In an age which seems to have a pathological dislike for anything that is time consuming and considers Test match cricket a long-drawn boring affair if not downright waste of time, the celebration of Sachin Tendulkar’s longevity should come as a surprise. It also makes one realise that the times we live in, there is little possibility of any player surviving for two decades. It is an age which believes that immortality can be and should be achieved in an instant.
We are living in a society which believes that the longer we linger, the shorter our memories will get. Those who can acquire knowledge and skill in a second are the ones who will rule this earth. Wisdom has nothing to do with years spent in learning, but just a day spent in mastering the intricate skill a sportsman needs to display his genius.
When Tendulkar says he is sure that Test match cricket will not lose its primacy ever, he is speaking for all those who value those subtle skills which can only be acquired over a long period of time spent in learning and hard labour.
But when he says, “who knows what will happen in the next 20 years” he is articulating the fears of all those who believe that the market forces will not let the longer version of the game survive.
In times to come, people will probably consider his playing for more than two decades a far greater achievement than all the wonderful skills he has unleashed in Tests.
All the runs and centuries he has scored have a value in a particular context and when the attention span of people is getting shorter and shorter, or so we are being told, people may not have the time to remember all his incredible feats.
In the surfeit of “cricketainment” where we might one day find one or two slots reserved for film stars in the IPL teams, who will have the time to reflect and savour gripping duels between the master of the willow and the wizard of the ball.
The Warne-Tendulkar contests are possible in time and space, which only a Test arena can provide. If a time ever comes when the shorter version of the game will be the only force propelling the sport and cricket will become only a consumer item, how will Tendulkar be remembered?
Obviously his one-day records will count for everything. His real legacy, something which he cherishes the most, is in the longer version of the game.
And if India values him, they should do everything to preserve Tests and not let corporates, masquerading as sports lovers, turn cricket into a consumer brand. That is the biggest tribute we can pay him.