The man, and the magic

For a long time now, I’ve steered well clear of the temptation — and fresh temptations arise every single time he walks onto a cricket field — to write about Sachin Tendulkar.

It is – and there is no shame in admitting it – a cop out; it stems from the realization that the ability to string words together to convey a sense of wonder has its limitations.

You can do it once, twice, even a dozen times. But this one man forces you to find new words, new thoughts, to reinvent language – and he has been doing that for over two decades now. I don’t know how Harsha Bhogle, Rohit Brijnath, Sambit and some of the other top cricket writers cope with this challenge. Speaking for myself, I prefer to bail, to use “It’s all been said before” as an excuse to avoid confronting the limitations of the written word.

And then he goes out there and does something you cannot but take notice of – like in the game yesterday against the Rajasthan Royals.

It is not that he paced his innings to perfection [his 50 came off 45 balls, the next 14 balls produced 39 runs). Or that he has emerged as the highest scorer in this edition of the IPL. Or that he has accumulated all those runs without ever needing to play an unaesthetic stroke, to go airborne (with the two sixes he hit in the final over of his innings yesterday, he now has three for a tournament where the current tally is over 500) .

What rocked me back in my seat yesterday was the two braces he ran off Sidharth Trivedi’s final over. On both occasions, there was only a single to be had as his drives off the front foot raced to the fielder in the deep; on both he was so hungry for the strike, so keen to maximize every single ball that remained, that he turned and ran the second even as the throw was airborne; on both occasions the throw was straight and hard to the keeper — and yet, he easily beat the throw both times.

How does he do this? Where does this seemingly inexhaustible well of energy, this relentless drive, come from?

And – this for me is the really scary thought – just how much has he still got left in the tank?

His longevity has been admired almost as much as his playing record. On his blog feed, Anaggh [Twitter] recently had this post:

When Sachin Tendulkar traveled to Pakistan to face one of the finest bowling attacks ever assembled in cricket…

  • Michael Schumacher was yet to race an F1 car
  • Lance Armstrong had never been to the Tour de France
  • Diego Maradona was still the Captain of a World Champion Argentina team
  • Pete Sampras had never won a Grand Slam

When Tendulkar embarked on a glorious career taming Imran and company…

·       Roger Federer was a name unheard of

  • Lionel Messi was in his nappies
  • Usain Bolt was an unknown kid in the Jamaican backwaters
  • The Berlin Wall was still intact
  • USSR was one big, big country
  • Dr Manmohan Singh was yet to open up the Nehruvian economy.

At a more personal level, Sachin made his international debut November 15, 1989. Two weeks later, I got my first regular job as a journalist.

I love what I do, just as much as I did December 1, 1989 when I first took my assigned place in a newsroom, thrilling to the knowledge that I was now a ‘byline’ and more importantly, that I would henceforth be paid to do what I loved doing anyway – to wit, play with words.

That love, that thrill remains undimmed. But as the years go by, it is increasingly difficult to keep the motivational levels up through the day, through the working weeks and months and years. With each successive year, it becomes harder to summon up the same energy; to, if you will, take those short singles at work and to convert those ones into twos.

So how in hell does this man do it? How, after all these years, does he not only maintain the phenomenally high standard he set at the start, but constantly raise the bar even further? And how in hell does he convey the impression that his enjoyment has only increased with time?

67 thoughts on “The man, and the magic

  1. If that reply was for my comment, my comment was not about this blog. I am talking about the Indian media’s obsession with SRT. As a regular here, I don’t think I can accuse you of that.

  2. Prem,
    Now this justifies your write-ups on SRT may 4-5 years ago when you were literally saying he is dragging on these days.I am not complaining but your reads did point on that direction when he was struggling. BUT than if you do admire when he has looks like recapture that rhythm it looks fair play from your side. (But i’m still mad about your comment after 175 vs Aus!!)
    I’m waiting for one more of such report on one of current CM. i think one day you will write something positive about him tooo, i mean about his work. barabar prembhai?

    anyway good to read you these days! you throwing lot after not so much on that old blog.

    kind regards,

  3. Jazzyb :
    Mayan, its not that simple. Do you mean it is okay for SMG during commentary to praise SRT all the way, while ignore Dravid, just because SRT gives him more pleasure? Those guys are commentators, you know…

    Jazzy: For what it’s worth, I heard SMG exclaim ‘what a great shot’ to Dravid pulling a short delivery from RP Singh from a shortened run-up on a slow pitch. And several other exclamations while Dravid was batting. To me, these supposed ignoring of other players(mainly RD or SG or Kumble) by commentators is in the minds of those claiming so.

    • Possibly so. Even I dont think that SRT got any attention he did not deserve (as comapred to RD,Kumble etc). I was just answering to your specific point on preferences. Personally we can have preferences, but professionally we are not supposed to. Thats all.

      • Mayan,
        As far as an individual fan is concerned, it’s he who decides what gives him joy. I or anyone else can dictate it. However, the media & the commentators have an obligation to be balanced in their views and coverage. Especially, in yesterday’s context, Dravid’s was a brilliant innings. When Kallis was struggling to get the ball out of the square, Dravid was picking his spots with ease. But, why is it that a cricket fan like me doesn’t get to read or hear much about it? We all know the kind of coverage such an innings from Sachin would have got.

        He has had only 2 good games this IPL. But, he has batted for any significant amount of time only thrice. So, not a bad deal. And, in case you didn’t know, he was the top scorer for RCB in the last 2 IPLs. Even then, there was not much talk about that either. Let’s face it. Whether knowingly or unknowingly, the media tends to ignore Dravid & Kumble. They might have their own reasons. But, it’s a fact.

        • Agreed on all counts. It was baffling to hear no praise for Dravid and Kumble. Personally I’ve always had more pleasure from watching somebody like Dravid succeed. We always knew that Sachin had it in him to be great at this format but i was skeptical about Dravid. So when he proved me wrong, it was double the fun.

          • No praise for Dravid & Kumble? I heard quite a lot. Not sure how to read these sort of reactions, really.

            • Dude, suppose I want to write a post right now on Kumble — why do I need to bring in SRT into it? Same difference — that post was on something about SRt that struck me, is all. It was not the history of Indian cricket, hence didn’t need to rope in equally praiseworthy others.

            • If that reply was for my comment, my comment was not about this blog. I am talking about the Indian media’s obsession with SRT. As a regular here, I don’t think I can accuse you of that.

  4. Last night, I saw an Indian great playing one of the most beautiful T20 innings I’ve seen. I never knew one could score at a strike rate of 140 without playing a single violent shot. And of course, he had played a similar knock in his previous game. But, do you see the media going gaga over it? Do you see bloggers queuing up to say why he’s the greatest of all time? Did you see Gavaskar or Shastri having orgasms on air? No, because his name is not SRT.

    • Why do you care what others say? If his batting gives you as much joy, that should be enough for you. Some things, you just need to feel. Pretty tough to explain that to people who cant.

      • But I think it is a valid question. I felt that Dravid was in sublime touch in the last two games. And this is a player who was left out of even the ODI team.

        The media has its favourites and others are ignored despite good or even better performances.

        Dravid and Kumble have been brilliant in this IPL and probably need more coverage that they have been getting.

        • That’s not really the point. The point is – who is anyone to dictate anyone else’s preference on what to be happy or unhappy about?

          • Mayan, its not that simple. Do you mean it is okay for SMG during commentary to praise SRT all the way, while ignore Dravid, just because SRT gives him more pleasure? Those guys are commentators, you know…

          • And to reply to JII- if Dravid scores 500+ runs in an IPL, do you think he wont get noticed or praised? So far, he just had only two good games, mind you…

  5. Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. Seeing his superlative performances over the last 12 months, in my books, he is greater than even Bradman. Statistics and everything else not withstanding. For the pure joy and magic only Sachin can bring to a cricket fan. Thank you Sachin.

  6. Prem, I am sure i’d be hated for bringing one pet peeve w/ Sachin. While i love Sachin the player, i hate when other folks talk not about his overall contribution but how he is the best ever batsman… so his century is applauded more than india win. Prem, even you had mentioned in one of your columns about how Sachin does (he can, i guess) dictate what position he’ll play. When Gautam/Viru were going great, Sachin did not want to bat no.3. Even in Mumbai Indians team, Sachin is shining only because he is playing no.1. However, why did Mumbai not perform well in earlier editions of IPL ? Sachin still played great innings before…

    • Raj,

      I shamelessly accept that I am one of the people who care more about Sachin’s performance than that of team India’s. What is wrong with that? Sachin provided more entertainment, and excitement to me in watching/following cricket consistently over 20 years than that team India ever did. I obviously wanted team India to win, but was quiet satisfied with Sachin’s performance. I enjoyed Sir Viv Richards brilliance similarly, but in that case I wished his team lost.

      I also see nothing wrong in Sachin dictating at what position he bats. People try to make it sound as if it is good for him and not for the team. The man knows how his contributions can be best utilized, and he is making that known, and I do not see how that can be against team’s good.

      Bottom line to me is that he is a player who played consistently very well, knows the game exceptionally well, and delivered to the team’s cause more often than not, so what is wrong in the person taking liberty in insisting a position at which he bats, so he could continue to do so for a longer period of time.

      To me, the day he calls it quits would be the happiest day, so I can stop following cricket.

  7. Great write up on SRT and his mental/physical strength to carry on for 20 years. He is not alone. Some one mentioned Kumble. Good. In this context, can we forget Vishy Anand. He came on the radar before these guys, is still there and will continue for a long time to come.

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