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A 90s kid’s tribute to his hero

Posted in Uncategorized by abhijeetrawle on October 10, 2013

Its always a sad moment for a fan when his hero hangs up his cape. Right now, thousands like me will be paying tributes to Sachin through their blogs, tweets, walls and what not. Pundits and fans will keep comparing him to Bradman or will keep determining where he stood among his peers – Lara and Ponting. Friends will will argue on whether he should have retired earlier or if he did win enough matches. The media will keep analyzing what happens to brand Sachin and how his retirement will impact brand Dhoni. Honestly, does any of that really matter? How qualified are we or any of the pundits who preceded him to make any judgement on any of those debates? So, let me as a fan just recall what Sachin meant for a generation growing up in probably the wonder years of our lives – the 90s

Like millions of kids growing up in India in the 90s, for me there was only one hero. As kids playing maidan cricket, we all wanted to bat like Tendulkar – right from adjusting the crotch before taking strike to buying ridiculously heavy cricket bats. Ask any of those kids today which shot he remembers the most from gully cricket days – it will be the straight loft over the bowlers head (or a straight drive on the off side), showing the bowler the MRF logo. Ask any of those gentlemen who debate on Sachin’s retirement (including me – I wanted him to retire last year for my own selfish reasons) where they were when Sachin scored the Desert Storm century and they will tell you which spot they were sitting in and which cricketing superstition they followed to ensure a Sachin boundary. Ask those who say Sachin plays for his own records if they didn’t shed a tear when he overcame a personal tragedy to play for his country, scored a 100 and gazed at the heavens to thank his recently departed father. Ask those who debate on whether Sachin won enough games for India who came in after Sachin got out in the Australia tours in the 90s and all they will say is “pata nahi yaar, Sachin out hua aur main school gaya”. I wonder if marketing geniuses and TV channels ever figured out that the way to maximize ad revenue in an India test match overseas would be to shove in maximum Pepsi, MRF and Boost ads while Sachin was at the crease. People would invariably tune off the TV sets when he would get out. Only Sachin could evoke such extreme fan reaction. It didn’t matter who the other 10 people in the team were in the early 90s – there was only One who everyone thought could win the match for India.

People who debate whether Sachin won enough matches for India forget that he made it his personal mission to put smiles on faces of a billion people. A middle class 40 year old would get reamed by his boss at work, nagged by his wife and his kids at home but he would find peace watching Sachin battling against Ambrose and Walsh. A kid burdened with homework from school and ridiculous tuition classes would get a break from his mom to watch Sachin dominate Warne and launch ruthless counter attacks against McGrath, Akram and Shoaib who would try to rip through the rest of the Indian batting line up. A fatigued housewife would take a break at the end of the day and sit with the family cheering for Sachin. Diwali seemed even more special as Sachin bowled India to victory in the semi final of the Hero Cup. We celebrated his victories and became dejected in his losses. There isn’t a stronger emotional connection between the masses and one sportsman anywhere in the world than the one between the Indian fans and Sachin

Sachin played for the game and allowed people to smile when they wanted to move on from national tragedies. The match fixing scandal dampened the spirits of all fans – enter Sachin, Dravid and Ganguly along with a new generation of team India in Nairobi in Champions Trophy 2000. Sachin took it to McGrath, hooked him out of the stadium and even unsettled him with some un-Sachin like unparliamentary language. You can’t fix those brilliant moments. The God delivered when it was needed the most, and the faith in the religion was restored. Fast forward 8 years – 26/11 took place in middle of an India-England test series. The series resumed in Chennai and Sachin along with Yuvraj chased down 387 and fittingly dedicated his 100 to the victims of the horrific tragedy. What bigger service can a sportsman do in his capacity than make people smile when its the most difficult thing to do?

Records, endorsements, longetivity are all byproducts of his love for the game and his work ethic. Not every kid clocks in 10,000 hours practicing before the age of 15. Nor do all experienced sportsmen reinvent themselves as their skills and reflexes deteriorate. Nor does every sportsman leave with such adulation from 3 generations of a country which he inspired. An era will end in November. When India are 2 down in the first session, we will no longer have standing ovations as a legend walks on to the field. Nor will we have a rapturous applause when that batsman is out. The memories though will be cherished for a lifetime. Thank you Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, for making us cricket fans believe in the team, making us smile and inspiring a generation of Indian sportsmen to win.

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World Champs – a fan’s dream come true!

Posted in Uncategorized by abhijeetrawle on April 2, 2011

Still very emotional after the greatest moment in India’s cricketing history. The sight of M S Dhoni unleashing fury in that one magnificent shot, the sight of his nonchalance as he hit that out of the park and just watched it go over the ropes like a megastar, Gary Kirsten raising his arms in ecstasy and Yuvraj and Sachin having a superemotional bro-hug…this is what an Indian cricket fan lives for. This is what we dreamt growing up – Our captain holding the world cup high

(courtesy: Cricinfo)

The mind can’t help going back to all those disappointments we witnessed growing up. When India last won the world cup, I was 5 months old. I have no memories of the ’87 Reliance cup either. The oldest cricketing memory was that of a look of dejection on everyone’s face in 1986 when Javed Miandad whacked Chetan Sharma for a six off the last ball of the match. That one memory left an incredible effect on the minds of Indian fans. We never thought we could beat Pakistan, we never thought we could be world beaters again…

Enter Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar – sent from the heavens to make us believe again. A warrior that would single handedly battle the meanest of fast bowlers (a breed thats not the same anymore) on the bounciest of pitches and win the game. In Sachin we believed, and Sachin delivered. 92 world cup was a disappointment, but it gave us Sachin and it gave me  a great cricketing memory of India beating Pakistan. A game whose highlights I had videotaped (hard to explain what a VCR is to those born after 2000) and played every day before going to school. It also gave us the pain of losing by 1 run against the Aussies and watching Pakistan hold the most beautiful crystal trophy.

It has been a roller coaster ride after that with a few unforgettable moments like Prasad knocking off Amir Sohail’s timber, Sachin’s century against Kenya and the brutal assault against Pakistan in 2003. Then there were those memories – Kambli crying in the 96 semi finals and the fans burning down the Eden and Ponting smashing Zak, Srinath and the rest to all parts of Johannesburg. But things were changing in Indian cricket as all this happened. The lone ranger in 96 was now a part of what is Indian cricket’s best batting force – Ganguly, Dravid, Laxman and India’s greatest match winner – Anil Kumble. Indian cricket also saw a new breed of cricketers, inspired by Sachin, who feared no one. But they too came close and fell at the last hurdle. If 2003 was a disappointment, 2007 was tragic. The sight of Dilhara Fernando finding a way past Sachin’s defense and a sobbing Rahul Dravid would haunt us fans for the next year.

But cometh the hour, and cometh the man – M S Dhoni – a long haired-axe wielding warrior who made a mockery of technique, India’s toughest son of a bitch, a remarkable leader, a man in such control of his emotions that he’s nonchalant in victory or defeat, a great observer of the game and a brilliant tactician (ask Kieron Pollard – that mid-off fielder ready waiting for a catch in the IPL 3 finals). With the T20 triumph, Dhoni announced his arrival as a leader. He went on to inherit a test squad which he took to the top of the sport (yet to lose a series as a captain) but his ODI squad, though extremely talented had its weaknesses. Its a squad with a mix of seniors who aren’t exactly agile in the field and youngsters with phenomenal talent but temperamental issues. But Dhoni made it work. He accepted the weaknesses and with Gary Kirsten worked on the strengths. Everything that they worked for and toiled for in the nets would ultimately come down to this world cup and this day in Mumbai…

31-2 chasing 275 and Sehwag-Sachin back in the pavilion, even Bejan Daruwala would have double checked his charts that predicted an Indian win. But if you want something really bad, the universe conspires to make it happen (never thought I’d quote Paulo Coelho or Shah Rukh Khan). This was Dhoni’s night, this was Dhoni’s world cup. If Tendulkar was sent from the heavens to achieve greatness and inspire a generation – Dhoni, a part of that generation, was sent to win and win with style. After the win, the entire team celebrated, Sachin couldn’t hide his emotions (I liked the message sent to Manjrekar – “we proved a point to those who doubted our abilities”), Yuvraj broke down and Bhajji was on cloud 9. But in all celebrations, the captain was missing. He let the team have their moment and soaked in the win from the sidelines. This is Dhoni’s India and I hope it remains Dhoni’s India for years to come! Tonight’s toast will be to my captain, to my idol Sachin Tendulkar and to the Men in Blue. Cheers!