I might never watch cricket again.
I may while flipping channels, and when i’m bored and have nothing better to watch. But the interest, passion and the love for it seems to have diminished a bit.
Why??? Two reasons.. First being Sachin’s retirement. The 16-yr old kid whom we saw grow up while growing up. Probably the one hero from our country, for all those who grew up in the 90s. There were very few idols for our generation. Idols who were a whole personality and not just masters in their field. Cricket is a religion and hence no other sport had chance enough to create a demi-god for the youth of the nation. Even though Viswanathan Anand was a champion in Chess and Dhanraj Pillay in Hockey, and they were wonderful individuals, they still had not received as much attention, overshadowed by cricket by a good margin.
Sachin was the one man who answered the world with his batting. Who represented our pride, our nation to the world. And who was a coveted brand in sports much like Schumacher, Ronaldo, Jordan and others. That probably was another reason why Anand and Pillay didn’t score as much, since they didn’t sell to the world as much as Sachin. For a nation thirsty for recognition in the world stage, this was one brand that was unbeatable at the time.
He taught us to win. We all won matches when he won it for us. We all celebrated his centuries like he was our brother or son or the best friend. We all celebrated his replies to the McGraths, the Warnes, the Donalds, Walshes, Waqars, Wasims and many others. We all know how we walked out of stadiums and switched off our TV and radio sets once Sachin was out. “The Indian batting order is collapsing like a house of cards” was a favorite line for commentators a few overs after Sachin’s fall, and to most of us as well. There was no one in the team, none who stood as tall and gave any hope of standing against any opposition. Sachin brought smiles to people who were sad, a sense of joy and excitement in the most mundane of daily lives, a topic of discussion for kids around the country playing gully cricket, a reason for celebration for everyone. We lived our lives with him.
I remember this one instance where I had exams going on in my school and India was playing Pakistan in Sharjah the evening before one. I was visibly upset with mom asking me to go study and not allowing me to watch the match. Dad walked in and said “Let him watch it, it’s India against Pakistan and Sachin is playing…“. And my dad would never precede studies with anything, but this was an exception.
Sachin’s retirement came much as a shock to me. To call his retirement without prior declaration, and not on the field instead on paper was something unexpected. It was special to see Warne and McGrath walk out of the Sydney Cricket Ground waving to the crowd. Or Steve Waugh for that matter. I’d have liked to see Sachin have a similar farewell. To see that hero, the demigod walk out of the one-dayers so quietly was unfitting. He’s still around in tests, but he was a hero for us in one-dayers. Indians love one-dayers more than tests even though we know the latter is a more honest test of talent and grit. But one-dayers brought us the two Cups and the many triumphs in Sharjah Cups and hence they’ll remain our first love.
The second reason i’ll not watch cricket anymore is because India has finally won the second world cup. Since the time I remember watching cricket, when Kapil Dev was still playing and Kumble wore glasses and Azharuddin was the captain, every world cup had an anticipation and hope that we’ll repeat 1983 this time. And we didn’t. But finally we did in 2011. And that sort of completed the circle and in a way clicked the lock close for me personally. That the dream we pursued for over 28 years is now finally come true. To see Sachin run out of the dressing room and Dhoni hit that last six to seal the victory was cathartic. We had triumphed as a nation again.I was in Chennai with mom and dad and I shall not shy away from saying I had tears in my eyes so did mom. People were on the streets in Delhi. The Rajpath was lined with youth in their cars playing music and rejoicing. In a long time the whole of India celebrated together as one, without any differences and for one reason. We were one that evening. No matter who it was, teachers, students, beggars, businessmen, politicians or the bourgeois, hindus, muslims, christians, buddhists, parsis all..
It is the one force that brought us all together and kept us together for the longest time and it was headed by Sachin. There’s no Indian who doesn’t like Sachin or admire him any less. Yes I love the game, I always will. But then again, I think India has grown bigger than in the 90s. We’ve opened up more, the Olympic medals are again a reality after Dhyan Chand, Milkha Singh, the Amritrajs, PT Usha and Paes and Bhupatis, we finally have the likes of Karyan Malleshwari, Abhinav Bindra, Vijendra Sigh and Mary Kom representing us and our pride in the world stage . A new generation is there to be encouraged and supported just like Sachin and others were back then. Probably they won the world cup in part because we stood by them. Probably we’ll win more medals if we stand by these new talents.
I sometimes dream of going back to India and opening a sports academy to train swimmers and chess players to go and make a change. I hope to contribute in as much little as I can to that bigger dream.
To all the Champs and to Sachin ‘God’ Tendulkar !!!