The swing of things

Just to show that there can be — occasionally — compelling reading beyond Tendulkar, here is Aakash Chopra with the latest in his series on cricket from a player’s perspective. And fittingly in light of recent events, it is on the art of playing swing bowling. It is tempting to clip from it, but the piece deserves to be read in its entirety.

Can’t wait for this series to come out as a book, incidentally.

The unseen stats behind Sachin’s record

In the midst of the Sachin-scripted mayhem of yesterday, I spotted the following on my Twitter timeline:

From Asfaq: As of writing this tweet, Tendulkar’s Wikipedia entry has gone thru 24 edits in the last 45 minutes alone.

Gautam John: 3/10 trending topics on twitter are dedicted to Sachin! This is history! Not even obama could do it! Not even apple or google!

Twitter, in fact, is proving to be an invaluable adjunct to following any event live. Consider the following posts — a brief selection that measures the public pulse during those pulsating moments when we realized that we were witness to cricketing history in the making:

Lahar Appaiah: First time I’ve seen Dhoni getting booed for hitting 6s. What exquisite tension, the last few overs..

From Shane Warne, who flooded Twitter timelines during the run up to the record:

#come on Sachin my friend get your 200 !!!! world record to please ! you deserve it !!!!!!

#nervous for my good friend Sachin everything crossed for you mate !!!! ps glad I’m not bowling to him today!about 14 hours ago via TweetDeck

#yes yes yes !!!!!! well done Sachin my friend … congrats and well done !!!!! awesome …

From Anand Mahindra, head of the eponymous business house: On my way to ndtv Indian of the year awards.But wonder if any other indian matters tonight after sachin’s double ton…

From Ashu Mittal, whose creative space is photography and who is a self-confessed cricket atheist: Commit all your crimes when Sachin is batting, they will go unnoticed, because even the Lord is watching!

As for the innings itself — and the man who shattered yet another seemingly impregnable barrier — what can you say?

So many of us have spent a decade and more in anticipation, telling ourselves that if there was one man who could shatter the 200 mark in the one day format, it was Sachin. ‘If he bats through 50 overs just once…’, we kept telling ourselves. And each time he got out, we cursed the very exuberance of strokeplay that made him what he was.

‘Dammit, did he have to play that risky shot when, with a bit of caution…’

Typically, we wanted it both ways. We wanted the visceral thrill of watching Sachin script murder; simultaneously, we wanted the adrenalin to flow a tad less tumultuously, for caution to temper that unbridled aggression.

Speaking for myself, I’d given up that dream. While I still enjoyed the spectacle of watching Sachin bat at any venue, against any opposition, in any form of the game, I no longer believed he had it in him to match aggression with endurance. As age caught up with him, as he shifted from hunter to circumspect gatherer, I signed over that unfulfilled promise, and looked to others — a Virender Sehwag, say — to plant a flag on the peak I had so hopefully earmarked for him.

And then, without warning, it was in the words of the Carpenters’ song, yesterday once more. Initially, Sachin’s innings was a make-weight for Sehwag’s early dismissal. Then it began to transform into a thing of beauty in its own right. He crossed the century, and we ticked off another one. He got into the 140s, and I began anticipating the moment when he would trip over his own exuberance and play that one shot too many [while a very small part of me dreaded the possibility that he might slow down due to sheer fatigue, and thus inadvertently check the team’s headlong progression]. The 150 came up; his score progressed in increments of 10, and yet — a function of having oscillated between anticipation and disappointment too often in the past — I dared not believe.

I think it was when he got to 180 that there was the first realization that this was it. Time was on his side. He was hitting them clean, but more to the point he was running his singles with no sign of the cramps that have cruelly curtailed him when in full flow, in the past.

So, finally, the peak — and the fulfillment of a covenant Sachin made with his fans on the day he played his first ODI innings.

There are moments that go beyond the power of words to encapsulate; moments where silence is the most fitting tribute.

This is one such.

Perhaps the comment that best summed up the collective mood came from a colleague and friend who, on Twitter, goes by the handle Sumantics:

“If I had a salwar suit in our tri-colour, I would have worn it to work tomorrow.”