Interview of Cricket Fans – 47 – Sachin Tendulkar

Welcome to this series of Interviewing Cricket Fans. In this series, I interact with some of the die-hard fans of Sachin Tendulkar and give them an opportunity to share what they feel like about their idol. My next guest is @suubsy (twitter) as he shares his thoughts of being his fan in this interview article where he shares his early memories of watching Sachin Tendulkar bat, his favourite knocks, memories of the time he retired in 2013 and lot more.

Thank you so much, sir, for your participation in this interview, tell us your early memories of watching this sport with respect to Sachin Tendulkar.

The earliest memory of the name Sachin Tendulkar that started doing its rounds in Bombay was around 1987. His batting exploits in the famous Kanga league were mentioned by cricket coaches during our kids summer camp. It gave a peek into the possible emergence of a prodigy. Kanga league in those days was considered the nursery of batting and for a 14-year-old to play on wet pitches and to counter the bounce whether it was short of length or good length was unimaginable for many of us. And before we could blink our eye he was playing for India in Pakistan 1989. Those sixes of Qadir in Pakistan, the near-century he scored vs NZ at Napier 1990, then the Old Trafford maiden test century to save the test and 1992 tour down under with those centuries at SCG and Perth were the earliest fond memories.

Sachin Tendulkar has united the cricket fans, not just from India but from across the world, and has made the nation proud. Your thoughts?

India had great cricketers before Sachin, but his arrival coincided with historic events that would catapult him and the country to spectacular success. In the summer of 1991, India began to liberalize its economy, unshackling private enterprises and we as fans got access to dozens of TV channels. And cricket was an obvious extension to be on these TV channels with the popularity of the sport. Master blaster Sachin was like a perfect storm, he had the makings of a marketer’s dream through his early promises and brilliance. It was a marriage made in heaven and fans loved to watch their hero on television. To watch Sachin live on TV made a huge difference and also united the nation whenever he came to bat.

It is a known fact that when Sachin scores runs or India wins with Sachin’s contributions, the Mumbaikars in the local trains can feel the spring in their feet. There is chatter, happy faces, smiles all around. And on other hand, I have witnessed some of the most sombre train journeys, example Monday morning after India lost to Pakistan at Chennai 1999. It was radio silence to a large extent.

Such fan reactions had no boundaries, it engulfed the entire nation and globally. He has walked out on the field carrying the expectations of people whom he just does not know, but they derive happiness with every run he scores. He brings that ray of light into their lives, Sachin gives them that moment to cherish. Mark Waugh once said, “ Sachin, like God, can never fail”. Often he delivers, occasionally he fails, but he tries every time and he did it for 24 years in International cricket. There have been times when the cricketing world has come to standstill and not until Sachin is out, could the world resume its normal rhythms.

In his 24 years of International Cricket, he has broken plenty of records and reached multiple milestones, which is that one record, in your opinion, you are very proud of as a Sachin Tendulkar fan?

“Sachin was the single greatest match-winner in the history of Indian cricket”. That is one record and legacy that is very hard to emulate and is above all statistics and numbers. The moment he gets out, many of us would get disoriented to the extent that we would switch off the TV set. He gave that hope and self-belief to the average Indian fan that we can win, and more so his success translated to fans pushing themselves to work harder for success in their own chosen field.

Without Sachin in the 90s, Indian cricket would have gone back many years. He gave the platform to achieve the kind of success Indian cricket is enjoying today. He influenced a new generation of players such as Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and later Yuvraj and Dhoni who all would arrive on the national stage with an aggressive, winning mindset that owed as much to Sachin’s exploits as to India’s new economic confidence. Indian team who were happy when we managed a draw and sad when we lost, transformed themselves to now being angry at anything but victory. Still remember the dejected face of Sourav Ganguly at the SCG presentation ceremony on India’s tour of Australia in 2003-04, drawn series meant defeat for his team.

And which record you wished he had achieved but couldn’t get it?

No particular record as that was never a measure to rate Sachin, he was much greater than that, but I only wish India as a team had closed out some of the overseas test matches and few other tournament finals where they had a realistic chance of a win.

There are some people who don’t quite understand what he meant to Indian Cricket Team, and try to degrade him by saying he was selfish and whatnot, your take on this?

It was never easy to be a Sachin. He carried the expectation of billions of people. It was unfair and absurd, that from the age of 16 years, Sachin was asked to bear the burden of the nation, a dysfunctional system, personal frustrations of fans and was expected to wipe all of those and provide joy to us, and it was near miracle that he succeeded in doing so. An average Indian fan can accept no less than a century, but the same fan might also want him to reach the century with a six knowing well that he could get out. So where does Sachin draw the line, selfish if he reaches his 100 taking singles, or careless if he gets out going for the glory!

Sachin cannot succeed every instance he gets on the field, and there are occasions where he struggled to get on the top of the opponent. None of that can ever be attributed to him being selfish. It’s the fans, ex-players, commentators who demand a lot from him. And statisticians love to draw big conclusions from small data samples, or non-representative samples. We used to hear this a lot “Sachin has changed his game, he bats much slower these days”. Well, his career strike rate both in tests and ODIs was statistically never different each year except few aberrations over a long 24-year international career. So always felt bad for him, but he never let these distractions affect him and his bat did the talking.

But if there was one milestone that he could have avoided going after, was that 100th international century, it did weigh him down tremendously. His fans and everyone around relentlessly reminded him. To be fair in its pursuit he did lose a bit of focus. That was the last thing India deserved, especially after the 2011 World Cup win. A Sachin relieved of all expectations would have been a nice luxury to have. Alas…

Your memory when he reached his 200 against South Africa?

It was the day I joined Twitter. Feb 24, 2010. Was desperate to send a congratulatory note to Sachin just for my satisfaction. Twitter was an option hence joined and he was the first person I followed on Twitter (am sure many would share the same notion!). I distinctly recall it was early in the morning here in Atlanta, when he reached his 200. It was such a momentous event, that my immediate next step; as was the norm back in those days was to record on VHS tapes, all fans and families reactions, newsroom and match coverage, cricketers and celebrities views. I did that for the next 6 to 8 hours, and still have and cherish them. And since that day up until Dec 2019, I basically remained passive on Twitter. It felt as if Twitter had done its job for me that day, and I did not care much after …

Sachin Tendulkar, 100 International Centuries, next best is 71 by Ricky Ponting and 70 by Virat Kohli. Do you think he can beat it? And how many years further will he take if he beats his record in your opinion?

As mentioned earlier in this interaction, I never got enamoured by Sachin’s statistics or records. It was always the joy and happiness he gave to the nation and cricketing world and the laurels Indian team achieved through his career. It’s great to know about Kohli, but somehow it never crossed my mind that he is getting closer. I can only wish for Virat Kohli that he continues his good work both as a player and captain of India.

His documentary released in 2017 was very inspirational to a lot of people in so many ways, what was your biggest takeaway from that?

I watched the documentary the same day it was released in May 2017. There were few rare unseen footages like him practising in Pakistan 1989, and a couple more unknown stories. It was decent viewing for the fan base who perhaps have not watched or read about his formative years, but for a fan like me who has followed Sachin very closely since his early years, and also collected many footages both on and off the field, my expectation was a bit more than what was shown. As always we are never satisfied with Sachin, we just want to know more and more about him.

Maybe Sachin will come up with a Part 2, wherein I wish Sachin can share his insights on how he prepared for some big games, the mindset, the anxieties, how he managed failures, everything that are cricketing “peripherals”; that we do not get to see on TV but are the essentials in making of the player. I had a similar grudge with his autobiography, it’s just me as a fan speaking, that I want to learn more about Sachin!

2013 retirement was coming for a while, but it was like a national event and only one name was reverberating everywhere throughout the whole month of November – SACHIN SACHIN!!!

It had to be a national event, and all good things had to come to an end. I still remember those last few deliveries on day 1 of his farewell test at Wankhede. The visuals of a spectator just bowing down when he defended the last delivery of day 1 just said what Sachin meant to all of us. We just want him to bat on and on and on.

For me, I had an official trip to Japan immediately at the end of day 1. So with time zone difference and long haul flight over Pacific, I knew I would miss the entire day 2 coverage and this last ball that he defended essentially meant it was the final time I was going to watch Sachin bat in a Test match on my TV at home. This TV was bought 10 years prior in Feb 2003 just before the World cup while I was doing my Masters here in the US. The context here is the freak thing that happened immediately after I switched off. The TV would never turn ON. As if to say, this TV was meant only for me to watch Sachin, now that I am travelling and Sachin retiring, as a mark of respect it just wants to shut itself OFF. I still get goosebumps when I write this but it was synonymous with how I felt at that instance. I watched his farewell speech at my hotel in Tokyo all alone on the BBC. It was a moving speech as we all know, and that Sachin Sachin was a strange one to listen to in a far east country that had no cricketing culture !!

Which are your favourite Sachin Tendulkar knocks from each format – Test, ODI, and T20 (IPL)?

My favorite Sachin knocks in Tests were a couple of his sub hundred knocks …

In Test matches,

97 vs SA, 2000 Wankhede, Mumbai. It was the first time I watched Sachin from the stands. He easily looked one of the best batsmen against an all-conquering attack. Watching with the Wankhede crowd gave me the perspective of the kind of expectations he walks in every time he comes into bat. The crowd was super happy that we lost early wickets and Sachin would be in. I could sense what it meant when we say Sachin carried the nation’s expectation. It was humanly impossible. But he delivered yet again that day!
92 vs Eng, 2002 Nottingham was my second favourite just for the sheer attacking play to put India back on track and reduce the deficit after India had lost 2 quick wickets in the 3rd innings

In ODIs

98 vs Pak, 2003 World Cup. This knock meant a lot. It was rare in those days to successfully chase a challenging target vs strong Pakistani attack.
117 not out vs Aus Tri-Series finals, Sydney. This came at the backdrop of massive criticism that Sachin is no longer the same and rarely performs in big games especially in chases.

In T20 IPL

72 off 52 balls vs Chennai Super Kings in 2010 IPL at Brabourne stadium, chasing a stiff 180 target. It was an important game.

Your Twitter bio clearly suggests that you have been a massive cricket fan right from the 80s era, so I would like to ask you what is that one thing that the modern cricketers don’t have compared to cricketers from the past?

I have huge respect for all cricketers, from all eras, and all formats, domestic and international. Hence always refrained myself from comparing and have only enjoyed this game with no strings attached.

But, a slightly different twist to this question, if there is one thing modern cricketers do NOT have as compared to cricketers from the past is the “freedom” and “privacy” from social media. Ha Ha !!

Thanks for having this pleasant interaction with me Jay. Feel honored as a fan to share my perspectives on the great man.

Thank you so much for reading this article, if you enjoyed reading it, feel free to share it. To end this article, watch this video of Sunil Gavaskar sharing his expectations of a young Sachin Tendulkar, from Subu Sastry’s twitter handle. Also make sure to follow me on Twitter, link is below. https://twitter.com/bhavsarJ2_0?s=09

(Video Credits – @suubsy – Twitter)
Thank you Syed Hussani for this comment on my previous post.

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