Confess. Admit that the past month spent appraising Sachin should have left us bashful, if not outright embarrassed. A month spent dealing in superlatives, bordering on hyperbole, with even the government chipping in with a Bharat Ratna, should be guaranteed to bring on a fit of reckoning on the day after his farewell Test, right? No? OK, forget us. If we made a sport of compressing into a few weeks a lifetime’s worth of adulation for Sachin—and not that we held back on Sachin worship in any way since the day he debuted in our cricketing consciousness—spare a thought for him. Surely, when he padded up to await his turn to take guard for the very last time, he wanted some sense of proportion to properly take stock of a quarter century dominated by the game? But no, if Sachin wanted just a bit of calm, he was not going to have it. If he wanted a few moments of peace, to inhale one last time the ordinary echo of an average day in his extraordinary career, he had come to the wrong party, so what if it was in his honour.
But then, perhaps he, a man who left adolescence and came this far in his 41st year carrying the unrelenting burden of our ever more exacting expectations, didn’t have any such demands of his own. In fact, maybe this was really just another day out in the park for him. Once again, one last time, the world around him was what it was—baying for runs, for a performance, for victory—and he would rise to the occasion as he always had, by being Sachin.
I think capturing the essence of what it is that Sachin Tendulkar gave us—by way of giving to cricket—is the one thing about his career that we’ll have to work out on our own. His greatest shots, those straight drives for instance that stopped time as the ball left his bat on its trajectory past the bowler and off to the fence, they were plain for the eye to behold and acclaim. The standout batting, the big innings in a time when India had neither the supporting talent nor the vision to be purposeful that made his contribution more than a consolation prize, well, we figured that out—even as we berated him for not being up to the task often enough to do it on his own,