23 years back, a kid walked out into an arena to face one of the most illustrious and feared bowling attacks of our time which enlisted the likes of Waqar and Akram. He had already shown flashes of genius much beyond his age; and in front of a hostile crowd which cried for his blood, stood tall.
While all this happened somewhere across the subcontinent, I was born in a small town in Kerala among a bunch of cricket enthusiasts, the biggest of them being my dad.
I could as well, safely assume that it was not only me who had such an experience, especially having born in a country where Cricket is more than just a game. As far as my memories serve, I was exposed to cricket from all sides at a very tender age.
The oldest of those matches I remember was when Kapil Dev led the side against West Indies and we lost the match. It was my mom who actually made our acquaintance, introducing me to all the guys who appeared one by one during the presentation ceremony over a grainy telecast in Doordarshan. To be frank, it never appealed to me back then. For me, it was a bunch of old men who played and lost the game we should have won. I felt cheated somehow that I had to watch my side getting defeated and I took a dislike to the people who were standing at the presentation party. I was yet to meet Sachin though. May be I missed him somewhere in between the presentation ceremony which was a celebration of our royal defeat.
It took me a couple of more matches to see this one guy who actually was appealing and I started following the game just to see him play. And when you add a crazy bunch of cousins who breathe and live cricket all the time, you are bound to fall in love with it one day or the other, right? 🙂
I still remember the day when I touched a bat for the first time. It was so heavy that I could hardly hold it steady. I, in fact, had to switch to a wooden plank instead to play. And two of my eldest cousins who led our pack of kids bowled an over or two to me. We used to have our game almost every time I went up to my native and I used to carry around a cricket ball, just in case… 🙂 Those small matches at the middle of a small teak plantation became our little world cup and I used to look forward to it as if there was nothing better to live for. So great was the joy it gave me that if ever I used to take a wicket of any of my ‘opponents’ or score a boundary or two, I used to dance around the whole house announcing my feat to the whole family. A couple of words of praise from those two guys meant a lot to me and back then, I thought, that was what I was meant to do; to play cricket.
Our game was not the only driving factor for me though. We three used to sit and watch cricket, together. And there used to be huge arguments about who was a better player. But those arguments never really happened when this one man played. So majestic was (and is) his style that we used to stop our fights and cheer every single run he took. He was someone whom every single one of us acknowledged to be the best among the lot. Thus Sachin happened!
I used to take every game to heart and used to cry when India lost a game. And when we won, I was more concerned about how Sachin played. If he missed out on the score board, it was much the same for me as losing a game. I was always mocked upon for this of course. But then hardly did I miss company 🙂 There were always a flood of Sachinists around me to be a part of my joy/sorrow, be it my pre-school/school/college days.
School was a point where I started taking the game seriously and started to try out whatever Sachin did. May be it never worked out so well. But I cant describe the joy I got while whipping the bowler for a four over his head on front foot or while slashing a cut or while hitting a boundary over mid on and mid off after jumping a step forward. You feel in heaven when you hear that sweet voice right off the middle of your bat. Trust me!
And I always did it because Sachin used to do it. More than just being the best batsman of our generation, he is an idol who set new standards every day and challenged others to try and reach it if not surpass it, and all this was done with serenity which created an aura around him.
Ever felt as if the world around is no longer the one you knew so well? That’s how Cricket seems to be after Sachin called it a day from the ODI format. All those classics: the desert storm, the world cup campaigns and a countless other innings’ will remain among the most precious of cricketing moments for me.
For all that you taught me, and for being an inspiration all the way through, thank you…
So long Sachin…been a pleasure!