The Woolsworth Building, a skyscraper in New York was oﬃcially opened on April 24th, 1913. With a height of 792 feet, it remained the tallest building in the world for the next 17 years. Exactly 60 years since its opening, a person by the name Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar was born in Bombay (now Mumbai).
His height grew to a meagre 5 feet 5 inch, but in every other respect he remained the tallest batsman for the next two decades or so (if not forever). If the Woolsworth Building had been in Sharjah, Sachin’s shots would have reached its top during his onslaught of the Australian bowlers in 1998. And after he single-handedly won that tournament for India on his 25th birthday, he had said, “I wish I could have many more birthdays like this. It is good for the country.”
The quintessential question - Sachin hai kya?
Well, since the early 1990s till the time he hung up his boots in 2013, his mere presence on the 22 yards was good enough for the country. The runs that came from his bat and the victories that it charted out for India were mere by-products. During his playing days, the quintessential question was, “Sachin hai kya” (Is Sachin at the crease?).
It has been around seven years since his retirement, but even today his name gets the loudest cheer from the fans. This was evident in the recently held 2020 Road Safety World Series which featured notable retired players from around the globe. Similarly, this year on a Sunday morning when he stepped out to face an over against Australian cricketer Ellyse Perry at a Bushﬁre charity match, entire India was again glued to their television sets.
A rara avis
When he started his career, he was the cute-looking boy whom every Indian fan wanted to succeed. So, when he was hit by a Waqar Younis bouncer in his debut series in Pakistan, many mothers had tears in their eyes. Then from the mid-1990s till the early part of the new millennium, he became the nation’s hope. His batting was the solace for any personal disappointments that we had. For the next decade (till his retirement), he became a habit (as Harsha Bhogle had once said). He was now an elder statesman of the team or ‘Paaji’ as youngsters in the dressing room used to call him. And ﬁnally, his retirement speech left the entire nation with moist eyes.
Sourav Ganguly had once said that Sachin is a phenomenon and I couldn’t agree more with the former India captain. The ancient Romans would have called him rara avis. For fans like me, he is the reason that made us fall in love with this beautiful game. During my childhood, for matches coinciding with school exams, I used to ﬁght with my mother to just allow me to watch Sachin’s innings (if not the entire match). Soon, my mother realised that this was equivalent to giving me the permission to watch most of India’s innings.
“Quickly turn the camera and take the pic”
So, when I ﬁnally met him for few seconds (couple of years back), it was serendipity. The theatre of my dreams was the Kolkata airport. After watching him in front of us on a go-kart, on my wife’s insistence, we ran behind shouting ‘Saaachiiin’. As I reached closer, I was blank for a moment and then said, “Sachin Sir, one photo”. One of the oﬃcials with him told that the master didn’t have time as he had to catch the ﬂight.
I was just beginning to curse the oﬃcial in my mind (although he was doing his duty), Sachin turned towards me and said, “Quickly turn the camera and take the pic.” The rest as they say is history (my personal) and the moment has been captured forever in my memory.
Another such occasion was after I had written my ﬁrst book - ‘A Colonel Destined to Lead’. Post the book launch, before leaving Mumbai, I had promised myself to drop a copy at Sachin’s house. With no clue whether it will ever reach him, I risked missing my ﬂight to deliver the book at his house to his security guards. One may wonder, if the book reached him. I still don’t know, but does it really matter? For me, it was like going to a temple and oﬀering prasad to the almighty.
And like me there are millions of devotees who have been privileged to have followed the game of cricket when he was around. His entire career is a ‘I was there’ moment for us. He has given us enough joy for a lifetime and today, on his 47th birthday, I will just wish him a happy, healthy and long life.