Monday, November 16, 2009

Sachin: The Zeitgeist

His life seems to be a stillness in a frantic world... [When he goes out to bat], it is beyond chaos - it is a frantic appeal by a nation to one man. The people see him as a God...- Mathew Hayden, on Sachin Tendulkar

The paeans seem just natural. Sachin, the 16 forever kid, completes his 20 years in international cricket and the accolades are pouring. A few generations of inspired young Indians who now grew up along with him call him their idol. Ask anyone who grew up in 90s abt what inspired them then. Pat comes the answer "Sachin". Simply put, Sachin was the only thing international in India for any teen in 90s. He was the hero in the rapidly changing times when India opened culturally and business-wise to the world. He triggered the self-belief that we can take on the world and be the best. Sachin 'crossed-over' and became the world sports icon in the 90s while our other sports and games teams struggled. And despite all hype our Bollywood never made the much talked abt crossover till now. When everything Indian stayed safe in a cocoon, it was cherubic Sachin gifted with the willow who opened up the world for the young generation. The curly-haired youth knew just passion and no fear and so in gay abandon played the ball ruthlessly attacking the most feared bowling attacks. He was the zeitgeist - the spirit of our times. 2 Decades after his debut, miraculously, the boyhood innocence continues, the passion continues, he regales us as if he didn't age, as if he is impervious to this world and its weathers. And that's the cherry on the cake - that those grew up idolising him, including the likes of Sania Mirza, Saina Nehwal and Virender Sehwag, still get to live the joy today everytime he goes in to bat. We are blessed.

Heard abt what a genius Sachin is from Lara and other greats. Heard and seen all technicalities of still head, ball-eye coordination and body balance from Gavaskar. But these still don't explain 20 years of relentless excellence at the top in international cricket. Any other cricketer in teens under such media and public scrutiny would have simply died down in the heat of popping flashbulbs. Countless 'geniuses' had a meteoric rise and had an equally meteoric fall. Sachin's own buddy Kambli is an example of what often goes wrong. Sachin but stayed up there, fixated with the one thing he cared about - cricket. As I write this, I see a flash attributed to Viv Richards, the master marauder. If asked to pick between Lara and Sachin, he would pick up Sachin because the latter is more consistent. Now that's what it is all about - Sachin is abt longevity, Lara abt blinding flashes of brilliance now and then. Its as if Sachin's schoolboy innocence permanently took over him shutting out worldly distractions while he grew up. Is that why there is still that boyish charm and earnestness in him, a father of two kids? Its as if he retires to another planet after every game only to come back later for another game! So clean is he, away from hype and controversies. In a cricket mad country of a billion, how else could one cope up with the relentless praises, criticisms, gossips for 2 decades and yet pile the tons?

I am not even talking abt his fitness, the innumerous surgeries he went thru, the horrible tennis elbow which forced him to reinvent his game. He had enough on the physical front but i think its how he coped mentally that bought him to this pedestal of being a sacrosanct legend. Sachin is more abt the mind than abt the body. "If you're unlucky, you'll get injured, even if you're the fittest guy in the world," he says. "What I don't want to lose is the desire to get back in action and the hunger to go out there and perform." He also emphasizes how the mind is above techniques and stuff when he says "Your technique cannot go wrong overnight, It's just the thought process." It is this gifted passion that seems to continue to entertain us after 20 years. For all those wonder if the mountains of runs he already piled up leave any hunger and motivation left in him, he says "It's not about achievement, So long as I love playing the game, so long as I enjoy the sound of bat hitting ball, I'm going to do it. I don't have to force myself - it just happens." It is that passion and desire that keeps Sachin youthful despite every passing April 24. And at the same time, he is earnest about whats records mean. "People do remember landmarks," "You want to be remembered 50 years down the line, like people remember Don Bradman and Garry Sobers now. The word 'landmark' itself sort of compels people to remember you." No hang ups for him. He just is true to himself.
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While his passion for the game could be the one reason for his longevity, it is his almost natural way of taking fame lightly that gave him firm feet and made him impervious to distractions. When asked if all media scrutiny weighs him down, he said “This is the way I've known my life from the age of 14. I'm comfortable with it.”. He also said "I remember I was asked a question in Sydney after I got the double-hundred. 'Were you reading the newspapers because the media was after you?' And I said I never read any. 'What about tomorrow?' they asked. I said that I don't need a newspaper to make me believe that I've got a double-hundred. Whether there are highs or lows, I try to maintain a certain balance." Now that explains why Sachin didnt go mad for all the media coverage he gets! His level-headedness is visible when he says "Let me give you a small example. Earlier when I used to hit the ball in the air and get out, people used to say, 'Why can't you play all along the ground? It's simple. You don't need to hit the ball in the air.' Now, when I play all along the ground, people say: 'Why don't you hit the ball in the air nowadays?' Basically, people are not satisfied with what one does. You've got to figure out what's the best thing to do for your team and as an individual - try and go ahead with what your instincts tell you." While the nauseating spineless criticism, especially when India loses, does not go well with his fans, Sachin says that the public perception doesn't bother him. "Eventually, people don't score runs for me; I do that," he says matter-of-factly. "Basically, I have to feel good about myself and find a way out. People have been good to me by calling me up and suggesting a couple of things. But you have to figure out what suits you best and go ahead with that. I've had the help of a lot of senior cricketers, and my brother at home." One can't help wondering the home he grew up in to gain this kind of balance in outlook right in his teens. A Marathi writer-poet father as a role model could have injected this intellectual honesty and grace. His father was supposed to be so amicable that he wont let anyone, whether a postman or plumber who visits his home, leave without a cup of chai. Sachin could have as well got his well-rounded character from his father. For someone who never attended college, travelling around the world, coping the conditions and adapting for the climes, getting along with fellow players, crowds and the media, while maintaining the freshness in his game is amazing. And this is while, parallelly, he studied his +2, fell in love, married, had kids and captained the team. To survive this frenzy he must have had amazing clarity of thought and unwavering attention to his game.

While much has been said about his achievements, not much has been told abt his work ethic. After all, Bradman was supposed to have practiced batting 5 hours everyday. There is an anecdote from Sachin's boyhood, when after travelling all night for a game and reaching the destination at 3am, he got an hour's sleep. Then he wakes up his coach and asks whether they could proceed to the ground because our little master wasn't happy with his game! He still maintains that meticulous streak now after 2 decades. He is the first to arrive in the nets and the last to leave. Sachin's commitment in the game is seen not just when he bats but also when he fields and bowls. That shows how devoted he is for the game. The game, he says, begins much earlier for him in his mind, much before it kicks off in the field. In fact, Javagal Srinath opined once that Sachin's captaincy's drawback was that Sachin expected others to be as dedicated to the game as he himself is. Sachin didn't find it and it disappointed him. Sachin seems to have accepted that and moved on, away from captaincy.
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It is clear what maketh this man. Unwavering passion for the game, level-headed personality, work ethic and undivided attention he gave cricket ever since he was a schoolkid are what made him a 'genius'. For all of us who grew up with him, his genius is part of our own collective consciousness. The national anthem may give him goose pimples, but I get them when I see him. Its not just about cricket or his game. It is about how he made a generation to dare to dream and achieve. It is not just about what we all become when he bats but about what we all became inspired by his feats. We owe him. Long live Sachin, forever the 16 year old.

2 comments:

Vijay said...

Amar - I love it dude, i have been reading all your blogs without missing single blog but never posted my comments thinking i am not really into it. But after reading this blog i couldnt stop. In a billion people country where each and everyone wants piece/part of sachin and expects him to perform always and there he is to deliver. I really doesnt understand whats there in little (Master's ) brain how he handles cricket, media and people. But one thing i really love about him apart from his batting is the kind of loyalty/commitment that he shows while he playing for India. Whenever i watch him playing i dont want him to face any ball thinking if he gets out what would be the chances of India's win and at the same time i want him to make as many runs as he can :). I love watching him playing square drive and a pull with lot of bottom hand.

NICENAIDU said...

Mama... even me too , a silent follower of your blog..
I love Sachin n Federer for their Mental Balance and the Ability to not to show any emotions while they are on field..
Sachin is GOD of Indian Cricket..
No doubts...

- SFA
(Sachin Fans Association)
( ApNa and Yuggu )
An Yousufguda Boyz Group...Ha ha ha..