I've been tearing up in joy, every time I think of India's victory in the cricket world cup. Today I experienced, what most definitely will be one of the most incredible days of my lives. Never before have I experienced so much joy and ecstasy.I'm probably going to have random teary moments of overwhelming joy for a long time. Normally I hate displaying fragile emotions; however, this time I'm unashamed and unabashed of letting these tears flow.
Obnoxious cricket purists derided the Indian team when they said they wanted to win the 2011 world cup for Sachin Tendulkar. They constructed their arguments on cliches like do it for India, or do it for the team, not for one individual. Cynical sourpusses will jabber and complain that Sachin failed to deliver on a big occasion. But what the heck do they know about the true passion that is cricket? What do they understand about being a cricket crazy fan of a cricket crazy nation? A nation where cricket is not just a sport, but a religion. In India we have one true religion that cuts across all other mortal divides - our religions, our regions, our languages and other frivolous distinctions binding us together as one. That religion is cricket and the God is Sachin Tendulkar.
I was just about a year old when India won their first world cup in 1983. I don't remember a thing of it, I did not even know what happened. That turning point in history would change the face of the game in the subcontinent. The iconic images of Kapils devils celebrating at Lords after cinching the coveted trophy is vividly entrenched in all Indian minds so that even kids like me who were not aware, or youth not even born remember it like they were there for the moment.
Thus began my upbringing on a staple diet of cricket and dutiful worship. There were not many live broadcasts or comprehensive coverages way back in the day. I remember my grandfather tuning his transistor to the commentary and hunching over his desk sipping coffee, intently following the score. He would always be renting countless tapes of cricket matches and watch them in his spare time. I would watch these matches with him and for some reason these cricket tapes were more exciting viewing than morning cartoons. That is why by the age of five, I don't know if I knew much else worth knowing, but I could name the Indian cricket team in batting order. My first childhood infatuation would turn out to be Roger Binny or Logel Binny as I would call him. I'm not really aware of why I was such a huge fan of his, but I've been told that I liked his butt.
Then in due time came the era of broadcast cricket. Now the entire family could sit and enjoy games of cricket together and cricket had no bigger fan than my grandmother who would watch each and every game, test or one day international from toss to end, peppering the viewing experience with her own brand of histrionics, amusing commentary and absolutely absurd superstitions that changed every game or sometimes every innings or even every over. I'm not sure if she possesses a highly accurate astrological chart that allows her to make such on the go predictions, but her success ratio is unnervingly high for randomness.
It was later in this era when the God of cricket would grace us with his presence. That God was incarnated in the form of an unassuming, slightly built teenager called Sachin Tendulkar. At that time he was just another name on the roster, another player on the field, another name that would come and go in this game of cricket. Little did we know that it was the God of cricket himself who had come to deliver unto us. He would rise mercurially to become the greatest player the game has ever known.
He would become the champion that brought a nation together. No matter what your religion, what your background or no matter how violently differed - one thing every Indian can agree upon was that Sachin was the greatest batsman and when he and team India succeeded it was cause to drop everything and celebrate. In a nation strife with poverty, terrorism and a plethora other socio-economic issues, Sachin would deliver and give us a reason to smile and celebrate.If the inflation was pinching you, the weather bothering you, or just life getting to you at least Sachin was succeeding. When politics got dirty or border strifes got ugly, Sachin could deliver the soothing pill to calm our nerves. When we got riled up or pissed off Sachin was the mediator that resolved our differences. For me growing up - so what if I had a bad day at school, was not doing so hot in the exams or was having angsty teenage issues with the whole world around me - watching Sachin play a good knock could ease away all worries away. When a nation was hurt or angry, when a nation cried or hoped, when a nation suffered loss or distress they turned to Sachin. On his shoulder Sachin would carry the dreams, hopes, aspirations of every Indian.
Yes he turned out to be mortal and fallible. He failed and made mistakes on several occasions. He left us shell shocked and pissed off for failing to deliver. Sometimes we cussed him out. But then there was something about this man who despite being so flawed would rise to the ranks of God again. It was how he took everything in stride. In a gentleman's game, he probably is one of the few remaining gentleman. He never sledged, he never cussed and he never verbally abused. He never even glared, rolled his eyes or twitch his lips in anger. In fact he would silently take in fast bowlers and their barrage of abuse, sledging fielders and the verbal onslaught of opponents but merely smile and let the sport do the talking. Despite his fame and glory, he never had an air of arrogance or importance about him. He took every accolade as down to earth and humble as ever. He never made excuses or use his stature as a way out of mistakes. When he failed he took criticism in stride and worked on improving. He never took his place on the team for granted or demand preference for seniority and experience, he believed in giving his best and earning his keep. Most importantly, in an era of aggressive cricket where people claim unclean catches and stand their ground even when out - he played with sincerity, trying to the most honest and right thing. He inspired a team to play good clean honest cricket and kept the memory alive of the game we fell in love with, the gentleman's game of cricket.
It should come as no surprise that a nation wanted a win for their greatest hero. It should come as no surprise that a team wanted to repay their debt to an idol. When they said they would win the world cup for Sachin, they would win the cup for 21 years of a nation's expectations. There is no greater reason to achieve something, than to do it for someone who has given you their everything. Every cricket loving Indian would agree. Every great hero needs a fitting swan song, and a perfect stage was set for our hero's final world cup. On Saturday April 2nd, the same day and date they won 28 years ago, they would play the finals on our champions home ground in front of his home crowd. He fell early, and we were reeling at 31/2. In the past that would have been the end of it, but today they had to do it for him.
Virat Kohli's statement summed it all - "Sachin has carried the burden of the nation for 21 years. Its is time we carried him". That is why when all was said and done, they did not care that Sachin had been fallible in the finals. They rushed to hoist him on their shoulders and take him on a victory lap across the ground. That is why Yuvraj Singh's special person whom he played so well for was no girlfriend or love interest, but the most romantic of all, Sachin Tendulkar the beloved nation. That is why Sachin teared up and embraced the big guy Yuvi in a tearful hug. That is why every Indian player was tearing up. Make no mistake, it was in full team spirit and with full patriotic fervor. The tricolor Indian flag that the players and fans waved around and filled with their tears shows what this was all about. But the years of emotions that condensed into this one memorable moment, the poetic beauty of it all - is they did it for Sachin.
There is a very small twinge of sadness that there was no 100th hundred on this stage. However, the biggest regret is not that, but not being there in India, not being there in Mumbai at Wankhede, not being there for Sachin. The memory will remain etched in mind forever though. They did it for Sachin.