20 years later, the world has come a full circle.
On 5th November 2009, chasing an Aussie total of 350 runs on run-hungry Hyderabad ODI wicket, Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar made 175 runs off 141 balls.
18 runs were needed off 17 balls and there were 3 wickets in hand. And to no one’s surprise, the rabbits lived up to their name, and the little master, up to his curse.
India had lost after another sensational Sachin innings.
The critics continue to have a field day (no pun intended). Experienced as they are, they say that Sachin played a bad shot, that he, as a set batsman should have seen India home, that he should have finished things. To even think such a thing is not only cruel and criminally unjust – it questions his ability and strips the man of his fight and his heroism.
The fact is that there is a difference between opening the innings and being a finisher, a difference between setting the game up and performing the last rites. Dhoni at number 3 has a different role from a Dhoni at number 6, but then what saves him from the critic’s scythe is the fact that he is Dhoni and not Sachin.
Cricket is a team sport and is made up of 11 players. One player can be the Man of the Match but cannot be the team. Give the same equation to any other team in the world – Sri Lanka, Pakistan, New Zealand, SA, England or West Indies – and chances are, the champagne would have flowed long into the night, instead of the awe-filled pain the honest, passionate and educated Indian fan felt.
If the #2 team in the world cannot keep their nerve, is the title worth its weight?
To be a #2 team in the world means not just being physically and technically superior, but also being mentally tough. It means to curl up your fists, hold that breath in that dares to be the last, and to deliver.
The all-important question to be asked is that who failed to deliver?
There is only so much one man can do. Even in the epic Ind-Eng test match in Chennai, it took a brilliant Sachin hundred to win the game for India, and not lay to waste a breathtaking Sehwag 80-something blitzkrieg.
Sachin has often missed that Sachin.
20 years later, the world has come a full circle. There are the Pontings of the cricketing world who know and admit with an admiring grace that “it was not just the best innings Sachin has played, but perhaps the best that any player in the world has played.” And then there are those for whom he’ll never be good enough, no matter what he does. Those who would have bayed for his blood should he have gotten out say, 10 runs after reaching a simply staggering landmark. They would have smugly, sagely nodded, “I told you so… he’s playing for statistics and not for the team.”
17168 runs later, Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar has looked at the mirror, felt a pain that he only knows. And kept quiet. And once again, he has let his bat do the talking.
Peace, love, empathy