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...how we wonder what you are

Somewhere, far removed from his public face, frolics the real Sachin Tendulkar. Perhaps that man is not reserved, modest or always in control, reports Sukhwant Basra.Special Coverage

cricket Updated: Nov 14, 2009 00:24 IST
Sukhwant Basra

Somewhere, far removed from his public face, frolics the real Sachin Tendulkar. Perhaps that man is not reserved, modest or always in control. Under the glare of the arc lights it seems to peek through once in a while --- in the form of a blazing silver belt buckle that’s almost as wide as his hand, or the shiny black crocodile skin shoes that match the buckle twinkle to shine. The flashy Tendulkar inhabits a private world; facing his nth press conference, he is decidedly bland.

There’s an underlying restlessness to the man sitting in the chair. His neck bobs all the time --- back and forth and sideways with a distinctive tendency to flop towards the right shoulder. Then, it’s all stretched out when responding to a question that has him more animated than most. Its all very bird-like. Sometimes hawk, largely dove.

The left hand’s steady with the microphone grasped. The right is whirring about with fingers splayed when he gropes for the correct words and lies limp when the query refuses to excite him. The shiny-shoes-clad feet begin to move as an answer drags out. In the hour plus that he faced a volley of questions, they have done a full tap dance circum-ambulating the space under the table. They, after all, are free from scrutiny under the wood. There, they can frolic a bit.

The man who terrorises bowlers with temerity, refuses to hold eye contact with a questioner for the length of a retort. After all, those eyes are the most naked bit in the shell that he cocoons within. The warmth is there, the vibe is positive but the armour is always up. Just, the eyes are a giveaway. They glaze over at a controversial poser, sparkle with boyish humour at questions that amuse and come alive when he is talking pure cricket.

The focus of a mind that spells 175 even at the age of 36 is clear in the way he streams out all the background commotion. It is white noise. He does not ask for long questions, which are actually a series of them woven into one, to be repeated. He reels off the answers. Just that the answers have been accumulating over 20 years. It’s the same stuff over and over again.

“Every individual should respect another… whatever you say or do you have to think twice,” he says to a query on why he has never lashed out with angry words. That attitude doesn’t make great copy but perhaps that’s exactly why he makes a great cricketer. “Cricket lies in my heart. I enjoy playing cricket. It comes naturally. It is my life and I enjoy every moment of it.”

There’s a robotic one-dimensional aspect to his subservience to his God. Something that does not allow him to rest easy on the last great knock. “Others talk about the last game, I think about the next one.”

Perhaps someday Tendulkar will let his guard down and speak his mind without being too bothered about the ease of others. He may yet take on the toughest of posers and rip through them with the abandon only his willow flashes as of now. “People have appreciated me the way I am. Why change what you are when people anyway like you the way you are?”

Perhaps someday he will get over the bit that he has to be liked by everyone and allow a peek into his private world --- the place where he is all human and no superstar. Perhaps.