Acknowledge this: You’re a huge cricket fan. No one knows the finer nuances of cricket like you do barring that eminent sage Sanjay Manjrekar. You’ve woken up before the milkman arrives to watch matches being played halfway across the globe; and on other occasions going to sleep after the milkman shows up. You’ve celebrated your team’s victories like an ancient Roman emperor, with pomp and pageantry; languished in utter anguish, beating chest and rending the cloth off your back when they end up second-best. You follow a scientific set of superstitions such as ensuring everyone in the house sits in the same spot as they did earlier when your team won a thumping match against all odds; the dog howled precisely at the start of the 40th over that one time, and two rival batsman fell in the space of two balls, so somebody is deputed to tweak Tommy’s tail at your signal; and on big match days, you wear the same underwear you wore in 1983 when India won the World Cup (unwashed to preserve the sweet scent of absolute victory).
Now, why is a true-blue fan like you dissing Sachin? We meet at the water-cooler and you say, ‘Sachin is so yesterday, man.’ In a sportsbar, you pipe up: ‘Sachin! He’s not a matchwinner.’ Over a cigarette in the corridor, you quote: ‘Sachin has become a robotic, accumulator of runs.’ In the aftermath of a defeat, you stumble into office, cursing Sachin for letting you down and ruining your day.
Let’s put aside the fact that Sachin once was the lodestar of your life. I won’t even breathe a smidgen of statistics since you know his record down to a decimal point. I’ll wipe out from my memory the umpteen moments we’ve shared, wiping tears from our eyes as we watched Sachin show us poetry with a flick of his wrist.
All I want to ask, buddy, is: Where is the love?
Since you take your cricket so personally, the least you can do now is stand up for the boy and man who stood up to thunderbolts from speed demons Donald, Akhtar, Lee on your behalf; solely for your personal pleasure; to make you feel proud to be an Indian.
‘But he WAS a God,’ you moan?
Picture this: You come across Sachin in a restaurant. Say at Tendulkar’s (nice restaurant, by the way; decent food, good cocktails). Grab a fork and jab him in the arm. Two things will take place. One, definitely. Two, I wish would happen.
One: He will bleed; thus proving he’s a mere mortal just like you and me.
Two: He might pick a bat from the wall display and cleanly square-cut your head out the window, making it sail over the Gateway of India; thus proving the man can still cleanly hit a circular object with vim, vigour and vehemence.
Sachin is not a god.
And, Sachin is not God, either.
He sweats, loves Bombay duck, has backaches and sure, he can bat better than most, and on his day, all.
There’s something we are all ace at, isn’t it? Even you, my man. Don’t you have lousy days despite being the Official Champion Asshole Of The Universe? Haven’t you, due to a slump in form, helped old ladies across the street? Petted a dog? Smiled at a stranger? Lent a colleague your stapler? But no one is picking on you and saying you’re past your prime, over the hill and should be put to pasture.
Cut our hero some slack.
True. We Indians expect our heroes to perform miracles round-the-clock, on demand, at the toss of a coin (man, even our real Gods don’t perform miracles at the drop of a hat; where’s your perspective, dude?). We incessantly watch Bollywood movies to escape the drudgery of life. We revel in the sight of Amitabh and Co. taking on twenty, two hundred, two thousand thugs single-handedly and vanquishing the villains with nary a scratch save for some bleeding around the lower lip. What a hero! Hurrah! Whistles all around!
Whereas poor, old Sachin is one man against only 11 bad guys (12, counting Steve Bucknor; 200 million and 1 counting you and your cursed ilk). Match in, match out. New day, different delivery. No stunt doubles. No retakes. No makeup. Now think how tough it is to pull a new act every time when you’ve been billed as a Super Hit for 17 years running. If I were you, I’d give Sachin a standing ovation every time I hear his name.
It’s called respect, my fickle friend, respect.
Try it. It will make you feel good. The vibe might even bring a smile to our weary gladiator’s face. As for me (grammarians: I?), the next time we meet at a sportsbar, you better join me in cheering Sachin or the moment you look away, I’m going to spit into your beer.