Late last night, after work, a friend came over to share a cigarette and said that Sachin Tendulkar was dead. He was suffering from one of his bouts of inspired jest. “It’s just as well he has been delivered from expert comments forever,” I replied.
I am not exactly crazy about cricket. But just as when there is nothing better to do than watch live chess on Doordarshan, I also watch cricket once in a while. And despite betraying the pan-national faith in this colonial import, I must admit that I have been fortunate to watch Sachin Tendulkar live. I am no good at statistics. But there are a handful of instances I remember that can put all doubts about his ability to rest.
For example, the final over that he bowled to put the plug on a resurgent Brian McMillan in the Hero Cup; or his century at Sharjah that saw India cross the 300-run threshold for the first time; or the back-to-back centuries that he scored against Australia at Sharjah; or his century in the Test against Pakistan in Chennai despite his back problems; or his 95 against Pakistan in the World Cup in South Africa; or the fact that he has the highest number of centuries in ODIs... well, I can go on and on till the fielders come home.
Anyway, I think I have made my point. Or maybe not. Just as I am bad at statistics, I also have failed, time and again, to gauge the emotional barometer of this nation. Why else would spectators boo Sachin off the grounds at Mumbai?
Experts would tell us that Tendulkar has been consistently inconsistent. But hasn’t this happened to the best of the lot? Actually, the people who should be blamed are all these ‘experts’. They have made careers out of passing judgments on players while they sit in comfy swivel chairs in studios or newspaper offices.
A few days from now newspapers will carry photos of Sachin and his wife back from surgery in London. And then if, god forbid, he does well in his next match, some inspired scribe will write a story with the heading: ‘The Little Master Rises Like a Phoenix.’
So, the best thing for Sachin would be to perform horribly in his next match. That way our experts will be able to write — End of an era?