The game of cricket has given us many stars and superstars to celebrate. The names and deeds of the most remarkable amongst them have been etched in the annals of cricketing history forever, courtesy of their respect for the game. All these great men have carried the game to new places and new people and in turn making the game more popular.
But very few could have dreamt of making an entire nation captivated by this beautiful game almost single-handedly. And so, that special one has been accorded the status which almost no one could stake claim to – The God.
Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar remains one of the most, if not the most, undisputable reasons why the game of cricket has reached the level of popularity it has today. By the time Sachin had begun making the headlines in Mumbai dailies after his exploits with the bat in the dusty maidans as a child prodigy, cricket was already a household name. The likes of Kapil Dev had taken the game to the common man and made them realise that cricket is not just a game for elites, but for the masses. What was the role of Sachin then?
It was Sachin Tendulkar who almost transformed the game of cricket into a religion in itself in the land of diverse faiths and beliefs. Cricket slowly became a part of everyone’s life, be it in morning papers or discussions during lunch breaks or the last segment of the 9 o’clock clock news.
The game eventually grew richer and never looked back. Sachin had become a phenomenon that would only grow stronger from there. Everyone, be it an ordinary citizen or a rich business tycoon, wanted Sachin to do well. The Mumbai-born cricketer was batting with hopes pinned on him, be it raw emotions or pure commercial interests.
But what motivated him to keep running? As any sportsman would confess, it is the love for the game that drives him/her further than anything. The joy a sportsman derives from the love for the game can outweigh any financial rewards or the fame associated with the game. The love story between Sachin and cricket had become one of the most significant things in the history of the game ever. It was not an entirely rosy love story as well.
Sachin had to endure a lot of tough moments to prove that his love for the game was paramount. From being helpless when the ugly match-fixing saga erupted or to be in agonising pain when he had tennis elbow, the Master had seen it all. There were unsavoury times such as fans burning his effigies. But nothing mattered when pitted against his love for the game. All of his colossal achievements would fade into nothing in comparison with his love for the game.
The fact that he returned to play the game right after completing the funeral rites of his father bears testimony to his love for the game. Every budding athlete or artist would do well to remember that love for your art, for that alone, will give you strength to become stronger every time you fall.
People could sense that love when Sachin played the game. More than the boundaries and centuries he scored, the respect and the fondness he had for the game made his stay at the crease endearing to everyone watching it. That brought joy to many and gave hopes to millions.
The sheer positivity that his batsmanship brought was contagious and many of his contemporaries have gone on record to state the same. Any batsman could score boundaries, but only the Master would define the boundaries even beyond the cricket field. And that is why there would be only one Sachin.
The birth of this phenomenal career had to do a lot with the sacrifices of his beloved ones too. If his elder brother had not pedalled Sachin daily to his practice sessions early on, we would have never witnessed those scintillating straight drives. If Sachin’s children and wife had stressed for more of his time, upper cuts might not have the reverence that it does today.
If the groundsmen had even slightly complained at about having to prepare special pitches for the Master to prepare even when he was a kid, cricket might still be a fledgeling sport and nowhere close to being a religion in India. The sum total of all these sacrifices coupled with his love for the game transformed cricket into a religion and himself into a God for millions.
The most heartening fact is the manner in which Sachin repaid all the sacrifices. He has been a dignified ambassador of the game right throughout his career and has brought only pride and honour for his motherland with his conduct. The way in which Sachin Tendulkar has held about his composure even while enduring the toughest times will be a testament to his rich character.
Even as he stepped aside from mainstream cricket after his retirement, Sachin has silently continued to do what he does best provide hope. Sachin and his team have been instrumental in developing basic amenities for Puttamraju Kandriga - a village he adopted as a Rajya Sabha MP. It seems that Sachin has made it a habit of inspiring people and providing hope.
As the Master turns 44 today, fans must remember to appreciate his love for the game which was unparalleled and the collective effort from his friends, family, coaches and groundsmen who deserve greater credit for gifting a gem like him to the nation.
Happy Birthday, Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar!