Tuesday, December 3, 2013

This Is My Sachin Story.

It was 6:17 p.m. on the 11th of November, and I had just woken up. The tickets for Sachin Tendulkar's last test match in Wankhede had gone on sale at 11a.m. that morning. I had been trying to get to the tickets page and buy them on the KyaZoonga website until 3:30 that afternoon, but the website kept crashing and the page failed to open.

I was diagnosed with dengue 4 days ago. I was recuperating well until the morning of the 11th. That's when the high fever returned. Regardless of my condition, I sat in front of my desk during all my wake hours. And thus, at 3:30 I had to stop my efforts to get the tickets and sleep.

I needed rest. But I wanted those tickets.

When I woke up, I had lost all hope to be able to get those tickets. I figured they'd have all been sold out, I was late. I made my way to my desk where the browser window had the KyaZoonga Twitter tab opened. I read their reply to someone saying the tickets were still available. And so, the mad frenzy, the scramble to get the tickets, the mad pressing of the F5 (refresh the browser page) button, the multiple attempts in multiple tabs and browsers to open the website, started again.

It was 8:57 p.m. when it all went through and I had a soft copy of the tickets on the screen in front of me. I had goosebumps on my skin, and tears building up inside me. That's when it sank in, I will be watching Sachin play one last time.

I first read that Sachin was retiring on TOI's Twitter feed, one evening while I was in Pune. So very sad. And that made me sad. It read:

I didn't read the article that evening. It was only in the next 2-3 days when I read further tweets about how Sachin's last test would be in Mumbai, at the Wankhede, did I realize that he is still playing 2 more games and then retiring. That was the moment I felt the desire rise inside of me, I had to go to watch Sachin play, one last time.


I haven't been an avid follower of the game lately. I have never known the stats, all the players, the venues, the schedules of the games. I've been aloof from all of that. And yet, every time I knew there was an India or Mumbai match, the question of how Sachin played, was the first and only one I had. May be that has something to do with the fact that I've been born and brought up in Mumbai. But I think it has more to do with who Sachin is and has been.

After India's victory in the 1983 World Cup (which literally no one expected), cricket became a sensation. Cricketers became superstars. But soon, the stars who had led the team to the great victory, started retiring. In 1989, a 5-feet 5-inch 16-year-old kid by the name of Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, made his cricketing debut against Pakistan. And the world noticed.

Inning after inning, he showed the cricketing community and the billions back home, why a 16-year-old was included in the team. He was the hope every Indian held on to when there was a tough situation. Soon, the sensation grew, and he was given nickname after nickname, from 'The Master Blaster' to 'Tendlya' to the 'God of Cricket'. He shattered record after record, and became the hero. His comebacks were already inspiration stories. His humility and patience are un-matched. His respect for the game, unparalleled. He was a real the gentleman to the gentlemen's game.

He was the knight in whom the country trusted. And he did prove their trust right. He was whom the country relied on. The country believed in him.

Like others around me, I don't remember where I was when Sachin played every one of his dozens of magnificent innings. But I know how I felt every time I saw him play. He made me happy.

I very strongly believe that sport is more about the technique and the rules than anything else. The way Sachin played, was a reflection of just that. It is when you see him play, hit the most difficult of shots with the least amount of effort, perfect timing and incredible footwork that you realize why he has been termed the 'God of Cricket'. And it's all of that that kept me in awe of the cricketer, the man, the person that Sachin Tendulkar is.


But, even after being successful in purchasing the tickets, I was still unsure if I would be able to watch the match, or if I would have to give away the tickets I had bought with such efforts. I fervently hoped at that moment that my fever wouldn't exist the next morning and I could go to watch the match on the first day, the 14th of November.

I don't know what healed me, but since the morning of the 12th, I was completely fine. Mom joked that "Sachin God healed my Setu!" And I couldn't help but wonder, 'Is that true?'

I was able to be there to witness the God's glory one last time, on the 14th. And I stayed there after half the crowd had lost hope that they'd get to watch Sachin bat that day. I stayed there, hoping it'll be like the match at Eden Garden's, the last week. I was lucky, and it was.

I had never imagined an Indian crowd would erupt when one of India's set, good batsman departed for 43. On that day, we did. The grand entry, the Guard of Honour were a show of the grandeur this demi-God deserved and had earned over the course of 25 years.The crowd erupted every time his bat hit the ball. The square drive, the straight drive, the drive through cover, and every stroke of his bat, were a show of how he kept a billion people entertained and hooked for over 2 decades, with pure cricketing pleasure.

I couldn't help but smile all through my return journey from Wankhede to home, kept talking about how amazing each moment of the day had been. And it was, the best day of my life.

It was that day when I finally realized why people believe in deities. It gives them hope, and makes their hearts lighter.

I had seen Sachin play live before, in an IPL game, back in 2011. But, it wasn't even close to how it was on the 14th. It was a display of love and affection of the people of the city he calls his home, Mumbai and the country who he has represented, India.

I gave away the tickets for the rest of the days to friends who equally wanted to see him on the field one last time. I saw him score his half century, saw his final goodbye speech, watched him pray to the 22-yards pitch that made him who he is, one last time, all on TV at home, and I could feel how Wankhede what my friends at Wankhede felt, what every fan in the country felt.

An era of cricket ended that day (16th of Novermber, 2013).

My Sachin story isn't about the great encounter I had with him, because I didn't have one. I haven't been lucky enough to meet him in person, yet. But my story is the story that hasn't been told. It's a story of what hope and desire does to a person, even if it comes from a very simple desire to watch his idol play, one last time. My story is about how belief fixes everything and makes it possible for you to achieve what you want to. My story is of the joy I know each of those who went on my tickets, for the rest of the days, felt. My story is of the difference the Master made to the lives of us all. And even right now, I have goosebumps remembering the smallest memory of that event, right from the daily searches from October 12th about when the tickets would go on sale, to trying to get the tickets for roughly 10 hours, to being enthralled with how our dear Tendlya played, to the euphoric moment when Sachin returned to the pavilion, at the end of the day, after scoring an unbeaten 38.

Thank you, Sachin. For the cricket you played. For the memories. For the hope you instilled in our hearts. For being a true hero. For being someone I can look upto. Thank you Sachin, for everything.

Sachin's records probably won't stand forever, like they didn't of those before him. There'll be another hero who'll make heads of bowlers turn and make another billion hope. But, I can say that with utmost certainty that no sporting star ever had the love that Sachin Tendulkar does, and no one probably ever will.

This, is my Sachin story. Thank you, Sachin!

P.S.: If you haven't seen this video already, make sure you watch it. It's Google's tribute for the legend, with music by Amit Trivedi and lyrics by Swanand Kirkire. I cry every time I watch it. Every time.


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