We remember those moments.
The first ever Test hundred by the champion. ODI cricket’s first ever double hundred by any man.
The twin storms in the heat of the desert. The heartbreak at Chennai. The redemption many years later at the very same arena. The one man army walking back after yet another masterpiece, a work of genius that had no helping hand to hold aloft. That ride on the shoulders of teammates after finally conquering the world.
They are just a few, a very very select samples from myriads that decorate his endless treasure-troves of splendour.
To zero down on a few of the most striking among the many, many blindingly brilliant images is indeed an exercise in futility, as we so very often realised while crafting the artwork. No canvas is big enough to capture all that we remember of the man. The way he strides over our cricketing consciousness.
Besides, it stretches way beyond what we recall. There are more forgotten masterpieces in Tendulkar’s career than most of the lesser men manage in their combined ones.
Yes, the one real differentiator between Tendulkar and many other greats is the number of neglected and forgotten gems. There is an incredible collection of knocks that would have been the crowning glory of any other batsman but is relegated to the obscure corners in the crowded assortment of his many glittering jewels.
Does one remember the 77 scored in January, 1992, at Brisbane against Curtly Ambrose, Malcolm Marshall, Pat Patterson and Anderson Cummins? The second highest score in that Indian innings was 28.
What about the 85 at the Wankhede against a charged up Courtney Walsh and Kenny Benjamin after walking in at 11 for 3 in the second innings? A knock that turned the Test match on its head?
Does one recall the 114 against South Africa in the Mohinder Amarnath benefit match of 1996? Once again it won the match in what was a low scoring game.
What about the 113 against New Zealand in the Wellington Test of 1998? The 93 against Pakistan at Hobart in 1999-2000? The incredible 97 against South Africa at Mumbai in 2000? The 117 in Port-of-Spain in India’s first Test victory in the Caribbean in 26 years? Or India’s celebrated win over Australia in the 2001 series, in which his hundred was the bedrock in the decider.
The Capetown salvo with Mohammad Azharuddin for company, when they caned the deadly South African attack into helplessness during a 222-run association which started from 58 for 5, would have been encapsulated in books if the batsmen had represented some other land with a more developed knack of penning down cricketing tales. But, we have to hunt down those images on YouTube and only sketchy descriptions are found in print.
Even the dream double of 117 not out and 93 in the CB Series finals in 2007 are seldom remembered with the degree of awe that they deserve. And the astounding 214 at Bangalore which won the Test in 2010, after he had come in at 38 for two in reply to the 478 piled by Australia … that is often reduced to the level of taken for granted.
Each one of these innings would have been eulogised for eternity in the case of a lesser cricketer. However, due to the sheer mastery of Tendulkar that these were relegated to the rear shelf of his splendid trophies.
And these are just a paltry few of many such examples.
He scored 100 international centuries and 164 fifties. The human mind is not structured to store each and every of those gems.
We expected him to win us matches from impossible situations. To do that every time he went into bat. If he failed we were hurt, disappointed, angry. If he did succeed or script brilliance on the way, we did rejoice on occasions… but often did take it for granted. After all Tendulkar making runs for us had become part of our own identity, even a sort of entitlement.
Sachin Tendulkar was born on April 24, 1973.
Text: Arunabha Sengupta