The God of Indian Cricket

For more than 365 days, the cricket maestro has been sitting on an unprecedented 99 international centuries scored over a career spanning more than two decades, a feat unlikely to be ever surpassed in the game.

Cricket has manic followers in India simply because there isn’t any other sport that the country has achieved much global excellence, except hockey at one time in the past.

There are the odd sporting India heroes in tennis, badminton, boxing and archery but Sachin is the Tiger Woods or the Maradona or the Pele or the Mohammad Ali of India, all combined in one, ignoring of course the personal side of matters of some of the above mentioned icons.

Though Woods has lost it a bit professionally in the recent past, Sachin has persevered, cricket his focus and happy family by his side for support. At his age nearing 40, most former cricketers are into the second stages of their professional lives doing sedentary jobs such as commentary, writing newspaper articles or qualifying as coaches or umpires to make a living.

Sachin may have entertained a nation that has elevated him to the status of cricketing God and Indian sports first billionaire but getting to the 100th century did turn into a distraction that one could not avoid. Over the last year Sachin scored 30s, 50s, 60s, 80s and 90s in Australia and England, two countries big on cricket, but the biggest 100 ever in cricketing history eluded him far too long for anybody’s comfort.

There was talk that Sachin could be stuck on 99 forever like the great Don Bradman who ended his cricket career with an average shade under 100 runs per innings. There were many whispers that suggested that Sachin should retire like his contemporary Rahul Dravid, another legend of the game and move on. Dravid has said he is looking forward to enjoying life’s simple pleasures such as dropping his kids to school and buying grocery for his family which is always exciting initially, but not always.

While Sachin was not out of form the past year, he was certainly playing below his usually high standards. Clearly, the 100th century was weighing on his mind, his team mates and the rest of the country.

For some time the record turned into a sticking matter that one wants out of the way to get on with other stuff in life, like a daily traffic jam to work.

It hung about in a little recess of the mind of any cricketing fan who diligently logged on to the Internet or the TV or switched from music to radio commentary while driving whenever Sachin was on the crease, so as to not miss out on the big once in a lifetime occasion.

This was not about registering what some wordy and effusive commentator ceaselessly uttered when Sachin crossed the milestone, but about clicking into one’s mind forever the expression of such super achievement.

There are not too many in Indian sports. The other one is also connected to cricket when Kapil Dev, then captain of the team, lifted the World Cup in 1983 that turned the nation delirious. Everybody remembers that toothy smile.

Much relief was evident all round and also on Sachin’s face when he reached the landmark earlier this month against Bangladesh, a cricketing minnow. It surely was like an unending examination getting over for the fan and probably much more for Sachin. It was like a flyover on a daily route forever under construction, like it usually happens in India, one day being opened to traffic. The respite is immeasurable.

There is no doubt that Sachin has combined his sheer genius and natural talent with dogged perseverance, discipline, endurance, humbleness, fair play, fitness and focus that has raised him to the level of the extraordinary or even the ethereal. Following his 100th Sachin has said that he would like to continue playing as his passion for the game remains undiminished.

He also admitted that getting from 99 to 100 centuries was the toughest phase of his career due to the expectations and hype all around him. The fans were getting uneasy for sure.

Despite his love for the game, it is quite certain that Sachin will not be around for too long, clocking the centuries, given the physical and mental rigors of international cricket.

Till he calls time, I will continue to follow him on the Internet, TV or radio. But, these occasions will be about the joy of watching a cricketing genius at work. The stress is over. The BP is back to normal.