open market policy, Tendulkar became a Brand and a Factory to market and sell products. The highly dubious BCCI and the hauling Media partnered in profits, as they promoted Brand Tendulkar and expanded their network.
Was the retirement announced a bit late?
Legendary Australian Pacer Glen Mcgrath, announcing his retirement after the triumphant 2007 World Cup, in which he played a pivotal role, said, “People should ask why now, and not why not, when a player retires”. Now, does that apply to Sachin Tendulkar? The answer lies in his batting average graph for the last two years
But then, the Maestro is little to be blamed for belatedness. His decisions are seldom made on his own, and often by his cricketing bosses and the media managers, who have run the Tendulkar Factory for all these years quite profitably. As soon as the Maestro announced his retirement, the media explosion and the subsequent arrangement of a home series against a faint and fragile West Indies, clearly seems to be a well planted plot.
Moreover, the two test matches were played in a T-Twenty mood. And the West Indies playing test cricket is actually a disgrace to Test cricket and would further degrade its status. But, it also made the route for India smoother, as the crowd and the entire nation celebrated Diwali for the second time this month. And the BCCI, noise-polluting media and the big-bellied corporate houses have financially benefited enormously in this little exaggerated, little superficial, little dramatic, but highly emotional Maestro farewell.
The Little Master debuted in 1989 against Pakistan at a tender age of sixteen. He was hit on the head by the rookie pacer Waqar Younis, who was also making his debut, but that didn’t stop the little man, and he carried on to strike a respectable half century. Tendulkar’s ability to rise above the odds and fight against adversaries was a regular feature in the past twenty four years of cricket he has played.
Shooting back to the 1996 World Cup, it was heartening to see the hapless Indian team depending on the shoulders of Little Master. Sachin gave firing starts, and by the time the side reached three figures, Sachin’s individual score read 90! And by the time he got out, the entire side used to panic, and within a few minutes the whole side was back in the pavilion. Life seemed to be hard for the Little Master, there was absolutely no way the side could withstand the tiniest waves without his services.
But in the later nineties, arrival of Indian crickets ‘Colossal’ batting line up in the form of Ganguly, Laxman, Dravid and Sehwag, eased up the pressure. And the maestro felt the weight in his shoulders drop to a considerable level. In the process of romanticizing the Maestro, one cannot and shouldn’t ignore the contribution of an equally impressive cricketer Rahul Dravid. Dravid brought a new dimension to Indian middle order with impeccable techniques and textbook style stroke plays.
Dravid had one of the best forward defences, and displayed great temperament. This enabled him to rescue India from several debacles. Rahul Dravid’s role in magnifying the Indian batting quality in Fast-bouncy tracks in overseas tours is immense. Teaming up with Laxman, Dravid has to his credit, some of India’s greatest wins. His role in the 1999 and 2003 World Cups was crucial; the unforgettable Kolkatta test match in 2001 series and the Adelaide Test Match in 2003 against the mighty Aussie attack, where he teamed up with Very Very Special Laxman to produce some of the finest innings in the history of the game, speaks a lot of this man’s caliber.
Both Dravid and Tendulkar had their moments of agitation and frustrations, on and off the field, but largely both remained calm and composed. Both had difficult times leading the side. But Dravid shied away from media limelight, while Sachin was kept afloat hogging (unintenally). And when their departure came, one left the scene in utter silence and the other’s retirement has been celebrated as a national festival.
Nevertheless, they shouldn’t be compared, but one couldn’t succeed without other. As in the movie Life of Pi, where the protagonist ‘Pi’ after getting shipwrecked survives with a tiger with the help of a lifeboat - both struggle for survival in the sea, their struggle depicts the importance of them being together, one cannot survive without other.
At the end of his career, Tendulkar finished with over a hundred centuries in both test and limited formats of the game. An achievement nothing less than monumental, and after being part of the Indian team for nearly three decades, he has left a hollow spot in the lineup. We will never have a cricketer like him at least in our generation.
Chris D'Souza Archives:
- Aussie Cricket: Decline of an Empire
- Comedians who Never Made us Laugh
- From Gentleman's Game to Conman's Den