A sporting genius: How Sachin Tendulkar turned into a 'god'

  • Pradeep Magazine
  • Updated: Oct 17, 2013 13:18 IST
  • Sachin Tendulkar made his debut for India at the age of 16 years and 205 days. (Getty Images)

    Happy Birthday Maestro!

    Sachin Tendulkar made his debut for India at the age of 16 years and 205 days. (Getty Images)

  • Sachin Tendulkar, in his first tour to Pakistan in 1989, was out for a duck on debut for India in Karachi. (Getty Images)

    Happy Birthday Maestro!

    Sachin Tendulkar, in his first tour to Pakistan in 1989, was out for a duck on debut for India in Karachi. (Getty Images)

  • Early on in his career, his extremely youthful appearence often belied the keen cricketing mind that lay beneath. (Getty Images)

    Happy Birthday Maestro!

    Early on in his career, his extremely youthful appearence often belied the keen cricketing mind that lay beneath. (Getty Images)

  • Sachin reacts after getting his century against Kenya in the 1999 World Cup. India won by 94 runs. (Getty Images)

    Happy Birthday Maestro!

    Sachin reacts after getting his century against Kenya in the 1999 World Cup. India won by 94 runs. (Getty Images)

  • A young Sachin poses just before a Test series against Pakistan in India in 1989. (Getty Images)

    Happy Birthday Maestro!

    A young Sachin poses just before a Test series against Pakistan in India in 1989. (Getty Images)

  • Sachin went from being the youngest player on the team for a long time to one of the senior-most over a marathon career. (Getty Images)

    Happy Birthday Maestro!

    Sachin went from being the youngest player on the team for a long time to one of the senior-most over a marathon career. (Getty Images)

  • A young Sachin gears up to face the legendary Pakistani pace attack in 1989. (Getty Images)

    Happy Birthday Maestro!

    A young Sachin gears up to face the legendary Pakistani pace attack in 1989. (Getty Images)

  • June 1990: Sachin in action during a net session at Headingley in Leeds, England. (Getty Images)

    Happy Birthday Maestro!

    June 1990: Sachin in action during a net session at Headingley in Leeds, England. (Getty Images)

  • With 100 international centuries, most of Sachin

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    With 100 international centuries, most of Sachin's records are set to remain intact for a long, long, long time. (Getty Images)

  • In the 1990 tour of Pakistan, a Waqar Younis bouncer broke his nose. Refusing medical aid, Sachin wiped away the gushing blood, and went on to score 57. (Getty Images)

    Happy Birthday Maestro!

    In the 1990 tour of Pakistan, a Waqar Younis bouncer broke his nose. Refusing medical aid, Sachin wiped away the gushing blood, and went on to score 57. (Getty Images)

  • Before making his debut in international cricket, Sachin stitched a 664-run unbroken partnership with Vinod Kambli in a domestic match. (Getty Images)

    Happy Birthday Maestro!

    Before making his debut in international cricket, Sachin stitched a 664-run unbroken partnership with Vinod Kambli in a domestic match. (Getty Images)

  • Sachin

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    Sachin's unbeaten 119 against England at Old Trafford was not only his first ton, his determined batting also saved the Test for India. (Getty Images)

  • A young Sachin is applauded by England players as he walks off the field after a Test match. (Getty Images)

    Happy Birthday Maestro!

    A young Sachin is applauded by England players as he walks off the field after a Test match. (Getty Images)

  • Abdul Qadir, the Pakistani leggie, had thought he would rattle the baby-faced India debutante by throwing him a challenge. The sixes Sachin hit off the spinner in response clearly heralded the arrival of a genius. (Getty Images)

    Happy Birthday Maestro!

    Abdul Qadir, the Pakistani leggie, had thought he would rattle the baby-faced India debutante by throwing him a challenge. The sixes Sachin hit off the spinner in...

  • Sachin at the Oval during India

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    Sachin at the Oval during India's tour of England in 1990. He would get his first Test century in this series. (Getty Images)

  • Sachin had to wait for a year before he scored his first Test century. (Getty Images)

    Happy Birthday Maestro!

    Sachin had to wait for a year before he scored his first Test century. (Getty Images)

  • Sachin, as the captain of India with Australian Prime Minister John Howard and others of the team. Though he has had two stints as captain, they were not the team

    Happy Birthday Maestro!

    Sachin, as the captain of India with Australian Prime Minister John Howard and others of the team. Though he has had two stints as captain, they were not the team's most...

  • Sachin as the Indian captain with Steve Waugh, captain of Australia and Sri Lankan captain Sanath Jayasuriya at a press conference at the Taj Samudra Hotel, Colombo, Sri Lanka. Hamish Blair/Allsport. Getty Images.

    Happy Birthday Maestro!

    Sachin as the Indian captain with Steve Waugh, captain of Australia and Sri Lankan captain Sanath Jayasuriya at a press conference at the Taj Samudra Hotel, Colombo, Sri...

  • Throughout his career, Sachin has been known for the beauty and the fluidity of the shots he played. Adrian Murrell/Allsport. Getty Images.

    Happy Birthday Maestro!

    Throughout his career, Sachin has been known for the beauty and the fluidity of the shots he played. Adrian Murrell/Allsport. Getty Images.

  • Sachin has also remained a rather handy part time slow bowler for India. Darren England/Allsport. Getty Image.

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    Sachin has also remained a rather handy part time slow bowler for India. Darren England/Allsport. Getty Image.

  • Tendulkar relaxes after a session at the nets in the Fosters Oval ahead of a one day international match. Adrian Murrell/Allsport. Getty Images.

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    Tendulkar relaxes after a session at the nets in the Fosters Oval ahead of a one day international match. Adrian Murrell/Allsport. Getty Images.

  • When Sachin was only 14, Gavaskar had already become the first batsman to score 10,000 runs. Sachin often used the original Little Master as a sounding board during the England tour in 1990. Getty Images.

    Happy Birthday Maestro!

    When Sachin was only 14, Gavaskar had already become the first batsman to score 10,000 runs. Sachin often used the original Little Master as a sounding board during the...

  • Sachin bats against the Minor Counties in Trowbridge. He became the first non-Yorkshireman to play for the Yorkshire county in 1992. Ben Radford/Allsport. Getty Images

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    Sachin bats against the Minor Counties in Trowbridge. He became the first non-Yorkshireman to play for the Yorkshire county in 1992. Ben Radford/Allsport. Getty Images

  • Sachin during a Test match against Australia. The Master Blaster rarely plays without the headgear, even against spinners, since he was pushed up the order in the

    Happy Birthday Maestro!

    Sachin during a Test match against Australia. The Master Blaster rarely plays without the headgear, even against spinners, since he was pushed up the order in the '90s....

  • Indian captain Sachin Tendulkar with the trophy after winning the series against Australia at home. Despite early victories against Australia and South Africa, his spell as captain saw both the maestro

    Happy Birthday Maestro!

    Indian captain Sachin Tendulkar with the trophy after winning the series against Australia at home. Despite early victories against Australia and South Africa, his spell...

  • A young Sachin poses with stalwarts Kapil Dev and Mohammed Azharuddin in Pakistan. Allsport UK /Allsport. Getty Images.

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    A young Sachin poses with stalwarts Kapil Dev and Mohammed Azharuddin in Pakistan. Allsport UK /Allsport. Getty Images.

  • Sachin favors the Ultralite Morrant pads, first presented to him by another cricketing legend, Sunil Gavaskar. Mark Thompson/Allsport. Getty Images.

    Happy Birthday Maestro!

    Sachin favors the Ultralite Morrant pads, first presented to him by another cricketing legend, Sunil Gavaskar. Mark Thompson/Allsport. Getty Images.

  • Sachin during a Test match against Australia. His average against the Ausies is a whopping 55 in Tests and 46.3 in ODIs. Getty Images.

    Happy Birthday Maestro!

    Sachin during a Test match against Australia. His average against the Ausies is a whopping 55 in Tests and 46.3 in ODIs. Getty Images.

  • Though he has reached the pinacle of success in the sport and is one of the most celebrated cricketers in history, humility remains his greatest asset. Getty Images.

    Happy Birthday Maestro!

    Though he has reached the pinacle of success in the sport and is one of the most celebrated cricketers in history, humility remains his greatest asset. Getty Images.

  • For someone of his small frame, Sachin plays with one of the heaviest bats. His current willow weighs 1250 to 1300gms. Shaun Botterill /Allsport. Getty Images.

    Happy Birthday Maestro!

    For someone of his small frame, Sachin plays with one of the heaviest bats. His current willow weighs 1250 to 1300gms. Shaun Botterill /Allsport. Getty Images.

  • An advertisement showing Sachin during the 1996 World Cup in India. As of 2012, he earns $16.5 million every year from endorsements. Getty Images.

    Happy Birthday Maestro!

    An advertisement showing Sachin during the 1996 World Cup in India. As of 2012, he earns $16.5 million every year from endorsements. Getty Images.

  • Sachin signs cricket bats for fans. The status he enjoys in India is literally godlike. Getty Images.

    Happy Birthday Maestro!

    Sachin signs cricket bats for fans. The status he enjoys in India is literally godlike. Getty Images.

  • The path has not always been easy for the genius though. A tennis elbow injury in 2005 almost threatened to finish his career off. Getty Images.

    Happy Birthday Maestro!

    The path has not always been easy for the genius though. A tennis elbow injury in 2005 almost threatened to finish his career off. Getty Images.

  • Tendulkar walks off the pitch after being dismissed by Ben Hilfenhaus. Though he is the only man to have scored 100 tons, 47 of those have come for a losing cause. Getty Images.

    Happy Birthday Maestro!

    Tendulkar walks off the pitch after being dismissed by Ben Hilfenhaus. Though he is the only man to have scored 100 tons, 47 of those have come for a losing cause. Getty...

  • Sachin

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    Sachin's stumps are rattled in a one day match. Glen McGrath and Muttiah Muralitharan are the bowlers who have dismissed him the most number of times (13 each). Getty...

  • Though compliments have been showered on him from all quarters, the cherry on the top came when cricket

    Happy Birthday Maestro!

    Though compliments have been showered on him from all quarters, the cherry on the top came when cricket's all time great Sir Don Bradman said Sachin reminded him of his...

  • Sachin leaves the field after being dismissed during a One Day International match against Sri Lanka. The master hung up his ODI boots in December 2012. Getty Images.

    Happy Birthday Maestro!

    Sachin leaves the field after being dismissed during a One Day International match against Sri Lanka. The master hung up his ODI boots in December 2012. Getty Images.

  • Sachin watches on from the Royal Box on Centre Court on day 11 of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships. Always a tennis fan, Sachin once looked upon John McEnroe as his idol. Getty Images.

    Happy Birthday Maestro!

    Sachin watches on from the Royal Box on Centre Court on day 11 of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships. Always a tennis fan, Sachin once looked upon John McEnroe as...

  • A wax figure of cricket star Sachin Tendulkar is displayed at the Sydney Cricket Ground in Sydney. (AFP)

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    A wax figure of cricket star Sachin Tendulkar is displayed at the Sydney Cricket Ground in Sydney. (AFP)

  • Sachin waves the Indian tricolour as he celebrates his team

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    Sachin waves the Indian tricolour as he celebrates his team's victory over Sri Lanka in the 2011 World Cup final. AFP

  • Anjali Tendulkar, wife of Sachin Tendulkar, offers him a piece of cake during his 40th birthday celebrations in Kolkata, India. (AP Photo)

    Happy Birthday Maestro!

    Anjali Tendulkar, wife of Sachin Tendulkar, offers him a piece of cake during his 40th birthday celebrations in Kolkata, India. (AP Photo)

In a world of sport ruled by giants, it would be easy to lose him in a crowd. His face is still adolescent, and his voice, despite having gained in strength, is neither domineering nor forceful. Chances are that if you met him, there would be no memory of it.

Yet, the same person has become such an integral part of Indian middle-class conscience that for the last 24 years he has dwarfed everything around him. On October 10, the day he announced the date of his retirement, life seemed to come to a standstill. Television channels had no news other than reconstructing his life and times.

The newspapers the next day devoted space reserved only for those who leave an indelible mark on the lives of its people. It is the kind of adulation a nation bestows upon its saints, the conscience keepers of its society. Not for someone who has indulged in an activity of a harmless nature, whose pursuit is neither epochal nor can change the way people lead their lives.

The phenomenon of Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, his staggering popularity and his God-like status among his followers is beyond the scope of this article. I, being one among those millions, who despite abhorring the cult of hero-worshipping, have watched in awe and admiration the birth, growth and now the exit — if one may call it so a month in advance — of a sportsman who has few peers; in terms of statistical achievements, none except for Don Bradman’s superhuman averages.

First sight

Two-and-a-half decades ago cricket followers had heard of a boy who batted as if the angels had decided to hold a cricket bat. In the sleepy Himachal Pradesh hamlet of Una, I watched him score only 10 runs, but was so impressed by this 15-year-old kid that my match report only had praise for his skills. Others who watched him had reacted the same way. The unanimous verdict was that he was special, destined to become one of the true greats of the game.

An age has passed by. Lifestyles have changed, the nation has changed, and the world has changed. Back then we had to stand in long queues to buy kerosene for our stoves. Today life is measured in the number of luxury goods we own.

What did not change was Tendulkar’s prodigious talent and the forecast that one day this boy wonder would conquer the cricketing world. Rarely, if ever, has a person fulfilled each and every promise he showed as a child. If anything, Tendulkar has achieved more than what destiny’s fingers may have written for him. They certainly wouldn’t have predicted a nation going ‘bonkers’ the day he would say he wasn’t going to play for much longer.

The law of nature may have forced an anguished Tendulkar to give up his most-loved treasure, but when, why and how did a sporting genius turn into a “God” for his followers is something future generations will try their best to find out.

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