I am a fan; never bordered on the fanatic though. Quite frankly, as a boy I took to Azhar the first time I saw him play. I used to mime him ditto on the field, with the collar up and all that. I even used to field in the covers. During my stint as the captain for my society's cricket team, I used to take notes on Azhar's field set-ups and bowling changes and later try to analyze when he made bowling changes. Why he would not have a midwicket fielder for Kumble. And why he would keep changing the field. How he would not talk to his team much. How he would be non-chalant when a field change would work - as if he knew it had to! I was a fan, I think for the first time in my life.
Then came 1996. Theworld cup. Till then, Sachin was like the army. Azhar was the general. Come '96 and Sachin became THE MAN. I fear going into relentless, directionless rant if I start of with the world cup series. I had always liked him. Ever since he walked in with that wire-like frame in 1989. I still remember the smirk on Wasim's face as he measured his run-up. And that bouncer, my heart had skipped a beat. I had liked him that instant. I wanted to be wearing whites and walk into the ground one day. It seemed that if Sachin could, I could too. Then that innings against NZ - the first time he opened the innings in a ODI. He blasted 82 off some 48 deliveries. He had the NZ bowlers scratching their head as the ball soared over all parts of the boundary - Danny Morrison and Chris Pringle wondering what the hell just happened. Believe me - there was a Viv Richards and then a Kris Srikanth - batsmen who were known to belt the bowlers 'fearlessly'. But those who remember this innings, will know what I mean when I say Sachin had redefined fearlessness. Top notch shots. The straight defensive shot that he plays so subtly that you would think the ball would drop dead right there and you could see Pringles jaw drop as the ball sped past him, the stumps, the umpire and between the fielders at mid-on and mid-off. The next ball, pitched short by a well built Pringle to sort of intimidate the little guy. Our guy - all of 5'4" (with shoes on) dances down the track - yes, to a short pitched delivery, brings down the heaviest bat in business with arguably the shortest arms in business too and pulls the ball over mid-wicket (Oh! Yes! He had that sort of time) for a six. And yet, the best scene was that of Pringle wondering what just happened.
Phew. And I better not go into 1998. Sharjah and the history it holds. It was dinner time. I am a slow eater. And that night, I redefined slow eating as one man in the middle wast was redifining human abilities. I need not tell what happened in Sharjah. I now had a God. Someone who can be seen. Someone who can save India. Who can pull us out of trouble - no matter what. A god who exists.
There was this time where many used to say he wasn't the best. He wasn't a match winner. He wasn't in form. He had changed. And what not. Yet, when they were told to look at the numbers for the past 6 months or so - they could see an ODI average of over 40 with a strike rate of over 80. And a test average of over 50 with a strike rate near 60! When people used to criticize or doubt or question Sachin, a smile used to find its way to my lips. The sort of smile Buddha must have sported when people asked him if there were God. There have been innumerable number of blog posts and e-mail forwards I would have received, read and felt good about. Got one today too - from my brother. I have never really shared e-mail forwards in a blog post. But today, I have no clue why, I want to share this...
To all you guys out there, a partial compilation of comments given by random cricketers and other known personalities on Sachin Tendulkar ...
Hashim Amla - "Nothing bad can happen to us if we're on a plane in India with Sachin Tendulkar on it."
Yaseer Hameed - "Sometimes you get so engrossed in watching batsmen like Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar that you lose focus on your job."
Andrew Symonds - "To Sachin, the man we all want to be" (On an Aussie t-shirt he autographed specially for Sachin)
BBC - Beneath the helmet, under that unruly curly hair, inside the cranium, there is something we don't know, something beyond scientific measure. Something that allows him to soar, to roam a territory of sport that, forget us, even those who are gifted enough to play alongside him cannot even fathom. When he goes out to bat, people switch on their TV sets and switch off their lives "
But the finest compliment must be that bookmakers would not fix the odds - or a game - until Tendulkar was out
Wasim Akram - "Tuzhe pata hai tune kiska catch chhoda hai?" To Abdul Razzaq when the latter dropped Sachin's catch.
Brian Charles Lara - Sachin is a genius. I'm a mere mortal.
Mark Taylor - "We did not lose to a team called India...we lost to a man called Sachin"
M. L. Jaisimha - "The more I see of him the more confused I'm getting to which is his best knock."
McGrath - "The joy he brings to the millions of his countrymen, the grace with which he handles all the adulation and the expectations and his innate humility - all make for a one-in-a-billion individual,"
Anjali - "I can be hundred per cent sure that Sachin will not play for a minute longer when he is not enjoying himself. He is still so eager to go out there and play. He will play as long as he feels he can play,"
Hayden - "I HAVE SEEN GOD, HE BATS AT NO.4 FOR INDIA"
Kumble - I am fortunate that I've to bowl at him only in the nets!
Que: Who do you think as most important celebrity?
Shahrukh: There was a big party where stars from Bollywood and cricket were invited. Suddenly, there was a big noise, all wanted to see approaching Amitabh Bachhan. Then Sachin entered the hall and Amitabh was leading the queue to get a grab of the GENIUS!!
Navjot Singh Sidhu - India me aap PrimeMinister ko ek Baar Katghare me khada kar sakte hain..Par Sachin Tendulkar par Ungli nahi utha Sakte.. (You could take the PM of India to court - but can't raise a finger on Sachin)
Waqar Younis - He can play that leg glance with a walking stick also
A banner - 'I WILL SEE GOD WHEN I DIE BUT TILL THEN I WILL SEE SACHIN'
Allan Donald - Sachin Tendulkar has often reminded me of a veteran army colonel who has many medals on his chest to show how he has conquered bowlers all over the world
Allan Donald's interview:
I was bowling to Sachin and he hit me for two fours in a row - one through point and the other in between point and gully. That was the last two balls of the over and the over after that we (SA) took a wicket and during the group meeting I told Jonty to be alert and I know a way to pin Sachin. And I delivered the first ball of my next over and it was a fuller length delivery outside off-stump. And I shouted catch. To my astonishment the ball was hit to the cover boundary. Such was the brilliance of Sachin. His reflex time is the best i have ever seen. It’s like 1/20th of a sec. To get his wicket better not prepare. At least you won’t regret if he hits you for boundaries.
Peter Rebouck (Aussie Journalist) - On a train from Shimla to Delhi, there was a halt in one of the stations. The train stopped by for few minutes as usual. Sachin was nearing century, batting on 98. The passengers, railway officials, everyone on the train waited for Sachin to complete the century. This Genius can stop time in India!
NKP Salve (former Union Minister) - "Sachin cannot cheat. He is to cricket what (Mahatma) Gandhiji was to politics"
Andy Flower - There are 2 kind of batsmen in the world. One, Sachin Tendulkar. Two, the rest.
PS: The text above is a direct copy paste from the e-mail fwd. I have run a quick sanity check - but still, please bear with grammatical, spell errors, if any.