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Why Cricket and Sachin are so special to me?

Going back down the memory lane to almost two decades from today, I was first introduced to cricket- I was only six or seven. Growing up in a locality where we had vast playgrounds, I would see the seniors back then playing this game with so much of enthusiasm. And it was my dad who first introduced me to cricket. I remember my first piece of timber; it was small bat and had an iconic figure of the all rounding legend- Kapil Dev. I don’t recall if I ever played with that bat much but I do remember the elders would use it as a bat for the runner . And just like that one day the timber was gone and so did Cricket- somehow it disappeared from my life.

Cricket would however, return to my life and this time stay put. I was in the third or fourth standard and we had begun playing cricket in our school.  I loved playing the game because i was introduced to it when i was still very young but was really not much into playing it. It was 1996 when everything changed and my love the game just went leaps and bounds.I remember the year very clearly we were viewing a recorded game between Australia and West Indies. The stage was World Cup Semis and as far I my memory takes me this was the first match I was actually watching with so much of zeal and enthusiasm. And more so not because i had to but because i wanted to.  My friends and I knew it was recorded game but still none of us had a clue about the outcome of the match. And one special man adorned in yellow jerseys with white chalk on  his nose and “Warne” inscribed on the back of his vest just captivated my imagination. It was the way he bowled, the “C’mon” and the “Howzzat” appeals and the love for the game is what made me admire him and cricket even more. He bowled beautifully that day racking up four wickets for the match. The first of the four was an exceptional catch off his bowling to dismiss Courtney Brown.  I can close my eyes and relive that catch even today- diving low on to his right. Also, i have youtube now if i ever want to see the catch again. But it takes me all those years back that one catch. Australia made it to the finals that day and cricket had found me or was it the other way round. Not that it mattered.

Australia lost the following game- The final of the 1996 World Cup to Sri Lanka. No surprise to who I was supporting “I had found a love for the game and the Ozzies.” Over the next few years playing, watching, talking, eating, sleeping cricket became everything. I remember how the cricket fanatics- I and my couple of friends made cricket games out of everything. I realized it then you really didn’t need a huge ground to be playing cricket. I mean yes, the right way is to play it on the field but if one loved it. One could indulge in the game anywhere. It could be played in gullies, small verandas, hallways and even in classrooms using calculators, dice and sometimes even with balls made out of pieces of paper and bats made out of pencils. Soon, Cricket was everywhere around me and growing up an integral part of my life.

As the interest for the game soared so did the knowledge and the love for the game. As, a cricket lover irrespective of the team you support one wants to see good cricket- Great batting, bowling and fielding. You go “What a SHOT” when an amazing shot is played, spontaneously “the ahhh’s and ohhh’s” of the moment creep in. And when you follow the game you could not ignore this one man “SACHIN RAMESH TENDULKAR” who was in peak form during the late nineties.  As, a lover of the game I cannot fathom to say how privileged I feel to have seen him bat in his prime. At, Sharjah the year 1998- I was now an avid Kangaroo fan and the Aussies had made it to the semi-finals. Playing against India, who have always done well Sharjah, Australia posted a huge score with Michael Bevan scoring a century for the Aussies. What would unfold when India came to bat was just surreal. Sachin Tendulkar had already earned himself the title of Master Blaster by now and true to the name he played an innings of a lifetime. He got around 140 odd and though India lost the game, it was signs of what was to come.  Because the very next the final at Sharjah India V Australia all over again. And yet again Australia posted around 270 which looked a stiff target. And then there was one man who pelted, battered and bruised the Aussie bowling attack. While wickets fell at the other end Sachin looked invincible that day. The helpless look on Kasprowicz’s face, Fleming staring in awe and Warne dejectedly looking over his shoulder as the ball soared over his head- Tendulkar spared no one. Eventually, Tendulkar did get out on 134 but by then India had the match in the bag. And thus started the interest and need to see Tendulkar bat. That glorious front foot straight drive, the punch of the back foot, the delicate sweep shot, he had every shot in his armory to dismantle any bowling unit. And though I never supported India but I watched this one man dominate the bowling attack for the next 15 years. He had his ups and downs but at the end of it all it’s hard to say a man who has had 24 years of international cricketing experience is not a cricket genius- an absolute #legend.

I recall the times my family who all supported India- my dad, mom, sisters, cousins and I was the only one not supporting India. But when it came to Tendulkar’s batting there was no disagreement that all of us wanted to see him bat long into the innings. At times when India would win against Aussies my dad would love to have a go at me with his banters. My dad had this strange logic in how to support a team in cricket. Geographically whichever nation was closer to Nepal got my dad’s support barring one team “Australia”. They never did get his support. It was fun though; whether we were watching cricket or football we never supported the same team. And it just made watching sport with him so much fun. I remember once while watching the 1998 Fifa World Cup Semis Italy VS France and the French knocked Italians out to progress to the Finals. Now I was supporting the Italians and my dad France he started to have a go at me with his banters and I remember getting annoyed and had a real go at him. It was the same while we were watching cricket he always found out way to get me aggravated. And since cricket was on most times we had fun watching it together. Looking back at cricketing moments though Australia has been a successful side they’ve also had to encounter few serious losses. Most memorably South Africa Chasing 434 to beat the Aussies and the 2005 Ashes loss, those were hard times for me with my dad constantly jeering me. I’ve enjoyed all of it though because there would be times when I could get back to him. Those are joyous moments brought on to me by cricket. Some of my fondest memories of my dad is watching cricket together and talking about it. Those moments where we could have great dad-son moments were while watching cricket. So much of it was whilst Sachin was at the crease. I spent most of my childhood days in a boarding school so when I did get back home we would sit, watch cricket and talk. And the rest of the family would join in so we would have good family times which seem so rare these days. Even today my mom and I sit down to watch cricket especially when India is playing. With Tendulkar amidst the action she’s even more captivated in the match who is now probably the only player she knows by name. All of the other that she knew Kumble, Srinath, Azhruddin, Dravid and yeah even mongia ( who remembers mongia?) have long retired and she does not know the recent players by name. But she still tunes to watch India play.

As, time flew playing cricket became minimum. Firstly, after having finished schooling, my high school did not have infrastructure for cricket. We still played at times in the basketball court and wherever we found a little bit of empty space. But the habit of watching cricket and the love for the sport never diminished. I remember on various occasions bunking school to watch cricket on TV. On one such occasion I remember India was touring Pakistan after a decade probably around 13 years or so. Not that it meant much to a guy from Nepal but for a cricket enthusiast the prospect of seeing the juggernauts of Asian Cricket meant everything.  And so, I pretended to be ill and came back home. Midway through the match my dad comes home early from work and sees me in front of the TV. And did I get a hiding? No, I don’t. The duo of dad and son would then go on to see an exceptional match where Pakistan almost chased down India’s 348. These were the moments now memories brought on to me by the fact that I loved cricket and so did my dad. And there was absolute no better feeling than watching cricket together while supporting different sides.

As the high school days came to an end the college life got even more hectic. Playing Cricket was not almost nil and even the hours of watching cricket has slowly declined. Playing and watching football slowly started to creep in the college days. But the love for the game had not gone and I was still an adherent fan of the game. And could indulge in hours of debate if anyone said the game was boring. For me, even though I don’t watch quiet as much cricket as I used to I still have limitless love and passion for the game. Even when all my life I have just been a mere spectator watching it on TV at the end of the day I think that’s what keeps the game alive “People who love and admire the game  and its athletes.”  Sachin is one such athlete of the game who has had immense success and his stats show it. The most prolific run getter be it the one day games or tests. I remember the time Tendulkar got his 200 against a decent South African bowling attack. Never had this feat been achieved before and like so many other records It was as Ravi Shastri who was commentating at the time said “The Superman from India- Sachin Tendulkar”  gets their first.  I was listening to history being made on a radio as power cut had prevented me from watching it live. I was glad I could at least listen to it than having to have had missed it.

November 15, 1989 was when Sachin made his debut against Pakistan. I did not watch him bat then, I was little. I can only presume my cricket fanatic dad did but TV was probably a rare sight then. But on November 15, 2013 as I sat in front of the TV I knew I would be seeing the little master Sachin bat one last time. And with his dismissal for 71 it was the end of an era. For any cricket lover and people who don’t even follow cricket know this one name “Sachin Tendulkar” just like everyone knows who “Pele” is. A cricket fan will know the records and the stats the factors that make him famous in the cricketing field. But all the records and stats what it fails to show is the quality of shots, the improvisation, the ability to grind out bowling attack and sheer brilliance of this man to win games single handedly. I remember once when I was a kid three batsman Tendulkar, Anwar and Mark Waugh (my other favorite) whilst they were all playing together were on the same number of centuries made. And soon enough Tendulkar leapfrogged all of them at a younger age and would go on to make the most number of centuries by an individual- a combined total of 100 in test and ODI’s. Like Warne said “Two batsmen- Tendulkar and Lara were way beyond others.”

As, a guy who has grown up and seen out his share of childhood and teenage the physical stuffs and memories of the childhood mean so much. You want to try and hang on to the tiniest bit of stuffs from your childhood since it holds so many memories. I guess it’s the same feeling with Sachin Tendulkar. This one man you have seen him bat for the past decade for some more than two decades and how his cricketing presence has brought about what are now memories. The idea of him not batting in the international cricket does make me feel I have aged and surely lost one of my childhood’s most prized possessions –not being able to watch the genius bat.

But at the end of the day the show must go on. And as they say “THE GAME IS BIGGER THAN ANY ONE PLAYER” and so Cricket lives on.

For giving me joyous moments and wonderful memories of the past Thank you Sachin and Thank you Cricket. You’ll always be special to me.