This had to be done... There aren't enough cynics around

ENDulkar :(

Maybe the Mayans were cricket fans… In that case, their prediction did come true-albeit a few days later than they had anticipated. Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar has called it a day. After carrying the Indian cricket team on his shoulders for a greater part of two decades, he has decided it is time for his blue jersey to fade into our memories. A career decorated with every honor in the book was beautified not merely by his laurels (on which he chose not to rest) but by the blood, sweat and more importantly the hope he single handedly bestowed on the entire nation.

One can never forget those innocent childhood days where the mere presence of the 5’5” frame on TV brought smiles and the sight of him walking back to the pavilion brought tears. That might have changed. That and the fact that matches were now not won solely by picking his wicket. No, but he was still the prize wicket, even on the day he called it a day. No more SRT in the Limited over games. There are personal favorites; there are the experts’ bests. But here are the most memorable knocks I was blessed to witness, in no particular order.

Ø  200* (147b) vs. South Africa, Gwalior,
o    24-2-2010.
o    India won by 153 runs
Everyone remembers Neil Armstrong, not because he reached the highest peak on some mountain in moon, but because he was the first there. So when Sachin’s record was eventually overtaken by Sehwag, not many were too concerned. A double against the best bowling attack in recent times will never lose its sheen. Who knows, if he had not been content with playing second fiddle in the last 10 overs, he might have scored a few dozen more. As summarized by the commentator aptly,
                               “It had to be this man to scale this mountain”.

Ø  175 (141b) vs. Australia, Hyderababad,
o    5-11-2009.
o   India lost by 3runs
One of the recurring themes of Indian cricket has been the relative lack of a strong supporting cast. It was the case here. After a mesmerizing innings laced with glorious cricket against the seemingly invincible Aussies, Sachin left at 332 in the 47th over. Not surprisingly, the match ended right there. The rest folded like a miserable hand as India fell 3 short of the mammoth 350, which at one point seemed a good 30 runs short, probably because the little master was cruising.

Ø  143 (131b) vs. Australia, Sharjah,
o    22-4-1998.
o    India lost by 26 runs (D/L)
Everyone remembers this. Sachin once again battled alone against the scything Australian attack and the ravaging sandstorm. M/s Duckworth and Lewis set a stiffer target than what the kangaroos had managed. Sachin accepted the challenge and was not content with merely qualifying for the finals. He ‘walked’ even as the umpire remained unmoved. India didn’t quite have the firepower to make the final push. This however set stage for the grandest of finales.

Ø  141 (135b) vs. Pakistan, Rawalpindi,
o    16-3-2004.
o    India lost by 12 runs
Another case of so near yet so far… Tendia set Rawalpindi ablaze with this master class. Sadly he left at 245 with 12 overs remaining and a good 75 runs to be scored. Such a stiff target was beyond the reach of the fabled Indian line up which fell short despite some wishful hitting by the tail which fared better than the middle order. Never the less, this remains his best performance in the neighbor’s land.

Ø  134 (131b) vs. Australia, Sharjah,
o    24-4-1998.
o   India won the Final by 6 wickets
Two days after the sandstorm hit the players, this time the Aussies were hit by Sachinstorm. With no D/L to save them, the Aussie attack led by the inimitable Shane Warne concede defeat to the greatest adversary they would ever face off against. Although given out ‘lbw’ to a delivery that was more off target than Arnab’s political predictions, his peers got India over the finish line this time around.

Ø  124*(92b) vs. Zimbabwe, Sharjah,
o    13-11-1998.
o   India won the Finals by 10 wickets
This was more like another grudge match. After Henry Olonga’s inspired bowling knocked Inida over in a league game, it was time for the ‘experts’ to come out and call for Sachin’s head. Sadly for them, after a disciplined bowling performance, the Indian openers-Sachin and Sourav Ganguly went on in a businesslike manner as they systematically dismantled the Zimbabwean attack. Olonga in particular was at the receiving end of a special performance as, just like always, Sachin’s game rather than the person himself answered the critics. And Olonga had more success as a commentator than as a bowler against India.

Ø  52(48b) vs. Pakistan, Mirpur,
o    18-3-2012.
o    India won by 6 wickets
Not quite a mention worthy performance. But what we didn’t know at that time was that this would be the last time Sachin wore the Indian Blue Colors. It was lyrical in a way that after the WC-11 success of the previous year, where the new generation carried the man on their shoulders for his contributions, this time it transcribed into a match. After the little master gave the team a solid platform, Kohli-part of Genext, built the castle as India chased down a 300 plus target with relative ease. Passing of the baton? We should wait and see.

Ø  98(75b) vs. Pakistan, Centurion
o    1-3-2003.
o    India won by 6 wickets
India has never lost a WC match against Pakistan and this record was in jeopardy. But a glorious counter attack against the fearsome attack led by Wasim Akram, Waquar Younis and Shoaib Akthar ensured that the record remained intact. A six off a 100mph delivery by Akthar was easily the pick of the lot as India sent Pakistan out of the WC on their way to the final where India fell but Sachin was the player of the tournament. Eight years later, another vintage but a lot calmer performance in the semi-finals ensured India would be crowned champions in what turned out to be his last WC.

Ø  82(69b) vs. New Zealand, Auckland,
o    27-3-1994.
o    India won by 7 wickets
In his early days as an opener, possibly his first, he showed what promise he held and that was a promise he kept. A swashbuckling knock which was an all out attack on the kiwi attack in their backyard ensured that the Indian team sheet always started with his name. 2 decades later, till the date of his retirement he remained arguably the greatest opener the game, let alone India has ever seen. Agreed, India was chasing a sub-par score. But then this was probably the first time we saw what the then 20 year old was capable of.

Ø  140(101b) vs. Kenya, Bristol,
o    23-05-1999.
o    India won by 94 runs.
For purely emotional reasons, this knock features. A weak opponent, in a nonetheless important game as India had lost to 2 other African Nations earlier putting progress in jeopardy. Having left the team to pay his last rites to his father, the talisman returned for the very next game. After the century he acknowledged his father’s presence by pointing to the sky- a gesture that followed every century he scored subsequently. Although a largely disappointing campaign, there were a few bright spots. This knock, definitely one…

Most of his stand-out knocks were against strong opponents. And rightly so… We might not be able to come to terms with the fact that India’s favorite cricketing sons will never be seen sporting the blue color of the ODI team. In case why you are wondering why I have mentioned that more than once, I am just another fan finding it difficult to accept that the star who made the 90s rock and the noughties pleasant will not tear apart another famed bowling attack in a 50 over game. Times like these make me salute the simple thinking of the Mumbai IPL franchise.

Thanks to them Sachin will play in blue for the Indian(s) team in a Limited over game.

-A sincere fan that has passed through denial and anger and is now in the bargaining stage in dealing with the end of an era.

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