Writing Sachin

Some time back, a more than usually prime example of hype and hyperbole prompted a blog post on the art and craft of cricket writing.

The flood of commentary in the wake of Sachin scaling one of the few peaks left to him turns the spotlight on another aspect of the problem: What can you say of a man about whom everything has been said before, a man who even before attaining maturity — in real terms, and in terms of his craft — had already exhausted every adjective?

Plenty, apparently. In no particular order of preference, a collection:

Samir Chopra writes about why, though there have been 10 +180 scores recorded in one day internationals thus far, only one man was really capable of breaching the 200 barrier:

It seemed to me that if 200 was to be made, it would be made by an opener, someone who would score quickly in the first 15, settle down in the mid-section, and then have enough nous and stamina to play through the inevitable acceleration to the end. And truth be told, it seemed like there was only person who could pull it off: Tendulkar.

For if there is one thing that seems to come easily to Tendulkar, it is the kind of innings I’ve just described. They are a dime-a-dozen for this man. He does it effortlessly, shifting gears when he wants, racking up runs, not letting his strike-rate drop. It always seemed like a matter of time before he would not lose his wicket in the final acceleration and simply go on to the logical next destination of the double-ton. 200 runs off 150 balls (a strike rate of 133.33) always seemed eminently doable for this master of the limited-overs game. No one else seemed to have the full package.

And on February 24th, he did it. Indeed, he seemed to have calculated it perfectly: 200 off 147 balls. The initial acceleration, the quick, expert farming of well-run singles and doubles, the final acceleration. It was a masterpiece of attack and accumulation (and the brilliance of shots was something to behold). And he did it against South Africa on an appropriate stage, a ground at home, in front of thousands of his ever-adoring fans.

The genius of this man is that such a singular feat should always have seemed so well within his reach, that his final breach of the barrier should come as no surprise.

It is not often that Time is moved to take note of cricket — but this is one of those moments when the scale of achievement captivates even those minds that are not tuned to the sport. Bobby Ghosh does the math to underline why breaking 200 is such a big deal. And then:

Wednesday’s achievement was the more remarkable because it came against South Africa, which has a powerful bowling lineup and superb fielders. Scoring big against the minnows of the sport — Bangladesh or Zimbabwe, for instance — is one thing; taking 200 from the South Africans is many leagues harder.

It was entirely appropriate that the record should fall to Tendulkar, 36, the greatest run scorer of all time, as he roars into the autumn of a storied career. Cricketers very rarely play into their 40s, and most are long past their record-breaking age at 35. But the Little Master, as his fans know him, is as bright at twilight as he was at noon: he’s ratcheted up a string of recent big scores in both the five-day “Test” and one-day versions of the sport, giving a new generation of bowlers the privilege of a Tendulkar thrashing.

If Sachin’s feat has been greeted with universal adulation, there is a reason — he is impossible to dislike. Vide Simon Briggs:

With his extraordinary performances over the past two decades, not to mention his exemplary conduct off the field, Sachin Tendulkar has proved that it is possible to be a sporting icon without turning into a monster.

In the light of the various indiscretions committed in recent weeks by Tiger Woods, John Terry and Ashley Cole, it would be easy to conclude that while power corrupts, sporting success corrupts absolutely.

Tendulkar is the ultimate counter-example. In his own way, he can compete with any of these men for eminence. The most famous Indian since Mahatma Gandhi, he has admitted resorting to wigs and fake spectacles just to get to the cinema undisturbed.

And yet, despite spending more than 20 years at the top of his sport,Tendulkar has never become tangled up with a Bollywood actress, or been accused of giving out pitch and weather information to an illegal bookmaker.

A cynic might add the rider, “as far as we know”. After all, that slippery PR fixer Max Clifford has repeatedly insisted that the only reason Tiger got caught was because he was badly advised.

But everything about Tendulkar’s public persona backs up his squeaky-clean image. The man is modest in victory and gracious in defeat, while his post-match comments are invariably diplomatic. It is hard to remember him being drawn into a single controversy – at least, not one that stood up to scrutiny.

Harsha Bhogle, who did the first ever interview of Sachin Tendulkar, and who has since spent a little over two decades cudgeling his brains to come up with new ways to say the same things about the same person, manages to pull it off again:

And he has never forgotten why he started playing the game in the first place. The best have lofty ambitions when they begin but soon commerce, like a tenacious worm, gnaws into them. Fame surrounds them and prevents the fresh air of reason from breaking through. They acquire sycophants, that great curse of success. Playing the game becomes a means to a seemingly superior, but in reality hollower, end. Tendulkar has kept those demons at bay. He has made more money than anyone else in the game, acquired greater fame than is imaginable, but you could never guess that from the way he plays his cricket. He remains the servant, pursues the game with purity. Through the last decade India have been well-served by like-minded giants.

There’s more, in Cricinfo’s round up among other places. And then there is this: Virender Sehwag, the batsman considered most likely to smash this particular barrier, talks of the sheer inevitability of it all:

We have had chats about him scoring 200. He thought it was difficult, but I told him only he could do it. Last year in New Zealand, when he retired on 163 I told him he had missed the opportunity, but he said “Agar meri kismat mein hoga toh woh mil jayega [It will eventually happen if I am destined to do it].” He said the same when he got 175 against Australia last year. On Wednesday he said “Woh likha tha, toh mil gaya [I got what was destined]”.

And that completes the last post on Sachin Tendulkar on this blog. Until he does it again — which, given his recent form, could be as early as his next game.


15 thoughts on “Writing Sachin

  1. Not to take anything away from Sachin, its my wish that he should REPEAT it. He is still reachable by others. Just do it once more Master…and not even a fluke can touch you after that.

    • u mean score more than 200? or score a 200 again?
      lol i’d like to see that happen, too, but i dunno. hasn’t he played out the 50 overs earlier without having reached there? the 186* against New Zealand?

  2. I dont quite agree that he is the only person who could have breached the barrier. At this level, on their day, any of the world’s top 5 batsmen could have done it. Now that the barrier is breached am sure we will see more people hitting double hundreds in ODIs. Viru can easily be one of them.

    Having said that, there is no denying the fact that HE has achieved what no one else has in their lives and in the life of ODI cricket. Sachin truly epitomizes the saying that form is temporary but class is permanent. The short man stands tallest in world cricket. Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar – Take a bow and Thank You!

    • if they could, they would have. sure, it might be a mental thing more than others, but others still didn’t get it. it is really exhausting to bat for 50 overs and keep up with the pace, flat pitch or not. most people must be thinking that with the advent of T20 and increasing run rates, that it will become possible, but they’re very different games. i dunno if the current generation will break this record.

  3. He is the kind of role model that young people in India need, a man who is very very successful, but remains humble and polite.

    He has never needed to shout to make himself heard, people want to hear what he has to say.

    He is someone that guys like Sreesanth need to look at and learn from, aggressive with his bat, but never with his mouth or his body.

  4. Harsha’s was the best of the lot. He managed to refrain from hyperbole, brought some perspective to the achievement and the favorable conditions in which it was achieved but at the same time captured the real reasons why Sachin is as successful as he is at his age and seen as more than just a cricketer by his fans. Master class writing on a master class player.

  5. I remember reading a Time article once that compared sachin and Maradona, the heroes of their respective sports. It drew attention to the similarities, right from their physical attributes ,stature to their iconic status for their fans. Did end with observance that while Maradona seemd to have succumbed to the perils of fame and fortune, Sachin never let those affect him- if anything, he grew in staure and became more dignified with rise in fortune.

  6. Harsha may have been the first to interview ST for TV. But the first print interview was done by Sunil Warrior in Mid-day (Bombay) in Dec. 1986.

  7. Greatbong has a piece that hits pitch perfect at its close:

    “The old Sachin radiated heat. The new Sachin gives light. But he is still the sun.”

    I’m probably biased but in 3 short lines he captured it so beautifully. Please do read.

    PS and aside: I dont see why sporting talent and personal life eg. Woods (or indeed anything else) have to be mixed. My admiration of Tendulkar doesnt prevent me from taking a slightly dim view of, for example, his going out of the way to avoid paying duty on a gift car import.

    • now, you are entitled to have a dim view of the ferrary incident…but i am not sure how it was “going out of the way”…as far as i know, ferrari gifted him a car, he thought why spend close to 1 crore to receive a gift (that is so natural…u struggle your whole life to score 29 hundreds and then you pay 1 crore as duty to recieve a gift…who will not feel weird?)…all he did was to request the govt if the duty can be waived….please help me understand what is “going out of the way” here…if it were you or me or any of the politicians or filmstars, i bet, we would have just kept it as a secret, paid some money to some journalist to keep quiet….and you are telling me that sachin did was “out of the way”……very funny…..

      ps: my answer to you is based on the assumption that Sachin is an ordinary guy who does not like to lose money. Which is not a fault. If he were Mother Terasa, may be we could have applied a different standard…

      • if you’re earning 6 crores per year, only from the agent you have hired, sponsors extra, please tell me you’re gonna apply for tax exemption grants.
        we didn’t have Honda’s selling here, and he wanted a Ferrari for free. if u don’t wanna pay the tax, don’t take the gift. or keep it with somebody else, and go there and drive it.

        • ok…still where does “out of the way” come from?

          lets not debate how much money he makes or wanted to make etc. Last heard, Ambani was building 1 billion worth house…Sachin has every right to aspire for as much money, comfort and ferraris as much as he likes, just like everybody. “Out of the way” comes into picture only if he does it illegally.

          now, if you are talking about “morally” out of the way: as you may know, after this incident the law was altered to include provisions for case-to-case exemptions. why do you think that happened? it vindicates sachin’s position morally as well.

          the thing is: import duty is meant to promote consumption from within domestic market. that is the reason there is a law to exempt import duty for “awards”, because if one guy gets an award from a competition, it does not harm any domestic interests.
          but you cannot exempt import duty on “gifts”- because if you do that, everybody in India will start getting “gifts” from people abroad- marriage, birthday, birthday+1th day etc…

          the crux of the matter morally is: whether sachin received was a “gift” or an “award”. If it is a “gift”, then he should have raised his hand to pay the tax. If it is an “award”, he didnt have to.

          What is your take? Was it an award or gift? Keep the following things in mind when you make that judgement:

          1. ferrarri is no father-in-law to sachin.
          2. it was not sachin’s birthday or wedding anniversary.
          3. theres no evidence that sachin desperately wanted to drive a ferrarri thru mumbai streets that he got into a secret deal with ferrarri
          4. the car was a present to equal bradman’s record of 29 centuries, a professional achievement.

          make your call. whatever it is: i doubt if you really can consider the whole thing just “out of the way”…

        • This is what I dont understand. Just because you earn well doesn’t mean you cant ask for Tax exemption specially when there is legal provision for doing so. We all duly take the Tax exemption offered by the govt every year. Do you expect individuals to decline the Tax exemption once his income reach a certain level?? If not then why Sachin should not apply for Tax exemption for perfectly legal grounds. That exemption getting approved/rejected is up to govt. It is not like he smuggled the car in India.

        • I have been diligently reading Prem’s blog for few years now and this is the first time I’m posting a comment in any blog site ever as I cannot stand the harsh comments people make about Sachin due to Ferrari duty waiver. Please read the article in this link for better explanation. Also note that “Ferrari PAID the entire Duty after seeing the sad situation prevailing in the nation”. What a shame!!!


          • Manish – Its not like he smuggled the car in India!!! 🙂 Well said.

            This issue has been beaten down to death and I am not going to try to change opinions of anyone. The one thing I would say though is to reiterate the phrase: People who live in glass houses, shouldn’t be the ones throwing stones (or however it is supposed to be quoted).

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