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I have seen God

I have  seen God
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I Have Seen God, Little Master, Sachin Tendulkar. I have seen God. He bats at No 4 for India - the most iconic tribute comes from yet another contemporary, Mathew Hayden. Sachin Tendulkar has been the nation’s obsession for close to 25 years

He bats at No 4 for India.

I have seen God. He bats at No 4 for India - the most iconic tribute comes from yet another contemporary, Mathew Hayden. Sachin Tendulkar has been the nation’s obsession for close to 25 years. In the intervening years, India notched up World Cups in the shorter formats and emerged as the Numero Uno in Tests, while the Little Master bore the brunt as he was subject to play cricket under tremendous pressure. Even as he entertained us with nonchalant gusto, there were moments when it was difficult for him to sustain the aura of invincibility. Today, as the icon announces his retirement, the entire nation is in mourning and wondering whether world cricket will be the same again.

Any budding cricketer torn between his adoration for two distinctly separate but champion batsmen whose stroke-play was poles apart, and wishes to blend his own batting interwoven with the finest from the two, is surely embarking on a future that would be laughably daunting to even think of.

If the batsmen in question are of the extraordinary calibre of Sunil Gavaskar and Vivian Richards, then the aspirations of an ambitious but precocious eight-year-old make for a nightmarish task. To add to this gut feeling, he had this inner urge to be an integral, or perhaps the backbone, of a World Cup winning Indian team.

Indeed, the child prodigy blossomed into precisely that. He blended the immaculate copybook approach of Gavaskar with the raw aggression of Sir Richards to magical levels that was to unnerve every bowler of his era.

There has been surrealistic approach to the manner he reinvented batting, perfect at one point and audacious at the very next moment. Like his own role-models, even he returned to the pavilion, more often than not, as a dubious fall-out of his own poor judgment of the ball.

Three decades later that curly-haired cherubic youngster (who was once mistaken for a girl by a teammate) has transcended from being a Boy Wonder to a living legend to a larger than life figure who could be endeared by one and all. He adorned the drawing room walls of millions of cricket fans because he was the epitome of grace, decency and above all the perfect inspirational role-model.

It is rare to come across someone like Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, the gem of a man who embodied sportsman spirit in its virgin form all through a glittering career that will take eons to be surpassed by the lesser mortals.

It is not for nothing that Tendulkar has been the most venerated and hero-worshipped Indian celebrity, each reverence coming straight from the heart.

If the upstarts wish to emulate the ‘eternal role-model’, the contemporaries hope to take a leaf out of the meticulous manner he solidified his career from day one while the senior citizens pray to have a grandchild like the ‘doting boy next door.’

That is the magical spell the batting phenomenon has cast on just about every Indian and perhaps every cricketer from across the Seven Seas.

As Andy Flower has rightly summed it up-There are two kinds of batsmen in the world. One, Sachin Tendulkar. Two, all of others.

That is the quintessential batsman for you!

Why should one envy a player who is arguably described as the greatest and the most complete batsman, who holds almost all batting records, including in Tests and ODIs. Such has been his bolstering presence in the dressing room and correspondingly a nightmare for the opposition captain that he has never been dropped for want of form, fitness or otherwise, barring for a controversial ODI Down Under.

The irony is that, call it fallibility or infallibility, irrespective of whether he did something noteworthy or not he has been the national obsession for close to 25 years, during which span he entertained us, kept us glued to the television if not woo us to the stadiums, made us forget our own sorrows as we shared his emotions like they were our own.

A decade ago, when he failed to inspire an Indian win despite being at his pristine best, Indian Express ran a headline that best expressed the moods of the people-Sachin fails, India falls!

Of course, somewhere in the middle he did prove that for all his superman qualities, he was a mortal, after all. He failed to live up to the people’s expectations and came a cropper on myriad occasions. It is obvious that it would be a tough calling for even Tendulkar to sustain the aura of near invincibility every time he goes to the middle. For instance, caught in the vortex of a public outcry that questioned his avowed decision to hang on and making matters worse, he took an unbelievable 370 days to accomplish his 100th international hundred and that too against the lowly Bangladesh.

This was probably the cost one had to pay for being The Tendulkar in a cricket-mad nation that expects nothing but the very best from people like him. The countrymen mourned any loss in spite of his coming up with a three-figure knock. The enormous responsibility thrust on him in a hero-starved India is best described by South African Test captain Graeme Smith-Sachin had always performed under an extreme amount of pressure and never had any scandals, which was a credit to him and his family.

This rings true because he was expected to do the donkeywork all along while the others shared the joy that it gave birth to not realizing that it was a Tendulkar presence that impacted the resultant outcome.

That was uncharacteristically uncharitable, and a tad too harsh, on the man who strode like a colossus and left indelible prints on whichever battlefield he set his foot on.

Perhaps he failed as the general because he was neither adept at man-management nor take on the extra burden of leading from the front as did charismatic skippers like Tiger Pataudi, Sourav Ganguly and Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

But none can deny that he was the most efficient soldier, the one-man demolition squad who could turn around matches singlehandedly, a man who was there when the captain needed him, which during his entire period always existed, in spite of the presence of Rahul Dravid, V V S Laxman, Javagal Srinath and Anil Kumble.

The one instance that immediately comes to mind is the manner he took the ball from his captain in Eden Gardens to bowl the last over when South Africa needed six runs for a win. He not only bamboozled the men in the middle with his bowling abilities but earned a historic final berth for India.

That electrifying presence and the psychological cobweb was enough for any captain to win matches during his heyday.

He has often been compared to two peers, Brian Lara and Ricky Ponting, who could stake a claim for the best batsman honour of the era. It is their humbleness that both Lara and Ponting have had no qualms in admitting that the Indian maestro was way ahead of them, both numerically and qualitatively.

The West Indian great was, in fact, humility personified when he admitted, ‘Sachin is a genius. I’m a mere mortal.’

Talk of mutual admiration club in today’s world of ruthless professionalism.

Every player who shared the dressing room with him has been quite forthright about admitting that they had gained tremendously by acting on the master’s advice.

His humble roots saw him idolise legends from diverse fields, including Kishore Kumar, John McEnroe, Boris Becker, Diego Maradona and Michael Schumacher, who was to gift him a Ferrari as a thanksgiving gesture.

This trait of acknowledging fellow-greats apparently comes from the Indian middle-class conscience that the run machine has always sworn by and stays deeply rooted in his genes.

The most iconic tribute comes from yet another contemporary, Mathew Hayden-I have seen God, he bats at No 4 for India.

At this point in time, as the Little Master readies for a more vibrant innings in the Upper House or as the mentor of Mumbai Indians, every cricket fan in the world ought to be indebted to the Australian pace legend Dennis Lillee who refused to admit Tendulkar (dreaming of becoming a fast bowler) in the MRF Pace Academy and advised him to stay focussed on his batting prowess.

Meanwhile, now that his playing days are almost over, there would be a hysterical clamour for him getting bestowed with the country’s highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna.

One should not be surprised if next year’s roll of honours will see sports making its debut and both Major Dhyan Chand and Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar are jointly decorated with the coveted honour.

Somehow, it is perplexing and rather ironical, and a shade painful, that people are already writing about Tendulkar in the past when he has another good ten days of Test cricket ahead of him.

Ten days that could add to the ever-growing legacy of Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar and stay there for ever after.

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