The last three months have been quite literally a journey of discovery; empty nesters really do have it good! Galle last weekend turned out to be the biggest surprise packet of all – pristine beaches, a charming and well preserved colonial town, surprisingly sophisticated restaurants and the friendliest people you can imagine anywhere. The infrastructure is first class, and the spotless cleanliness and hygiene a slap in the face of big brother up north. The Sri Lankans love their cricket of course, and the staff at our stunning Villa Mosvold joined in readily in our beach cricket shenanigans. The cook Tirone, while limited by his “lungi”, showed a silken touch with the bat that would have done Aravinda proud. Tirone’s face truly lit up when I asked him about Tendulkar; the little man and his duels with Murali continue to be the stuff of legend in this remote nook of the world. Meanwhile, the saga that was Tendulkar’s shamelessly self-indulgent farewell unfolded in Mumbai.
So much has been written and said about the maestro in the last two weeks, it would seem impossible to provide any unique insight. Yet, I believe there is something worth highlighting, a world record of sorts that seems to have gone unnoticed. In 24 years in the public eye, I do not believe Sachin has ever said anything even remotely interesting, a landmark every bit as remarkable as 200 Tests and 100 centuries! I mean wtf, can anyone remember Tendu on record with anything other than the completely banal and predictable? Perhaps intelligent or insightful is a high bar for a professional athlete, though he could have looked to his counterpart Dravid for inspiration in this regard. Fellow Mumbaikar and the original little master Sunny Gavaskar was certainly capable of raising his head above the parapet, even as he ducked under Holding’s bouncers. Sachin might also have looked to former teammate and fellow parliamentarian Navjot Sidhu (“statistics are like bikinis…”) for tips on being entertaining, but to be fair Sidhu is one of a kind. But such is Tendulkar’s divine status, a rather clichéd farewell speech completely devoid of originality or imagination was lauded instead as a sign of great humility.
Much has been made of what Tendulkar has done for Indian cricket. While this is certainly true, there could be a different take on this. As has been rightly highlighted, one of Sachin’s most endearing qualities is his love for the game; the boy just loves to play. Yet this is a man who has earned wealth beyond his wildest dreams, honors beyond what any of his countrymen can contemplate, and adulation among fans perhaps unmatched in the history of any sport. All this for doing what he loves best, on more or less his own terms, and rarely outside his comfort zone, for example when it came to captaincy or batting position, what forms of cricket he plays and when, and of course his swan song – at his behest – in his own backyard. By all accounts, while his integrity stands unimpeachable, Tendulkar was no Mother Teresa either, as the Ferrari incident or for that matter the obsessive pursuit of personal landmarks suggests. A critical examination of the ledger might lead one to conclude that the man has had it good. Rather than all this fuss about the Bharat Ratna, au contraire could this be payback time for Tendulkar the man, even as Tendulkar the cricketer hangs up his boots?
So to Sachin I have this to say. First of all, thank you for the memories, and above all thanks for inspiring my son along with countless other youngsters to wield a straight bat, literally as well as metaphorically. In your farewell rites, I particularly liked your homage to the wicket, in stark contrast to England’s galacticos who chose to micturate on rather than venerate their Oval. But with due respect, I was truly disappointed when you said “I have no more matches sir, in my life“. It may well be the case that you are, sans a bat in your hands, “a modest man with much to be modest about“, to quote master wordsmith Churchill. But a billion people believe otherwise. With a cult following matched perhaps only by Gandhi in India’s history, now would be a good time to raise your voice on the issues that matter, the hopelessly misguided hegemony of the BCCI to start with. Actually, on reflection let’s keep that voice out of it, but there is no getting away from the inevitability of your “tryst with destiny”. Take fresh guard buddy and prove me wrong; you have miles to go before you sleep.
Awesome piece ….once again!!