(Guest post by Mr Nagoor Jayavant Prabhu, Doha, Qatar)
When the last drop of tear rolled down the cheeks of Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar as he walked past a spontaneous guard of honor given by his team mates at the end of the Mumbai test today, there was no dry eye left among the country’s cricket loving public. A golden chapter of Indian cricket, which began with Sachin’s entry in 1989 and ran its course through stalwarts like Rahul, Saurav, Laxman and Anil has ended and the baton is well and truly passed on to Gen next. The honor of Bharat Ratna to coincide with his departure from the cricketing arena was as perfect a parting gift as a nation could possibly offer in return for all the joy he gave to a billion Indians over a quarter of a century.
After all the emotions of the Sachin farewell are done dusted and the media has moved on from the excessive Sachin mania which it poured out for a month, it will be time to realize that this cricketing god was after all a human being and had his share of shortcomings along with his great qualities. I have not seen a balanced assessment of Sachin’s career graph by any one since the time his retirement was made known a couple of months ago.Going beyond all the seemingly immortal statistics standing in his name, here is my take on the three most positive and negative aspects of Sachin’s long and illustrious cricketing career
Longevity : Schumacher had not won a formula race, Indian rupee was 17 to a dollar and Narendra Modi had just joined BJP when Sachin started playing cricket for India. The senior most player after Sachin in the current Indian cricket team is Dhoni who debuted fifteen years after Sachin. This incredible longevity in the grueling modern day sporting arena speaks for Sachin’s prodigious entry at an early age, immense focus and hard work through his career and a genuine commitment to the sport he loved passionately
Class: Sachin had mastered the skill sets needed to dominate in every format of the game, combining the best traits of his childhood idols Sunil Gavaskar and Viv Richards, more than any other Indian batsman to date. His back foot drives through covers in test cricket were as delightful to watch as his upper cuts over third man in ODI and the cross batted pulls over midwicket in IPL
Humility: He remained rooted to the ground till the end, exhibiting a nationalistic fervor in his habits like tucking a tricolor in his kitbag, down to earth advice to his team mates on and off the field, critical self-analysis of his success and failure and acknowledging even his aunt, who fed him after his school practice, in his farewell address at the Wankhede
Crunch Play: Sachin’s ability to raise his game in crunch situations had always remained suspect even at his peak, notwithstanding exceptions like his match winning domination of Aussie attack in a couple of ODI finals in Sharjah and Australia. In the six cricket world cups he played there were indeed some memorable knocks like the slaughter of a classy Pakistan attack at the Centurion in 2003 but none of it came in the two finals India played during his tenure, in 2003 and 2011
Leadership: His record of national captaincy in two stints were an embarrassment to say the least which the media has overlooked totally in the innumerable career clips shown over the past month. While he did play some majestic captain’s knocks during these stints his failure to inject a self-belief among his team mates to rise to their full potential will remain a dark spot, in stark contrast to the achievements of a Saurav or Dhoni who succeeded him. The fact that even MI achieved title success only under the captaincy of his juniors Harbhajan and Rohit adds further strength to this point
Voice: With the kind of standing and the respect he commanded in the Indian and International cricketing arena, his refusal to adopt a public position or voice his opinion against the establishment on many contentious issues connected to cricket, be it the corrupt administration of BCCI, India’s steadfast refusal to adopt DRS or the need for a systematic grooming plan for pace bowling talent critical to overseas success, can be attributed to reticence at best and acquiescence at worst
In sum though let us accept Sachin for what he was and take solace in Bob Marley’s famous words ‘A perfect guy does not exist. Smile when he makes you happy, yell when he makes you mad and miss him when he is not there’.