Tendulkar’s career about the effort, not the centuries

Ritam Roar Rookie

By Ritam, Ritam is a Roar Rookie

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    “He’s finally got it.” That was the reaction when Sachin Tendulkar recently became the first batsman in history to score 100 international centuries, ending the 33-innings drought that had followed his 99th.

    The story of the last 13 months has been one of diminishing anticipation and fading aura; of a helpless hero and an unsettled team. However, it’s also been a case of ungrateful fans and unforgiving critics – without whom this drought would simply not have been.

    Tendulkar brought up the milestone against Bangladesh in India’s second game of the Asia Cup tournament. He helped set up a total of 289/5, yet India failed to defend it, continuing a worrying trend in their inability to field a threatening bowling side.

    Tendulkar was unusually slow – of all his ODI hundreds, this one came at the second-lowest strike rate (77.55), and the lowest in the last ten years.

    He slowed down as he reached his milestone, but after he turned a ball from man-of-the-match Shakib Al Hasan through square for the single that gave him the historic century, Tendulkar attempted to cut loose, hitting consecutive boundaries before being dismissed for 114.

    Of all the sports on this planet, no fans are as obsessive-compulsive about statistic as cricket’s. It is, without doubt, this inherent number-loving nature that resulted in the creation of the 100th century hype. As significant as the milestone is, and as pleasing as ‘hundredth hundred’ sounds to the ear, it is just that – a nice statistic, the triple figure bringing with it aesthetic satisfaction.

    Indeed, as endearing as it might seem to Tendulkar for the media to follow his every run and prepare reports on his milestones long before he reaches them, some of the more outspoken journalists and television presenters can give themselves half a dozen pats on the back – one for each of the centuries they have probably cost Tendulkar in the past year.

    The problem lies herein: Tendulkar was not only the first to 100 international centuries – he was the first to 50, 60 and 70 international tons as well. He’s the only man to make over 71. Which means that on at least 50 occasions prior to this, Tendulkar was on the verge of a record-breaking century. Indeed, every time he scores a run, he’s creating history, given that he also has the most international runs.

    Every time he comes out to bat, he’s creating history, since he’s played more innings than any other. It gets even better: every time he is even named on a team list, he’s making history, since he’s played more Tests and ODIs than any other player.

    The emotion on his face upon taking off his helmet and saluting the supportive Mirpur crowd was subtle but revealing; and the relief in his voice following the knock was palpable.

    Tendulkar remarked that he felt 50 kilos lighter, and after remaining silent through the entire Australian tour and much of the England debacle, he finally conceded that it had been a very tough period for him, and there was more than a hint of resentment at the attitude that had been cast his way.

    “Yes, I have to be honest. I am human and I have emotions so I was frustrated. It does play on your mind…nobody talked about my 99 hundreds,” he said with more than a hint of criticism at his detractors.

    In his first official interview following the achievement, Tendulkar was similarly and unnaturally stoic in his responses, perhaps finally giving the world a glimpse of the immense mental pressure he has been forced to endure for much of the past 20 years – a pressure which has been intensified further in the past 12 months.

    “There are certain people I respect and there are certain people I don’t respect. I don’t get affected by the ones I don’t respect. I don’t bother much about them. Let them be where they are. I’ve got a bigger job of playing for India, scoring runs and winning matches for India and I focus on that job instead of reacting to what they are saying,” he retorted.

    Following his withdrawal from the West Indies tour, there was speculation that Tendulkar wanted to save his 100th century for Lord’s during the England tour. It appears absurd in hindsight, but there were many who were caught up in the hype during the time – to many, Tendulkar could always control his destiny with the bat.

    As he pointed out in his interview though, “A hundred doesn’t come as and when you want.”

    Calls for his retirement have been rife in the past few months – former teammates have themselves been divided over the issue. Sourav Ganguly, India’s most successful Test captain, famously remarked that no one had the right to call for Sachin’s head and it was purely his decision to make. Ravi Shastri, meanwhile, has been extremely vocal about his view that Tendulkar should have retired on a high after the World Cup.

    Tendulkar’s views were perfectly clear. “When you are at the top, you should serve the nation. When I feel I am not in a frame of mind to contribute to the nation, that’s when I should retire, not when somebody says. That’s a selfish statement, [saying that] one should retire on top. “

    Tendulkar’s, though, is a life that is shared with a nation. For two decades he has been India’s perennial wonder boy, still every bit the prodigy he was when he came onto the scene as a quiet, fresh-faced youngster. No sportsperson, let alone cricketer, carries with them a billion hopes in quite the same way Sachin Tendulkar does.

    It makes it all the more remarkable when, all things considered, batting is one of the toughest mental propositions in professional sport – one mistake can end your match, and two or three can end your career.

    Tendulkar spoke about the wait for his 100th ton with remarkable perspective. “I am glad about the journey. It has tested my patience, my character. So many people have had questions, but I don’t read any of them. Somebody who has not gone through this will have only questions, not answers.”

    “When I consider retirement, don’t worry, I will not hide it from anyone. I will play as long as I am enjoying it and as long as I can contribute to the team. I don’t play for milestones; that is a perception created by a few members of the media. I play cricket because I enjoy it.”

    It will be pleasant to watch a cricket match without reference to Tendulkar’s 100th ton. Tendulkar himself will be pleased to see no more banners wishing him luck in making this particular achievement. It might seem an agonising wait until he next makes some kind of poetic history, but try to remember that every time he walks out to bat, he’s in uncharted territory.

    The cheers when he walks out of the dressing room should be as loud as they are for his centuries – for then perhaps Tendulkar will be able to remember that the applause is for him, and not for a statistic. The great man himself is, as ever, focused on his country, and the rest of India would do very well to follow suit.

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    The Crowd Says (8)

    • April 5th 2012 @ 3:35pm
      Cameron said | April 5th 2012 @ 3:35pm | ! Report

      I’m so sick of Tendulkar

      • Roar Rookie

        April 5th 2012 @ 5:49pm
        Ritam said | April 5th 2012 @ 5:49pm | ! Report

        Fair enough mate – wrote this a while ago, was definitely expecting some reader fatigue.

    • April 5th 2012 @ 4:43pm
      Kersi Meher-Homji said | April 5th 2012 @ 4:43pm | ! Report

      An excellent tribute, so deep and sincere.
      Sachin is not only one of the all-time great batsmen but also a nice human being.
      We from 1980s to 2010s are proud and previleged to see him bat.
      Cricket fans will remember him 100 years later. Any new star in 2112 will be compared with him as indeed with Bradman, Hobbs, Trumper, Hammond, Headley, G. Pollock, Weekes, Hutton, Sobers, Gavaskar, Harvey, Lara, Ponting…

      But like Bradman, Sachin has a special aura. A decade later he will be called THE Sachin as Bradman is remembered as THE Don.

      • Roar Rookie

        April 5th 2012 @ 5:42pm
        Ritam said | April 5th 2012 @ 5:42pm | ! Report

        Thanks for the lovely feedback Kersi. I always forget to come here and read your pieces, having stumbled upon them a while ago! But I read the recent one about Clarke. Sachin is indeed special.

    • April 5th 2012 @ 5:03pm
      Vas Venkatramani said | April 5th 2012 @ 5:03pm | ! Report

      Ritam, you’ve made some very fine points here about how media and fan obsession has weighed down the legend that is Sachin Tendulkar.

      There is no doubt the general level of discourse surrounding whatever Tendulkar does approaches something of a tone of jealousy. The fact that one man out of a country of a billion can claim all these achievements to himself is something that journalists (of which me being one formally) can never hope to emulate in their respective field.

      At the same time, I was highly annoyed by Tendulkar’s gala event to celebrate the milestone. This was nothing more than a self-indulged celebration where the media and cameras were invited (the same ones that had been critical of him) to wallow in all things glorious Sachin.

      The comment that he should be allowed to choose his exit only gave credence to the claim Tendulkar has an understated arrogance that he firmly believes he is superior to all others.

      Sachin Tendulkar is a great batsman, but seeing that he is not captain of the team, nor has an official selection vote on the BCCI committee, he cannot be the sole determining factor of whether he plays on. His form and the wish to actually regenerate the team in the future will determine that.

      Unfortunately (and fortunately for Sachin Tendulkar), he plays for a team where form is not the prime motivating factor in selection decisions – the market is. Cricket marketeers will lose a helluva lot the moment Sachin Tendulkar leaves the game, and so his presence is nothing more than an attempt for the BCCI to milk him for every marketing and advertising campaign there is, regardless of whether or not he scores runs.

      In the meantime, a blind eye will be paid to the future welfare of the Indian Test team, for that is many people’s eyes, the most important aspect of our game. Thank God for Dravid’s unselfish decision, otherwise there would be nothing to move this Indian team onto a braver new world…

      • Roar Rookie

        April 5th 2012 @ 5:48pm
        Ritam said | April 5th 2012 @ 5:48pm | ! Report

        Vas, thanks for your comment – it’s great getting feedback. Interesting comment about the possible jealousy, I think there may also be some overzealous journalists who seem to think Tendulkar’s achievements are effectively their own achievements, given he is considered as India’s “property” (as harsh as that sounds).

        I’m not sure about understated arrogance, however. Yes, it was quite possibly his most brazen interview, but when he said “nobody can tell me when to retire”, I took his comments in the sense that he wasn’t mentally affected by people telling him to retire, and that he himself would know when the right time was. Of course, I’m assuming if the selectors gave him the whisper in his ear, that would be a different story – but I definitely agree that the country comes first, and if his form takes another severe dip, it’s time for India to move on.

        Imagine how many tributes will start pouring in then.

    • April 9th 2012 @ 8:22pm
      k77sujith said | April 9th 2012 @ 8:22pm | ! Report

      Hi Ritam..

      As always it’s such a joy to read your pieces Ritam (Indian Link included). You really have a vast knowledge in the domain of sport. Anyway..coming to this piece, it’s brilliant like always, however, I don’t think it’s right on the Board’s part to allow Tendulkar to ‘pick’ the tournaments he wishes to compete in. Make no mistake, I’m a huge fan as well, but he isn’t in a zone wherein he’s coming up with consistent scores and by consistent, I mean 30s and 40s. Just feel he must be treated by the Board like any other player. Yes, he’s still playing insanely well but c’mon…if he fails with the bat, his day at the office is done ‘coz we don’t see Dhoni taking his opinions when the heat is on in the field…just my thoughts Ritam…keep them coming. Thanks.

      • Roar Rookie

        May 31st 2013 @ 7:18pm
        Ritam said | May 31st 2013 @ 7:18pm | ! Report

        Hi there,

        I just came across this after a long time and realised I never replied to your lovely comment – sorry about that. Obviously this piece is very old now but I think you make some very valid points – no player should ever be above the game (which is probably particularly poignant in light of the recent spot-fixing scandal). But Tendulkar is one of those once-in-a-generation players that, no matter what we say, will always have his own special bubble. Whether it’s a good thing or not is something we’ll never really know.

        Anyway, many thanks for the feedback – much appreciated.


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