Sachin Tendulkar was always the retiring sort,but now that it’s official,its time to take stock of how his stock has flourished for 24 years,with a break or fracture or two,and become part of our national consciousness. Heres five reasons why he became larger than life.
Hyperball: Not a Dale Steyn delivery but the headline writers having a ball,reflecting the hyperbole that he was afforded,starting with God!. Equating any other living Indian with God would have led to riots,fasts,RTIs,questions in Parliament and even arrest for impersonating a revered figure. But in his case,God was fine since we were all in heaven anyway,plus it came accompanied by so many others like Legend,Master Blaster,Little Master or just plain Master,that even Superman would have acquired an inferiority complex.
The Timing: His was exquisite,but for many,Tendulkar was singularly responsible for Indias breakout economic growth (one paper tallied his centuries with the Sensex). The reasoning was,when he started playing,India was an economic basket case and neither Pepsi nor Coke was available. His peak years were in the 90s,when India,post reforms,began to resemble an economic powerhouse and cricket,in appropriate tandem,went from white clothes to the colours of the rainbow,accompanied by fireworks and blonde cheerleaders,thanks to sponsors like Pepsi and Coke. After his announcement,the Sensex crossed the 20,000 level and it was the start of the festive season. Jai Ho!
The Strokes: As one prominent player described it,his strokes had Jupiter velocity,the speed at which they escaped his bat. Then there was the reverse sweep,also favoured by the aforementioned prominent player which foxed everyone,including his own team. And then there was the slash,giving the slips the slip,and the glides,giving the crowds delirium tremens. Finally,there was the lofted ramp shot he developed later,quite appropriate considering his status as role model.
The Brand: His brand value has dwarfed other sports stars who usually dwarf him when in a group photo. His first endorsement was for Boost,which is what he did to Indian cricket and an India desperately in need of heroes. Barring yoga and Ayurveda,Tendulkar was Indias first global brand,seen in the royal box at Wimbledon,driving a Ferrari gifted by an Italian company,and drawing praise from Barack Obama,who said: I dont know about cricket but I watch it to see Sachin play… I want to know why my country’s production goes down by 5 per cent when he’s batting. Economists call it the NRI Effect,we in India call it NRR,or Net Run Rate.
Sports Writers: No one has benefited more than than this fraternity,turning hacks into poets,and creating stars who could wax lyrical at the drop of a bat. If he scored a century,it was Wordsworth time,when he was out for a duck,it was a Shakespearean tragedy,such was his worth. An entire generation of sports writers has grown up writing about one man,and they will be orphaned when he walks out to bat one last time,adjusting his guard. After Thursdays announcement,they have also become,as a wag pointed out,environmentalists the accumulated tribute of 24 years recycled in one evening.
The Fans: Theres the crazy one who paints himself in Indian colours with Tendulkar and 10 painted on his back,and there are another 1.2 billion,from the PM downwards,who would go into collective depression when he failed,and collective frenzy when he succeeded. As Winston Churchill may have
said: Never was so much owed by so many to just one man.
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