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?
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?