Athletes feed on positive energy all the time. On the field, off the field and even after the date for the final walk into the sunset has been decided, there is nothing to feel miserable about.
Having occupied prime space in our heart and soul for 24 years and having brought us immense joy each time he stepped into the arena to bat, bowl and field in every form of cricket, Sachin Tendulkar would be a relieved man today.
Reactions to his retirement announcement have been emotional and, for a sport not played globally like football or tennis, the champion’s popularity is so huge that acres of news space have been devoted to him.
Agreed, for a nation which reads about only miserable news every day, be it the political situation, the country’s economy or the cyclone battering coastal Andhra and Odisha, Sachin’s retirement is not good news. In fact, retirement news of any sportsperson is not something to savour as fans feel their superstar will not be seen in action.
Hang on, Sachin has not said he will no longer play cricket.
He is still going to play two more Tests — his 199th and 200th against the West Indies — which means you will get to see him for another 10 days.
Everything about the champion has been captured from his birth to the long journey in a sport which people understand so well at home. This is cricket, where every minute detail of Sachin the phenomenon has been captured for posterity. You and I may also claim we know it all, but try and understand what goes through Sachin’s mind these days. By almost going into a state of mourning that Sachin will no longer play cricket, we are only going to do disservice to cricket’s biggest living legend.
And to suggest that cricket will never be the same minus Sachin is ridiculous.
When Pele retired from international football in 1971, people said football would never be the same. With one year to go for the next World Cup in Brazil, people still look forward to the sporting extravaganza with bated breath.
None of us is crying that Pele will not be there to play again! There are many more big names who have dazzled on the football field, so comparisons with Pele are academic.
If you go back to the wooden racquet age of tennis, people thought there will never be another one like Bjorn Borg. Borg left, Pete Sampras came in.
Sampras retired and Roger Federer exploded onto the big stage. With the genial Swiss now on the decline, Rafael Nadal again on the rise and Novak Djokovic also emerging as a true champion, tennis is so thrilling. Fans cried when Ayrton Senna died tragically in 1994 at Imola and said Formula One will never be the same. The same fans watched Michael Schumacher dominate F1 and now we have Sebastian Vettel gunning for his fourth straight F1 world championship.
The beauty about sport is the joy it brings. Unlike tennis and Formula One, Sachin played in a team sport and made an indelible impression. He could single-handedly turn defeat into victory and I would remember the champion for his heroic exploits in the ODI version, though as far as Test cricket goes, people still want to compare him with Don Bradman and Brian Lara.
I have viewed Sachin independently, without any comparison to Bradman and Lara. Just as there was one Sunil Gavaskar, there is only one Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. The eras are very different and the way cricket is played is also different.
Gavaskar stood up against menacing fast bowlers so majestically that he made opening the innings look simple. Sachin started in the middle order in ODIs and then started opening.
I have, in fact, marveled equally each time he came on to bowl.
He would bowl an amazing variety every over.
For a man blessed with sublime skills and style, what baffles me is why Sachin never seemed to enjoy captaincy in either of his two stints. Yet, as a person committed to the cause of the Team India, he had no ego issues playing under other captains.
My one and only meeting with Sachin was in the summer of 2001. My friend Ganesh, who then worked for Adidas, had called me over as the superstar was coming to the showroom in Vasant Vihar. The event was not publicised and soon people who had come to the nearby cinema hall rushed towards the store.
I shook hands with Sachin and also took a photograph with him, even though I was told that as a professional sports writer, one is not supposed to get emotional! I won’t say ‘ goodbye’ Sachin, but ‘ good luck’ champion as there are still two more Tests to go.