2 Days ago, I was relieved. He had done it. Finally. The 100th Century was there and now he could move on. But the relief quickly turned to sadness. In this beautiful moment, I was not happy. I was panicking. Because the dream run was almost over. And instead of savouring every ball that he played, I was busy counting the runs, ruing the misses. I was as much the culprit of putting him in that position for a whole year, as anyone else.
Everytime I had seen him bat, everytime he walked in since March 14th 2011, I was talking about the 100th. Everytime he failed, I cursed. Blamed the opponents of cheating, blamed the pitch, the weather, my neighbour, my T-shirt, myself for going to the loo.. anybody and anything I could blame. I had lost the joy of watching him bat, I just couldn’t see. As he went through the difficult time, I went through mine. I even thought about the unthinkable – maybe he should retire. Me. Blasphemy. And now, it’s done, I realise that it will soon be over and will never be back and I don’t want it to end. Such is Life, but it’s difficult when Sach IS life.
Now, it goes much beyond Cricket ofcourse. For almost 20 years now, I have idolised him. And he has not let me down. The myriad of feelings that his batting, his presence, his modesty have produced in me cannot be measured in runs, in victories. His presence is larger than life. In matches we win or lose. In the bigger scheme of things, I feel like a winner whenever he strides out to play.
Almost 15 years ago, I saw him smash the ball straight down the ground for an amazing six. The bowler Kasprovich, the commentator Tony Grieg. It is etched in my mind, forever. And mind you, it was not just a shot, it was inspiration. Ever since, whenever I batted in my room in a make believe match, I smashed the bowler over his head for a six and I could hear Tony Greig’s excited voice. I wanted to excel, just like Sachin. He was a dream. And why batting alone? When he bowled the amazing final over in the Hero Cup and helped India win, I believed anything was possible. He had made the impossible possible, and in that moment made me believe in self-belief. Whenever I rolled my arm, I believed. If he could do it, so could I.
And in life, he was modest (he still is). He had the world eating out of his hands, but he was grounded. And that showed me that in life, if you remain true to who you are, you achieve much more than what’s written for you. And I have tried to stay grounded. Well, my parents, my friends have had a BIG HAND in it, but sometimes in life you need an EXAMPLE – and Sachin has always been that example.
What’s more, Sachin has been an invisible tie that binds me to many of my relatives and friends. He has been part of endless, uncountable discussions. Be it my best friends in life, or my parents, or my father in law, or even acquaintances - he has brought me closer to them in happiness and agony for so many years now. The first day I met my father in law, Sachin hit a century. We didn’t speak much, but we connected in a mysterious way, while Sachin went about his business, like only he can. My mom and me, don’t chat a lot, or even spend too much time together. But when it comes to Sachin, we are watching, discussing, bickering together for him. And I am not exaggerating. Looking back, I know he has been, for me, more than just a player or just about Cricket.
Sometimes I question myself. Do I really love Cricket? Or is it just the anticipation of watching him play that keeps me connected to the game? I loved playing it, but did I truly care about HOW INDIA FARED? I don’t know. Maybe, I would be able to judge after he leaves the game.
The weird thing is that Sachin is just 9 years elder to me. And it seems like he has lived forever. It seems that he has achieved everything in life. But it’s only the end of one phase of his life, and mine. He might delight us in a different way in a few years or might just fade away. That day might come anytime now. But, I am in no real hurry. He will, one day, have to go. What will remain though is his contribution in my life for almost 20 years, the memories - His squeaky voice, his boyish charm, his vicious cut, his masterly straight drive, his gentle mannerism, his enthusiasm, his clean and grounded behaviour, his superhuman cricketing records and most of all, his legend – the one that soared way past the bowler’s head into the stands.