A Ton Of Joy

by Parth Pandya

[box]Parth Pandya’s piece is a fitting tribute and a quiet celebration of the achievement beyond compare of a master batsman. Sachin Tendulkar, we are proud of you and inspired too![/box]

Imagine being good at something. Imagine that you were so good you thought you could make a career out of it. Add to it the fact that you are lucky to have been born in India, the country with no shortage of others to compete with. But you are persistent. You’ll make your mark, you believe. You may be the best in your suburb, your city even. But wait, did I tell you that you would only be 16 when you had to prove you are this good? In fact, did I tell you that not only do you have to be the best in your city, you need to be among the best in the country? Actually, make it the world. And note that you won’t have much chance to fail. You are being watched, every step of the way. By everyone. Every day that you represent your country in what is generously described as a cauldron, you’ll be expected to walk on water, lift a nation sinking under the burden of its own reality. You can lose your privacy, but not your mind. You can be praised and damned, but your dignity can’t be compromised. You are the face of your profession, a God in flesh, a reason why people switch off their lives and switch on the television. You balk at the prospect? Welcome to the life of Sachin Tendulkar.

In a match deemed inconsequential in the recent past against an opposition deemed unfit by armchair critics, that diminutive man nudged a single on the leg side to add to his legend in an improbable way. Sachin constructed Mt. Tendulkar, by hitting his 100th international century. It was his 49th in one day internationals, to add to the 51 he has notched up in test matches. It was coincidentally, his first one day international century against the minnows Bangladesh – but not without receiving flak for it – so much for getting a ton against a weak opposition. Of his 100 tons, 20, yes, 20 have come against the best team in the world in the two decades that he has played – Australia. You get the magnitude of the achievement when you realise that when Tendulkar nudged the ball to the leg side to get that momentous single, he confirmed the existence of a statistic in cricket that did not even exist before – so improbable was it thought to be.

The wait for the 100th century has been its own long saga. From the time that he got his 99th ton against South Africa in the World Cup, it was assumed that it was a matter of time. A century in the final of the World Cup at Wankhede would have made it a dream achievement, but it was not to be. England followed, then West Indies and then Australia – match after match, the century kept being played up. Advertisers were waiting for it to happen, commemorative plaques were built and kept and news articles with clever headlines were already thought of. But it didn’t happen. Time and again, he crept up on the three figure number just to fall short, often losing the battle in his mind. The pressure kept building, especially as India got whipped in all their overseas games. Tendulkar’s hundred became a national obsession – a country’s breath was literally held and it was being choked in an unrelenting grip. Tendulkar’s critics, some of whom are cricketers with much lesser pedigree, and others whose qualifications involve sitting in the luxury of their armchairs and haven’t yet and never will score one run in international cricket, brought their daggers out. All of this got to the great man, who was suddenly made to look human. This is what makes this ton so special – that a man with 99 centuries could simply not conjure up one century more. But he accepted the situation with the humility that he has shown in his career and decided to grind his way to this century. For a man who has been asked to retire relentlessly by his critics in the past year, the century just gave him a reason not to.

When Tendulkar first burst on to the cricketing scene as a prodigy, his entry brought with it the limitless set of expectations – after all, why expect anything less from a talent that promises so much? But the chances of a prodigy delivering on his ample gifts are fraught with the fragility of a tender flower in a strong breeze. For it to survive, it must have strength of character to go with the innate beauty that it possesses. Tendulkar’s career is that flower that has survived and blossomed. Those who understand it have unlocked the keys to understanding the value of this Mount Tendulkar. Bradman’s imperfection may have been poetic. But Tendulkar’s journey is, without any doubt, a pure epic.

Parth Pandya is a passionate Tendulkar fan, diligent minion of the ‘evil empire’, persistent writer at, self-confessed Hindi movie geek, avid quizzer, awesome husband (for lack of a humbler adjective) and a thrilled father of a precocious three-year-old boy. He grew up in Mumbai and spent the last eleven years really growing up in the U.S. and is always looking to brighten up his day through good coffee and great puns.

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