If you’ve ever been a cricket fan or even a non-cricket India interested person anywhere in the world, the synonym other than Gandhi or Yoga you would know, is Sachin Tendulkar. The mention of the name is enough to conjure images of a 10 numbered jersey creating miracles while running “between 22 yards for 24 years,” to quote the just-retired Indian cricketer’s emotionally-charged farewell speech that held the nation of 1.2 billion and possibly more across the world captive for its duration of 20 plus minutes. India’s “master blaster” has broken more cricketing and life records than most legends. His Herculean 200 test matches and 463 ODI appearances have made him tally a mammoth score of 34,347 runs (15,921 in test and 18,426 in ODI) spanning his career, a number that stands unrivalled by a few thousand by many former sport legends.
In a country ridden by superstition, his sheer presence on the field has spelt a “guaranteed” win for the country. Oblations of nation-wide fasts (like his own sister Savita keeps), prayer services, mass donations, DIY temples and even positioning their chakra vastu to compliment a certain planetary position to make Sachin win even the most passable of matches have been added to the pious Havan fire that has been burning bright for the curly-haired 5 foot 5 inches diminutive frame of a man who has stood taller than most larger than life icons in Indian contemporary history. The rhythmic chanting of “Sachin Sachin,” has had the hypnotic “Hare Rama, Hare Krishna” effect on the mass of believers and worshippers nation-wide. For all purposes religion-agnostic, Sachin Tendulkar is not just a demi-God, but God.
It isn’t strange to find such reverence following the movements of a star in the country. Even South Indian actor Rajnikanth stops the Deccan when he moves from one place to another, but his fortitude for whatever reasons are geographically hindered. Sachin Tendulkar is the exception to the rule. His fandom is language-agnostic, for the reason that his strength lies in making you believe in miracles as a commoner, not as a hero of make-believe, celluloid–created world. Besides the point that India has no real political icons or world leaders who have managed to lead a change in our modern psychic, the baton rests on our stars, and besides film the candidates also come from our “biggest religion,” cricket… Sachin Tendulkar. For lack of a better salutation, Sachin is our biggest pop hero.
So much has been the hype surrounding his retirement from competitive sport, that weeks leading up to his final match the media frenzy has been rid with palpable, fever-pitch, Arab-spring recalling fervour. Billboards wishing him a gratitude-filled goodbye, artistic impressions in the form of towering installations, songs, TV and radio specials, even his biggest fan (Sudhir) entered our drawing rooms and our RAM. The scams/BJP-Congress rifts/upcoming elections/rapes/building demolitions plaguing our prime time news hour were put on hold in a week of strange silence for the master blaster.
In the months and years to follow we can expect biographies, movies, TV shows and brand Sachin will continue to help us keep sipping from the immortal youthful fountain of Sachin’s legacy, but for many years to come his farewell speech that he delivered at the end of his last innings at Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai on November 16, 2013 could be his best word yet. Which is why the PMO wasted no time is commemorating him with the highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna on the same day, a first for a sportsman. So much has the Sachin media uproar milked it, that a popular Mumbai tabloid even called fellow awardee Prof CN Rao who spearheaded India’s contentious mission to Mars, “scientist who’s done a Sachin in research.” No one has called India’s other big sporting legend currently in a headlocked game of chess Viswanathan Anand defending his world title a “Sachin of chess,” yet and for that we are thankful.
Nonetheless, nothing can take away from the humility and gratitude reflecting in Sachin’s wonderful speech that every human being across the world should hear. Watch it and don’t stop creating and looking for the next great Indian icon.