Sunday 17 November 2013

Piercing the hot air - Sachin's 38

It was tough trying to wade through the torrent of saccharine sentiment. Of course it had to be like this, the entertainment industry loves instructing people how to feel.

Cricket, ever more so, is no exception. Though the Test format is less malleable to the banal storytelling of marketeers, Sachin Tendulkar's final Test was an easy sell.

And boy they sold it. Cricinfo was bursting with Sachin, while Twitter was melting from tedious twos-and-fros between those lauding Sachin and those taking the piss.

Tendulkar's final Test innings (and with that shambolic West Indies outfit it was always going to be his last) was a massive occasion. It was just that being told over and again how important the man and the moment were made me numb.

I understood why so many said so much. I've long been struck by the gloriously earnest instinct in India for both sentiment and categorisation. Tendulkar's career and retirement tapped both. His many feats meant he was No. 1 runscorer, No. 1 century-maker, No. 1 match-player. And having watched him live his entire adult life as a champion on the pitch, people had every right to feel emotional.

So I did not belong with the curmudgeons grumbling about the quantity of the coverage. It is just that I could not engage with it. The noise - visual, aural and mental - that cluttered Tendulkar's final moment made me immune to it.

But it just so happened that I was home when the moment came. Cricinfo told me Murali Vijay was out and that the crowd had erupted. The only video coverage I could get was through my mobile. A small screen pathetically at odds with the occasion.

The sound of the crowd as he sped out the middle, the chaotic slog-sweep to get off the mark, the half-volley stroked through cover. That punch drive down the ground. Of his 15921 Test runs, the 38 he made that evening must count among his least significant.

But those 20 overs were among the most dramatic I'd seen. As was always the way with Tendulkar, the guff was cleared aside to make way for the sport.

It was 20 overs that snatched the moment from the promoters and returned it to the fans. For that I #thankyousachin.

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