Every tribute to the great man talks about Sachin facing the likes of Waqar and Akram in his first test. It is now part of legend and song that he bravely resumed his stance wiping off the blood after being grounded by the great Waqar Younis, the master - nay the inventor - of the reverse swinging yorker. One must not for a moment forget that it was the debut match of Waqar too. The fact that legend and song is written this way is as much a tribute to Waqar as it is to Sachin.
Why, even in Sachin's final match you have one Shivnaraine Chandrapaul playing for the West Indies looking as boyish as we remember him from our cricket watching days - my own generation's teens. He has scored over 10000 test runs at an average of 51+ and has stayed around for a couple of decades.
The intention here is to draw attention to the fact that he stands tallest in a generation that produced some of the greatest and most consistent cricketers from every cricketing nation.
My own Sachin story is a very modest one - that of a casual enthusiast and not of a keen expert of the game. I exchanged a small conversation with a slice of my youth today. The significance of which becomes even more telling because the conversation took place at the exact minute Sachin Tendulkar got out in his final innings in his final match of his international career.
Ajay... a dear friend from college days. We hadn’t spoken in more than 2 years (drifted apart, as it sometimes happens with the best of friends) and I see my chat window come alive with a hello from him. I was scrambling around trying to find a way to watch the innings live on the internet asking some friends for suggestions when a colleague of mine, told me that Sachin just got out at a score of 74. And here I serendipitously have one of my oldest friends buzzing after about 2 years.
Where were you when Sachin got out in his final match? That's a question that will go down alongside 'where were you when the two towers fell?' Every cricket enthusiast in India would know the answer to that question all their life. My answer could have been something undramatic. But then a friend arrives into the scene after 2 years on the precise moment of Sachin's departure from the international stage - the same Sachin who was part of the collective memory of our teens and our twenties and our thirties - in the form of a simple chat message.
That is the summation of my Sachin Tendulkar story. It is not about what Sachin did to Indian Cricket. It's not even about the innings at Perth or the innings that we now call the desert storm at Sharjah or his last-over-turn-arounds he pulled off with the ball in those million 'cups' we watched in the 90s. It is not even about his picture-perfect cover drive or the back foot punch on the offside, as experts say, with that perfect balance of the body. I do not understand these things. But I did watch a million innings featuring him when we - Ajay and I along with a dozen other friends - collectively rested our hopes on Sachin to give a bang for the proverbial buck we spent on those hotel rooms, bar-shops and chicken coops off highways that we rented just to be in front of a TV set to watch a cricket game. Sometimes we would just stand on the roadside to watch a match on a giant TV screen that TV shops generously switched on. It is about Sachin being an integral part of our growing from teens to our middle ages. Friendships of a lifetime were built and reinforced through such experiences. And my Sachin Tendulkar story is about me sharing his final innings with one of those precious friends.
Legend has it that when the mellifluous voice of Mukesh passed into the ages, a friend broke the news to Raj Kapoor thus - 'Kapoor saheb, aap ki aawaz chali gayi'. In similar lines my generation must lament in unison that our youth has just died and we are officially middle aged now.