Cricket's own Vicar
I lay the blame squarely on Sachin Tendulkar - for making it so hard to write yet another article on his prowess and achievements and landmarks, which show no signs of fading away. Superlatives pale. Praise falls flat and comparisons do not seem to fit, if only because we are finding it harder to find appropriate standards of comparison as time goes on. Cricket's prolific writing community has driven itself against the wall praising his two decades in the game. It has worked itself into a fury trying to explain to the layman about his passion for the game; his unsurpassed mastery of the art of batting. It has tired of continuously extolling his virtues on and off the field as a champion and a true sportsman. So much so that when you want to write about Tendulkar or his exploits it pays to take some time to think deeply to try and not repeat either yourself or the numerous others who have tried their hand at the same exercise over the years. I have a confession to make. Nothing seemed to suggest itself as exemplary enough. As momentous and unique enough to grace yet another occasion, yet another peerless achievement by the maestro. For a while I was stymied when trying to write about his latest achievement - that of scoring a double century in an ODI contest. Yet another time when he carried his bat through and batted for his team's entire quota of 50 overs.
I have heard it said that emotions tend to illuminate even the darkest paths where the light of reason fizzles out and leaves you alone. This is a case in point. If following sport is in essence a vicarious pursuit into which you throw not yourself but your faiths on individual players and/or teams, then nobody qualifies to be a Vicar quite as much as Tendulkar. The magnitude of emotions, enjoyment and realization he has been able to convey and amplify to millions and maybe even billions of people over the years across borders of nationhood, religion, economic means, caste, creed and colour ensures that it is so.
It is not difficult to describe the drives, the cuts, the pulls and the cutest of nudges that he essayed today en route to the first ever double century in One Day Internationals. But it would merely be superfluous. His supporters may very well be in the right if they argue that this was always on the cards. A splendorous 175 earlier this year had already tantalized his fans. Informed and tempted them about this possibility. And when a summit beckons, Sachin cannot be far behind. He finds a way to the top. And so it was today. 200 not out off just 147 deliveries against the 3rd ranked side in the world. A successful man cannot have people simply singing praises about him. Ask his detractors. They would point out that the Roop Singh Stadium at Gwalior had short square boundaries, lightning fast outfields and an absolute marble-top of a wicket. And they would be absolutely right. But here is something they might consider. Give a top class artist a canvas. Give him a room and give him a vista. See what he comes up with. For the art produced thereof we credit the artist himself; not the canvas for its whiteness and blankness. Not the room for the comfort it offered. Not even the vista for its having conveniently presented itself. They are all incidental. Art is transcendental. So too is Tendulkar's batting.
Much has been made of his drive for runs. Of the man's sheer hunger for putting bat to ball and staying on there at the crease much to the bowlers' bemusement. Forget the fact that he is largely peerless and matchless. He also appears tireless with the bat in hand when you observe his speed and skill when sprinting up and down the wicket putting pressure on the fielders at 36 years of age. Countless have been the questions posed to him about his desire to play the game and of the day when he wants to hang up his boots. Perhaps they have been posed in an attempt to find out just how long the game will be graced by his presence. The game's own need of his genius does not however go far when trying to explain his superhuman dedication to the craft of batting and of the sheer determination that has powered him to make several sacrifices in order to be there for his team. In typical Sherlock Holmes' fashion, if we eliminate the possibilities one by one it only leaves one last item. That Sachin Tendulkar needs the game just like we mortals need our oxygen, our daily fix of sports and the fount of vicarious joy it promises. That his bat is not an extension of his body as has been often said. Perhaps quite the opposite - that he is an extension of his bat. That his body arranges itself conveniently so that the bat may strike the ball at the most opportune time with optimum speed. All the better for our vicarious enjoyment. That he gives of himself every time through his bat so that we may once again experience the heady breathlessness that sports brings into our lives. So that over the years we all have a bit of Sachin Tendulkar in us. And that he suggests, in the true spirit of Vicar-ship, the existence of sublimation and transcendentalism in sport, also leaving us with the comfort that even after he ceases to perform his superhuman deeds on the cricket pitch he will live on in our minds - fuelling our dreams and defining our spectrums of possibilities.