The romance of sport is about chasing excellence, battling odds, doing the undoable and achieving extraordinary feats. The world admires the gritty fighter and the underdog — we applaud the heroic feats of golfers who erase six-shot deficits in the last round, tennis stars who claw their way back when 2/5, 0-40 down and Rahul Dravid who makes three hundreds when others struggle to reach double figures.
Even more remarkable is the consistent excellence of a Sachin Tendulkar and his extraordinary achievement of dominating a global sport for as long as he has.
His incredible journey of 22 seasons, specially the lead up to the climax at Mirpur, has unravelled a new side of Tendulkar. What has emerged from the noise about the hundred hundreds is that Tendulkar is a Master but a blaster no more. Those who think he is close to divinity of some kind, well, let's just let that one pass.
For someone who has experienced success, the past year has been Sachin's first brush with the ordinary.
To be fair, he has always been sensible and level headed about crazy adulation. He is comfortable with his special status, yet pragmatic in understanding that success in sport is temporary, difficult to hold on to.
Since the last World Cup, while everyone waited for the ultimate milestone, Sachin maintained a stoic silence. He suffered bad form, bad luck and as the wait lengthened it was clear he was under tremendous strain. Now, with the century behind him, he talks of shedding 50 kilos of (mental) weight, of pain his family went through, the agony and the anxiety he alone endured.
Any batsman will happily take the four runs that come from an edged drive to third man. Sachin will gladly accept his Mirpur hundred. This was the most difficult hundred to score. This shows sport can make gifted people special, but also reduce the great to the ordinary — it is that return journey that somehow becomes the toughest one to bear.
The writer is an administrator with an IPL team and the views expressed are personal.