Have you ever wondered why cricket enjoys the status of the most sought after game in the country despite the fact that our national game is hockey? What is the first thing that strikes your mind when you hear the word cricket? What is the one popular name that had been unblemished and glorious right from the first time you'd heard it? Who is the one person whose achievements seem as important and make you as proud as your own would? No points for guessing, the answer to all the above questions is the little master, Sachin Tendulkar. The name that fills the heart of each and every Indian with pride that is unprecedented.
Well, I won't be boring you with stats and figures that adorn the scintillating track record of the greatest cricketing legend ever in the cricketing history. But instead, I would like to bring out what he means to us - Indians - by relating to you reminiscence from my childhood.
As far as my childhood goes, I remember that before every cricket match where India played, I, with the help of my friends, would go to the market and bring three to four big bottles of Pepsi (the brand he used to endorse) and my mother used to make pop-corn for each one of us, who would be glued to the TV until our hero, our idol, stylishly played his master-strokes. At each and every shot that our hero played, all of us would raise our glasses of pepsi in air and shout 'cheers', with our glass tumblers hugging each other, making sharp sounds which always used to worry my mom that we would break them, because there occurred a glass-banging once almost every over and sometimes even twice or thrice during the same over. A boy amongst us would take note of the scores at every ten overs so that we could compare the scores when the other team batted and revel at the chances of our winning. In fact, I maintained a cricket copy scoring every match Sachin played in and batted in. At every lbw appeal or run out appeal to the third umpire that the opponent side made against Sachin, we would inwardly pray to God to save our god on the pitch. Such was the fever not to miss even one shot by the little master and we made sure to pump up our inverter batteries, even had a radio on just in case the battery failed, and if nothing worked, run all the way up to the main market and find a shop that streamed the match live thanks to the generator they had. People, like bees, would buzz across their TV screen blocking their customers, but no one cared, since the shopkeeper himself would be busy watching the TV.
And if by any chance, the pride of the nation lost his wicket, the sheer delight of the match would go in vain, and without wasting a single moment we would turn the TV off and go out and practice Tendulkarship with our tiny bats carrying the little hand-made MRF signs and a tattoo of the signature of the little master stuck at the back. Interestingly, courtesy to the man with the MRF bat, in those days none of us wanted to be a bowler because when it came to being a cricketer, which was our evident dream, it meant being like Sachin Tendulkar. Almost all of us, no matter how lousy a cricketer we were in the childhood, tried to imitate the star batsman when we were with the bat - right from affixing a stressed Sachin-like smile on our face to bending our knees intermittently while the bowler was taking a long run-up, from proudly lifting our bats parallel to our right hand when we hit a century and then thanking the Almighty by looking at the sky to hammering the pitch near our crease of no reason just because our idol did the same. Sachin lived in our very blood.
My father being a great fan of Sachin himself used to take us to restaurants for dinner every time he hit a century, most of which were already jam-packed by people celebrating the little master's success. Such was his fever, which remains unexampled even today.
As I grew up, many more stars came into the picture, but none of them could leave an equal impression on my mind as our master blaster did. Some lacked consistency, others lacked elegance and style of batting and the remaining ones lacked modesty. No-one could replace Sachin as my hero, and I doubt anybody ever will be able to. Though I stopped following the game of cricket so keenly as time passed, but the assurance that Sachin was still going on with great splendour kept my heart satisfied.
But the most spectacular moment in the cricketing history was when Sachin achieved the most stupendous feat for any batsman. 200 runs in an ODI. Perhaps, it was the only record that was not in his name. I saw some amazing things that day. Thanks to Sachin, people who never knew that there was a space for status message in facebook or people who haven't changed their gtalk status messages since ages, had got a status message to praise his genius! From children to uncles, from our hostel's guard saheb to celebrities on TV, Sachin was on everybody's mind. Even the rift between political parties could not stop the unanimous praise coming for the maestro. It was the only day when Cricinfo's traffic trounced IRCTC. It reminds me that I've to ask my Dad to take me to a restaurant 'two times' for his 200.
If only we had the essential TV features that StarSports.com now offer which would save me up on all those minutes invested into gathering information into my cricket copies. Startsports.com's INFOGRAFIX provides snippets of information with visual twist, making caricatures and funny cartoons of the players, animating the field but at the same time offering information digging up the history of the player, his country and world records across. I wish Sachin played to this day, so that I could use Starsports.com's infografix to explore his uncountable records that could turn even the best of the world's talent green with envy.