Between 22 yards for 24 years

(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

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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

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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’.

Just ask to be happy!

(Guest Post by Mr Gopalan Parthasarathy)

We have times of propensity of high growth till adulthood – the growth indicators are very close to nature in these times: our physical growth, our learnability, our performance in sports, arts and science. None of them is so much defined in material and monetary terms. We get gravitated fully by the fun of activities in these times. Here our happiness is spurred by simple and doable expectations and preparing to meet them, meeting them and surpassing them.

Then comes the phase in which expectations start getting set in material and monetary terms. Here we face low hanging fruits first and by exerting ourselves, may be at the cost of work life balance for a while, we meet and surpass our expectations, as we have more or less set the definitions of outcomes in material terms. This is the phase in which we start getting into a binary mindset of success and failure – more or less, we start losing fun and pleasure, the non materially defined expectations simply fade away from us.

Then comes the phase in which the expectations we are used to set in material terms start showing resistance in terms of outcomes. We start looking at bending the rules of the game a bit so that we maintain an edge. We start looking at the world somewhat differently now, while we cannot cease to set higher expectations, we start seeing the zero sum games in achieving the results. In this phase, many start believing that ends justify means and start caring two hoots about what it takes to achieve results. Success feeds on itself – some players who know how to bend the rules of the game start succeeding more and the others start biting the bullet of expectations not being met and a growing measure of unhappiness starting to haunt them. A good number of them try to be more and more of themselves and in return get more and more of disappointment.

Can one return to the phase in which the expectations are set in non material terms? Perhaps one can borrow that phase this way: meeting like minded people and spending quality time with them, gradually focusing away from the work and work place, career et al as the subject matter; pursuing a hobby like in yesteryears and following the sports one used to be passionate about long ago; getting melted in music one loves and getting lost into a movie like good old days, a few things to do to get back into one’s elements, if you like.

Here there are two ways of returning – one can return with just no complaint about life and thus make the best out of these like in good old days. Or one can return, conscious in the back of mind they have to return to hell by the next day. Often a combination of both can happen – the mind playing between the two realities.

All said if we recollect when we were happier, we know how to get happiness back in our lives. Expectations and reality are the two sides of the coin. Either of them cannot be wished away. But then both of them should belong to us. We should not belong to them.

Let us wake up to a day and tell ourselves that we choose certain expectations for the day and work towards them. Let us go to bed conscious of our reality fully owning it up as ours. We should not become either our expectation or our reality but be a conscious and self aware outsider to both, who is able to play into them without losing oneself.

I think that is possible. Being aware of ourselves as the chooser of our expectations and owner of our reality, in both cases, not entirely synonymous with either and a playful outsider to both, could be possible. It is a proven fact that one can lower expectations and attain more happiness. I tend to think in today’s reality expectations are tigers on which we mount and find it hard to dismount from. Perhaps one may think of regaining expectations that used to get us happiness. May be when we were growing up those expectations were happening to us without our conscious choices. May be now we need to choose them consciously and hold on to happiness for a while, even as we cannot help expectations set in our reality taking us over. Being aware of the choices and owning up what we choose our expectations and at least make a variation in our choices now and then, if not for ever, can make all the difference to our perspective, if not to our harsh realities. Yes, to borrow the famous phrase from Robin and taking liberty to apply it metaphorically to this thought process, the monk has more choices than just selling his Ferrari, which could still be in the wish list replacing buying or keeping one for ever! At some point in time in our lives buying one was rightly in the wish list earlier. That is a process, as much as keeping it at a cost we should be aware of and selling when we have no use for it. Being aware of the process does make a difference and empowers us to regain the paradise lost.

Tired of the race and yet not able to quit it? Never mind, walk to your kitchen and open the candy jar with the same curiosity as you did with, the last time, no matter how many decades before. Slip into your backyard and smell it for a new plant or watch the new flower there in the same wonderment as you did in, the last time, no matter how many decades before. Go to the place you grew up and take a stroll giving a shout to anyone resembling your boyhood friends, like you did last time, no matter how many decades before. Skip your breakfast and roam around with an old friend and get scolded by your family all over again for being so undisciplined.

Dust up your favourite drums and try your hands into them shaking out your neighbours – you can always apologize.

In short, abandon yourself. Your happiness did not go anywhere. Only you have gone far away from it. It is always for the asking. Just ask to be happy!