Today is the first instance of a sportsperson receiving the Bharat Ratna, and it could not have gone to a more fitting person than the Master Blaster, the man who has been the most popular sportsperson in India without a doubt, and probably for the longest time, given his long career span of 24 years.
It just sounds right – Sachin getting the Bharat Ratna. He is a true gem that the country has produced. Hailed by almost all cricketers of the past and present time as the most complete batsman to have played the game, Sachin is recognised as one of the best sportspersons of all time that walked the earth.
If there was a meeting of the representatives of all different sports from across the world, there is absolutely no doubt that Sachin will be the man that cricket will choose to represent itself. There are so many emotions, many numerous phenomena, and uncountable moments of happiness he has given us to deserve India’s highest civilian award.
His Contribution to Cricket
He has had a major say in making the game of cricket what it is today. He loved the game since his childhood, and played it professionally since 1989. He holds the unique record of having played with the most number of players (teammates and opponents included).
Other than that, he has the best numbers of his day to his name, which have been told so many times that quoting them here again is unnecessary. What stands out is the fact that one can’t imagine the game without him. His contribution to cricket seems much bigger than just statistics or numbers when you put an effort into thinking how cricket would have been without him.
There would be nobody who has played for such a long period of time, nobody who has touched the 100 century mark, nobody who could be credited to hit the same ball in 5 different ways, nobody who can play the most perfect straight drive anybody has ever seen, and as I mentioned before, nobody who could come close to be such an ambassador of the game as he is.
How much he is missed and will be missed can be judged by the fact that his last Test match was probably the most talked about throughout the world, and was probably the biggest phenomenon to occur in recent times in the cricketing world.
He was so perfect all along his cricketing journey, and even though he had grown old, he always looked like continuing indefinitely. And the reaction of the fans when he announced his retirement said it all. It was almost as if the soul of cricket had announced that it would leave its body in a few days.
You cannot call his presence in cricket dominating, for dominating is something which occupies majority of the available space without giving others a choice of whether they want it or not – it was something which was there to make us feel right about everything – the game, the time in which we live, and life in general.
We as fans never fail to ask for more, and if in future he decides to start coaching teams, or even become an active commentator for that matter, he can be sure that his presence in the game will be unmatched for generations to come.
Ambassador of the country
Sachin said today that he will continue to serve the country in the future as well. Not that we required any clarifications from his side. He is a Bharat Ratna in the true sense of the word, and will always be one. He is a true Indian, a patriot, and a national hero all of us can look up to.
Not that it needs explaining, but the fact that he served the nation for 24 long years is something unparalleled. So much has changed since 1989, but he has remained there like the pole star- strong, unwavering, and unaffected.
Every time he is on the screen, the whole country has sat and watched. Every time he has hit the perfect straight rive or the leg glance or the cover drive or the lofted drive (he does have many perfect drives), all of us have erupted with joy. It is impossible to measure the magnitude of what all he has done for all of us.
Cricket is something that has been a uniting factor for the country. It is something in which everyone shares a common feeling and a common pride. And to be cricket’s greatest icon means that you have contributed in a huge way to nation and its people. The time when Sachin waved the tricolour after India’s Word Cup triumph was plain awe-inspiring. The youngsters carryied him on their shoulders, and he had the Indian flag in his hand. It was the most perfect spectacle ever.
He has had to make his position clear to people who had branded him otherwise. The whole nation roared in approval when he said, “Mumbai belongs to India. That is how I look at it. And I am a Maharashtrian and I am extremely proud of that but I am an Indian first,” which is what he said when his spirit for the country was thought small in front of something otherwise.
I don’t want to malign this article by mentioning the creed of people who cultivate the belief that Sachin had numbers on his mind when he played, but I simply can’t resist. This Bharat Ratna is a slap to their face, and a very effective one at that.
People who haven’t done anything in their own life, let alone for the country, please turn the pages of history and recall the time he played a World Cup game just days after his father’s demise and scored a hundred for the side. That probably is the pinnacle of what you can do for your nation as a sportsperson, and it is for reasons like these he is ideal ambassador of the country, and one who everybody can look up to.
Sachin off the field
Sachin has been an icon off the cricket field as well. He has been working with an NGO called Apnalaya for quite some time now, and he sponsors the education of more than 200 kids every year. Apart from that, he is even part of social initiatives like the ‘Support My School’ campaign by Coca-Cola and NDTV, which envisions better and healthier schools in India in the future, and MARD (Men Against Rape and Discrimination), a social campaign started by Farhan Akhtar to raise a voice against the atrocities committed against women.
Sachin has never endorsed a liquor or tobacco brand, despite many lucrative offers that were given to him. All this speaks volumes about the kind of person he is and how responsible he has been as a citizen of this country, not forgetting to give back to the society even after he has done so much to lighten up our lives with his play. One cannot help but be in awe of how multi-faceted his personality is, and how he continues to amaze us in every way possible.
The inspiration that he is
He has been nothing short of an inspiration, to put it simply. He was deeply in love with his profession, and that is what he teaches us. Do what you love, and love what you do more than anyone else. Fellow cricketers have felt honoured to have played with him. He has been a guide to loads of youngster, actually generations of youngsters, who have been so lucky as to have shared the dressing room with him.
He was one of most revered gentlemen of the game too. You could never see him as a part of any brawl, and neither did anyone see him sledge (save for once when it was part of the team strategy). After a point in his career, respect would flow automatically for him. He was known to be one of the very hard workers in between games as well. He would practice tirelessly in the nets, and never took his game for granted.
This was a perfect example to all those who played alongside him, especially those who were new to the game. So many youngsters have said that they sought advice from him on how to handle pressure or even the sudden attention that they got from everywhere once they had settled in the team and started playing good cricket.
Other than that, he is an inspiration to sportspersons around the world as an epitome of dedication for his game. For us Indians, he is someone who has served our country for so long that we automatically feel like following in his steps. Not to forget the uncountable kids in the country who dream of becoming Sachin one day.
The Sachin moments
We are all thankful for them, aren’t we? The feeling of pride that filled our hearts when he walked out on anywhere in the world, be it Centurion or Trent Bridge or the SCG, and the entire multitude in the stadium stood up for an ovation – it’s not often that we feel that. Barring us, very few people have actually felt that. We Indians had probably got habituated to it, without realising the enormity of this honour that very few sportspersons in the world get, let alone cricketers.
It is a dream come true to see him bat, or walk out to bat, or bowl, or just field near the stand in which you are sitting. I personally have had the privilege of seeing a Sachin hundred live (against West Indies at the Eden Gardens, 2002), and it is a moment that will be etched in my heart forever. It is for these special moments that India and the world can’t thank him enough. No wonder #ThankYouSachin sounded so apt.
Almost all of us, be it Indians or not, have scorned the bowler who has got him out in the nineties. Almost all of us have prayed the while he has batted from the figure of 90 to the magical mark of three figures. Our prayers have been broken a lot as well (he has been dismissed in the nineties the most number of times), but they have been answered a lot more times than that.
At times, even his googlies with the ball that foxed the batsmen seemed more magical than the time specialist bowlers took wickets. His commitment while fielding, running like a kid along the boundary line with his hat on, just seemed perfect – just the way it was supposed to be.
Someone has rightly observed that time stopped when he batted. Obama claims to having watched him to figure out how his economy slowed down for the period of time he was on the crease. These times will be cherished for life, and we can be definitely sure that nobody else will gift us so much bliss.