Reporter’s notebook: Tendulkar, the centre of my cricket universe
MUMBAI // For a few weeks in the mid-1990s, I was practically unique, one in a billion. My family had just moved back to India after spending years overseas, so I was the only boy in the country who had not heard of Sachin Tendulkar.
This ignorance was swiftly rectified.
Sachin – he is too familiar to call Mr Tendulkar – had already been playing international cricket for six years when I first came across his name. I missed his early days, when he was hailed as a prodigy, but fortunately I latched on to his career just as it truly started to blaze.
In the 1996 World Cup, played on the subcontinent, India was knocked out in the semi-final, but Sachin accumulated runs hungrily, making 523 altogether. That was a record for World Cups, until he broke it himself in 2003.
This is how I was introduced to Sachin as a phenomenon: to the devotion he inspired, to his newfound ubiquity as a mascot for brands, and, most importantly, to the chiselled perfection of his batting.
In a sense, therefore, my cricket-watching career has revolved entirely around Sachin’s cricket-playing career. I’ve never followed an Indian cricket team that did not have Sachin in its ranks. I’ve never participated in a cricketing argument about the best batsman in the world where Sachin was not a – or the – leading contender.
I am not the only such cricket-lover in India either. There are others my age or younger who have known only a Sachin-centric cricket universe.
“What will we do once he retires?” a friend from high school asked me last week, genuinely worried. “How will we react when India is two wickets down and he isn’t the batsman walking in to take guard?”
I didn’t know how to answer. Doubtless we will all get used to the new order of things. Cricket is hardly a matter of life and death, and far more dire situations befall all of us over the course of our lives.
But Sachin’s retirement shuts the door on a phase of our youth. We will watch the game now as more cynical, jaded observers – perhaps because we are older, but also because there isn’t a magician in the middle, promising heroics and hope.
Updated: November 16, 2013 04:00 AM