The fan

A day after Sid Vaidhyanathan and I vented some angst about “doing” cricket for a living, comes this piece in the Hindu about an octogenarian fan of Sachin Tendulkar, that makes us see the other side of the coin.

Sceptical of the statistics available on the Internet this octogenarian keeps track of her favourite cricketer’s achievements in her own way. Tiny scraps of paper with all the scores painstakingly written in neat handwriting are tucked away along with other prized possessions that include a couple of books on the cricketing genius gifted by her grandson. She secretly pulls out a few bits and shows them to me ensuring I handle them with care. All of a sudden, she chuckles. Saraswathi’s face is bright with enthusiasm as she narrates another incident. “After the1998 Sharjah Cup, Shane Warne said he used to get nightmares about Sachin. Sachin ko ‘Man of the Series’ ke liye car mila.” Here, Saraswathi’s son interrupts, saying, “She is very sure some day Tendulkar will meet her. Once when she was asked if she wanted to meet her grandchildren in Australia, she said, “I don’t want to meet anyone, I only want to meet Sachin Tendulkar.” Saraswathi now looks coy, blushes and says, “If I ever meet him, I’ll tell him to keep playing with confidence and keep entertaining us.” And with that she goes back to telling me more anecdotes about the Little Genius and his numerous records.

Maybe the trick for Sid, for me, for many more like us who have over time lost that fine edge of enthusiasm, is to rediscover the delight that this game can provide — and to write from that delight, not from “duty”, “professionalism”, whatever.

Related, Harsha Bhogle in his latest column celebrates Sachin’s captaincy in the IPL:

In the first game he backed his youngsters, Saurabh Tiwary, Ambati Rayudu and R Sathish, and played only three overseas players. In every game thereafter he has given these young players the confidence they need by sending them out at crucial moments. Tiwary, for example, has retained his No. 4 slot ahead of Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard, Rayudu gets to bat at No. 5, and even Sathish, just returning from the ICL, has a clearly defined role: if he gets 15 or 20 in quick time at the end, and does little else, his captain seems quite happy with him.

Bravo and Pollard occasionally get the No. 3 slot to allow themselves to rediscover form, but I think the best move of all has been to put Ryan McLaren in the side and, in doing so, freeing Lasith Malinga to play the role Tendulkar likes him to: bowl after the new ball and at the death. It helps that McLaren can bat, and indeed the Mumbai Indians now have three allrounders in crucial areas and a floater in Sathish. McLaren doesn’t mind bowling up front and that allows Malinga to bowl no more than one over early on, leaving his captain with enough options at the end.

More than his use of personnel, I’d think the standout feature of Sachin’s leadership this IPL is that he has freed up his team to play without fear. Harsha makes the point that in the last game, against Kings XI, the team seemed to slip into a complacent mindset. Perhaps — but even in that game, the noticeable characteristic was that even as wickets fell, the collective belief that they cannot be beaten seemed unshaken.

Sometimes, that is all that separates the good sides from the great — as any member of the all-conquering Australian side of the 1990s will tell you.