Sunday, November 15, 2009

What’s your favourite Sachin moment?

(Also in Bengali daily Ek Din)
I suppose it’s one of the Indian cricket fans’ pastimes of choice – asking each other what their favourite Sachin Tendulkar moment is. I’ve been part of a few of these...obviously!

Many instances come up almost on cue: Operation Desert Storm for one, and that look on Shane Warne’s face. Then that double hundred in Sydney where he didn’t play a single cover drive. Or when as a 16 year old he slammed Abdul Qadir for successive sixers. That last over in the Hero Cup final maybe. So many others...

Strangely, I have usually stood out when these discussions happen. Yes, each of the instances mentioned earlier are fantastic, and I will explain why I feel so slightly later in the piece. But the incident that I remember most fondly is one that many people usually don’t remember. I don’t use it to stand out or to say something that makes me appear more intelligent than others. It’s because that one incident sums up Sachin Tendulkar for me.
The incident took place in Kolkata in probably the most important Test match in India’s history. Yes, the one in 2001, when VVS Laxman, Harbhajan Singh and Rahul Dravid walked away with all the honours. This was the 51st over. Shane Warne was the batsman, facing up to Tendulkar. The match was in India’s pocket already, but here was the moment of the match. Tendulkar ambles up, pitches the ball outside the off-stump, it’s a googly! The greatest leg-spinner in the world fails to read it; he is caught plumb in front. For a duck!

And that’s Sachin Tendulkar for me.

A man who can do almost anything in the game, but wants to do a bit more. He can play every stroke in the book, but he wants to play the top-edged cut over point because Virender Sehwag can play it. He wants to play it better. He wants to play the reverse-sweep because the rest of the world is playing it. He wants to play the scoop over short fine-leg because everyone else is doing it. And while bowling, he wants to bowl six different deliveries because Shane Warne can do it.

That’s Sachin Tendulkar for me.

What about the other incidents then? Desert Storm? Sure. After all, how many others can make Shane Warne look around in awe like that?

But that’s Sachin Tendulkar.

How about Sydney 2004 – the unbeaten 241 where he didn’t play a single cover drive? That proves the ability of the man even more. Imagine Warne not being able to bowl the flipper. Or Shoaib Akhtar and Muttiah Muralitharan not being allowed to chuck. Or Brian Lara banned from using the square drive. Or Sunil Gavaskar being told he can’t play the forward defensive stroke. Imagine one of them scoring a double hundred, or picking five-six wickets.

Yes, that’s Sachin Tendulkar.

It’s one of the great privileges of watching cricket in the modern era. Possibly the greatest privilege of them all. That we watched cricket in the era when Sachin Tendulkar played. Nothing beats that. Nothing at all.