As well-documented as India’s fixation with cricket is, there is still the occasional surprise in store for those (usually loitering, jobless journalists) trying to decipher the extent of this obsession.
Ajit Singh, a casual labourer from a Haryana village has – like a zillion others – followed Sachin Tendulkar’s career ardently. The 32-year-old has memorized every single innings that the little master has played in Tests.
On Friday morning, as incessant rain led to a premature abandonment of the third day's play between Services and Mumbai, Ajit finagled his way to an audience with the great man.
Tendulkar was skeptical at first. But he was won over when the rustic rube rattled off accurate innings-by-innings scores on being questioned.
Since 1996, Ajit has been maintaining a diary of knocks by Tendulkar. Ask him how much he scored in his 12th Test, and out pops the answer – 16 and 7 against Australia at Brisbane in 1991; 36th Test: 4 and 0 not out against New Zealand at Bangalore in 1995; and so on and so forth.
Ajit’s unique skill has been acknowledged by the Limca Book of Records through a certificate of merit, a piece of paper that he finally managed to get signed by the centerpiece of his existence.
“My brother told me that Mumbai was playing their Ranji Trophy semi-final in New Delhi. So I came over and somehow managed to meet him. Sachin quizzed me on his various scores, and he was very happy when I was able to answer everything correctly,” he said, satisfied after finally getting to meet his idol in the flesh.
A native of a village in Rajasthan, Ajit took to cricket during the 1996 World Cup and solidified his fascination with the most complete batsman of our times over the next few years.
“I like other players too, but nobody is like Tendulkar. He is something special and although I am unable to follow all his knocks on the television, I make sure to update myself of the relevant statistics as soon as I get the chance. But I’ve watched most of his innings.”
There are other talents too that this young man claims to possess. He can recite ungainly multiplication tables from memory in the blink of an eye, work out palindromes in a jiffy, and is currently working on calculating orally the square root of numbers.
“A lot of people in my village make fun of my obsession, but I don’t care about the detractors. I used to follow the careers of other Indian cricketers too, but it’s not the same. For me, Sachin is God.”
Ajit could have been speaking for a million others.