After smashing a sizzling 200 not out in Gwalior, Sachin Tendulkar had a pleased look, quite like a student who maxed an exam. Inside the dressing room, he lay on the massage table, physically drained but emotionally charged, and as the masseur gave him a vigorous rub down, Sachin scrolled through his mobile to scan the congratulatory messages.
Astonishing achievements are not new to Sachin, and in his long innings there is not a record he hasn’t shattered. But even by his special standards, the one at Gwalior was extraordinary. Batsmen are supposed to treat the ball according to its merit but Sachin rejected this age-old rule. Pre-determined shots are a strict no-no, yet Sachin dispatched the ball as if he had made up his mind before the bowler started his run up.
This was an unforgettable effort, brutally aggressive and subtly inventive at the same time. The feat will be surpassed but it is unlikely that the effort will be constructed with such style and supreme artistry.
One of Sachin’s qualities is that he remains serenely composed and deeply grounded. See him after an innings and it is difficult to make out whether he’s made a hundred or zero. During the long journey, Sachin has learnt that cricket is the king, way above the superstars who perform and move on.
Which is why, even in his moment of triumph, Sachin played down his role and praised teammates Yusuf Pathan and MS Dhoni profusely. Sachin has two weeks of rest before he pads up again, this time for the IPL, where, after two modest seasons, he has a few things to correct.
Is he better than Bradman, or in the same league as Mohammad Ali or Pele, giants who dominated and redefined their sport? That is an endless debate. But a Bharat Ratna, as suggested by Kapil Dev? Of course!