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Last fortnight  Sachin Tendulkar played his 200th ,but more importantly his farewell Cricket Match in Wankhede Stadium ,  Mumbai . For a country which is obsessed with no sport other than Cricket (and has many passionate fans who consider Sachin “God “ ) ,this was a moment which almost brought the entire nation to a standstill .  For three days ,we watched with our eyes glued to the television set ,played fervently for the Little Master’s century and finally realized on a tearful Saturday that Cricket in India will never be the same again .

Before you dismiss me as another Sachin idolizing fan , whose still sulking over the fact that I’ll never see my legend in action again ,let me clarify ,I am not . In fact (with all due respect ) ,I have on many occasions been somewhat irritated by all the “hoopla” surrounding him and his milestones – the elusive 100th hundred that took a long time to come , the murmurs doing the rounds for quite some time that his playing days were up (and the amusing ,almost fanatical defense  by his followers ) ,the Bharat Ratna controversy and finally the dramatic ,Farewell Test match .

I am no cricket buff either and cannot rattle away Tendulkar’s numerous  records in a single breath  ,which I am sure even 6 year olds in India can . But the plethora of emotions that his farewell unleashed not only in India ,but in the hearts and minds of Cricket buffs  throughout the World (and surprisingly even inside me ) , set me thinking .. Is Sachin one of India’s most loved and worshipped citizen  only because of his first class cricketing skills and the sheer brilliance he displays while batting ? Or is it something besides his game that is responsible for the iconic stature he enjoys ? From the day he made his debut in the international arena till today ,he is the ultimate role model for most Indians and towers above many other great legends from various fields . I feel there are some very special qualities which Tendulkar has (besides fantastic mastery over the game of cricket ,of course ) ,which have elevated him to such dizzying heights and helped him remain the “King ” of our hearts ,to the extent that we see his retirement as almost “the end of an era”….

Work is Dharma ( Religion )

Quick question – How do most of us imagine the last day in our respective jobs to be and our emotions as we say good bye ? Delighted and blissfully happy – that we will no longer have to slave 9-10 hours daily ? Relief – that we no longer have to spend the day roughing it out in a confined cubical and reporting to superiors ?  That’s definitely not how Tendulkar planned it !!

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For Sachin ,in his own words , “Cricket is his religion and the Cricket Pitch his temple “ . His symbolic gesture of touching the field at Wankhede  in respect  for the last time and then walking back to the pavilion with eyes brimming with tears ,said tons about his passion and dedication towards his job and the game . Something we should all reflect about and perhaps try and emulate in our lives as well !

Country First

It is needless to say ,for Tendulkar it was (and still is ) always INDIA  first .How else could a man have shouldered the near truckload of expectations , of a billion plus countrymen ,for almost 25 years ,with such ease ?   But few incidents stood out in his career which proved his dedication and respect for his Motherland , more than all the records he created and shattered . During the 1998 World Cup ,Tendulkar’s  father (to whom he was very close ) ,passed away and Sachin ,devastated by the news ,had to leave for his home . He flew back for the World Cup campaign after just 3 days and scored a century against Kenya , made doubly valuable because it came at such a critical time for India . I also remember a few years ago ,Sachin declaring that he was always an “Indian first and Mumbaikar Later “ , earning him sharp rebuke from a certain Mr Raj Thackerey ,but applaud from the rest  of the country for his brave stand .

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Unites India

With 28 states , numerous languages and diverse cultures , India is a rather divided country – Shahrukh is KING KHAN only in the North ,where as Rajnikanth is GOD in the South . Sachin Tendulkar ,however ,unites India like nothing or no one  else does (the other unifying factor being the hatred for our country’s politicians 🙂 ) . He has received love, adulation and prayers from all over the country and all classes of people – from the roadside Chaiwallah glued to the live commentary on his radio set to the CEO travelling in his swanky BMW  . From the starry eyed 8 year olds who pick up a bat hoping to play like their hero Sachin to the housewives who are struck with his boyish charm !! The entire country danced in joy when he swung his bat to hit huge sixes against hapless bowlers (especially against Pakistan:P ) and chuckled in glee when  Shane Warne from the mighty Australian team declared that he was having “nightmares “ about bowling to Sachin . From the erratic crowds at Eden Gardens to the Chepauk stadium in Chennai ,the cheers from the Indian fans would  always be many decibels higher  whenever the “Master Blaster” would come to the field .

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Always the Gentleman

Cricket is a gentlemen’s game and Sachin personified it like few others . In his long career, he was involved  in hardly any on field or off field controversies .  On a few occasions ,the Little Master himself started walking back to the pavilion ,despite the umpire giving a decision in the Batsman’s favor .Always a good sport and teammate , he acted as an excellent mentor and role model for many of the younger players like Sehwag .Tendulkar never lost his cool with the media or his overzealous fans by whom he was often mobbed ,nor did he ever lash out against an unfair decision on the field .

On the personal front also ,Sachin has lived his life with amazing grace and dignity ,something which very few people as famous as him can manage . In an age where the careers of many great sporting personalities were tarnished with scandals and controversies , be it Tiger Woods ,Lance Armstrong or even Hansie Cronje ,Tendulkar’s slate remained scrupulously clean .

Humility

Besides being blessed with loads of cricketing talent , another attribute which Sachin is blessed in abundance is humility . It is amazing for a person who is such a big “super star” in his own right to be so down to earth and grounded. All his teammates  ,ex cricketers ,media persons and in fact virtually everyone who has met or interacted with Sachin ,have lavished praise on him on this account . It speaks volumes about his value system and middle class upbringing , credit for which goes to his parents and family . Humility is definitely a trait that most youngsters from the current Indian cricket team can learn from Tendulkar ,as many on them are riding dangerously high on the success of their recent IPL tactics and cash rich endorsements .

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Family Man

Any account of Sachin Tendulkar would be incomplete without the mention of him as the dedicated husband ,loving father and the ideal family man . Sachin ,his wife Anjali and two kids are  the image of the perfect Indian family ,loving and supporting each other in good times and bad . Especially Anjali ,who is an epitome of grace and quiet dignity ,has always been happy to be in the background and never used her husband’s status to hog the limelight (unlike many famous wives belonging to the club of “First Ladies “) .

Her tears ,which were managing to ooze out despite the huge sunglasses flanking her face , as Sachin described her “as my best partnership ” in his farewell speech , were one of the most heartwarming and touching “awww” moments of the entire ceremony !!

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Epic Speech

Last but not the least ,Tendulkar managed to display his mastery to the World ,not only with his Bat ,but also with his farewell speech .Brilliantly worded and delivered straight from the heart ,it was one of the best speeches I have heard in recent times . The speech inspired  and made millions of fans laugh and cry  as he recalled his cricketing journey and thanked all the people associated with it  . It was a perfect reminder for what Sachin means to Cricket and to India . Given the enormity of the occasion and despite a thousand emotions coursing through his mind ,Tendulkar’s speech was so impact-full , yet classy and the closing lines of his – ” Chants of  ‘Sachin… Sachin..’ that will be reverberating in my ears till I stop breathing…” so moving !! Truly epic …

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Consistency , hardwork ,love for the game etc etc – there are so many more qualities that I can keep recalling ,but sigh , the post would only keep getting longer . As the Net flooded with millions of messages and tweets from his fans over the last few weeks , I couldn’t help but smile at some classic ones , feeling a sense of sadness at the same time . I leave you with some of those :

” If Sachin had announced his retirement before his last ODI all records for highest gross collection from a single match would have been broken. I for one would have paid my whole month salary to watch him play Ind Vs Pak in Bangalore. Cricket will just be a game now.”

” Somewhere between Sachin’s debut and retirement ,we all grew up “

” Dear Sachin ,I am ready to exchange my age with you , I am just 22 . But please keep playing .”

“We cannot think of any other human being who have given sheer moments of happiness to the Indians in the last two decades. Amidst persisting issues of poverty, inflation, corruption, violence, etc. the man has given every Indian – of any caste or creed, the reason to smile and celebrate repeatedly “

And the one ,which sums it all ….

“I asked my Canadian friend : Do you know Cricket ? He said : Is it the same sport that Sachin Tendulkar plays ? “

B_Id_434617Thankyou Sachin !! It is indeed the end of an era….

Note – I do not own any of the images . Pics are taken from Google.com .

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