“Jeetega bhai jeetega, Hindustan jeetega!”
All of us will never agree on the same things but one thing we all have to admit is that cricket has always brought us close. Even then we may not agree on a lot of aspects of the game or the players we like or hate. There are over a billion people in this country and we are all bound to be different.
But there has always been one common factor that brought us close. The Little Master, Sachin Tendulkar.
You may have hated cricket, but you still wanted to watch Sachin bat. If you loved it, you couldn’t help but drool at his divinity. Every kid playing in the street would try to copy his style. Every kid with a bat in his hand wanted to be him. There was a time when it was only Sachin. And what a time it was!
Normally, we would all be too busy with our own lives. We are selfish beings, the lot of us. But somehow, he made us feel nervous for him. Whenever he entered the nervy 90s. Those few runs when even he seemed human, he made us selfless. He made us all feel the same way.
To know the impact he had, you had to be there. The love that people had for him. It was sensational. Prayers were chanted when he was injured, people would weep when he got out, the country would celebrate when he got a ton. It was a wonderful time to be alive.
You know how they say cricket is a religion. I get the feeling it was him who turned it into one. It is ironic how there are so many religious battles going on, but this was one religion we were all part of. And there was no hatred there. Not while he was around.
It wasn’t like he was always revered. We saw him become great, we saw him become the god we call him. A few have argued that he shouldn’t be given that stature. But it isn’t just about the stature. It is about how he spread love. How he made us unite.
You dare not say anything against Sachin or you will have a riot on your hands.
There’s no need to talk about his records here. His accomplishments are all too well documented. This is about the man. The power of the man. I don’t mean the power in those strong arms. I am talking about his power to rally an entire nation behind him, just by using his skill with bat and ball. And he did for years on end.
He made the game an emotion. Almost a quarter of a century of making a billion dreams come true. 24 years of the most beautiful straight drives.
Remember this one off Brett Lee? The commentator said:
“Make sure you get this on video. It is worth looking at forever more.”
It really is. You can just watch and watch and watch. And while you do, everything else would just ebb away. He has played this shot countless times. It’ll be you, him rooted to the crease and that pure drive down the ground. Bliss!
Speaking of bliss, remember him running on to the ground after the final in 2011? It was like being transported back to the 90s. He looked like a kid. Joyous. I felt more Indian than ever before. We had finally done it. And that man, that boy who became god had realised his dream after 22 years of service to the country. It still gives me goosebumps. That night we were all one again.
Cricket never made us cry, but Sachin did. The day he said goodbye to the game was probably one of the saddest days in cricket history. We somehow believed that he would always stick around. But that was perhaps where the human bit came in. His body had shown all the signs. Nobody knew it better than him.
But just like countless times before, we wept. Together, as one. Even in that moment, he united us all.
We itch to chant his name again. At the slightest opportunity, the roars of his name fill the space no matter where he is. It wasn’t just here. Wherever he went, wherever he played in the world, his presence made every ground our home ground.
Our country is in turmoil, it always was, it will probably go on to be. But for those few moments when he walked out, looked at the sky up above, took his stance and did that helmet tug… he made the world a better place and he made us all better human beings.
There are few things in the world that make you really feel Indian. Our national anthem, the defence forces, movies like Border and Sachin Tendulkar.
He did not serve on the borders in uniform, but he did serve those men too. While they had their ears to the radio in some remote area, listening to a match, they too must have felt goosebumps when Sachin entered the 90s, they too must have celebrated when he won us the game.
Don’t doubt his divine stature in the game. He brought us together.
He made enemies unite, made fathers and sons bond, had us do totkas, miss tuition classes, gave Indians abroad that ‘Indian’ feeling, basically he took over our lives and our worries. And of course, who can forget that wonderful chant he made a billion people shout in unison – “Sachiiiiiiin! Sachiiiiiiin!”
It was holy. It still is.
Cricket will always be a religion here and Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar will always be its god.