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The Sachin Farewell – A View from the Stands and beyond November 19, 2013

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It was 1400 hours on Saturday, the 16th of November, 2013. Hearts heavy with what we had just experienced, Himank and I decided not to stick around for one last glimpse. We decided to make way for lunch and drinks at the nearby Cafe Mondegar in Colaba. Predictably, there was a fair bit of a queue outside the joint and it was dominated by fans wearing the iconic No.10 jersey and sporting the Indian flag paint. After some jostling, we made our way to the table and set about conversing about what we had just witnessed. A couple of drinks later, with the screen showing his shots, we went down the memory lane, and spoke about the hundred against Henry Olonga’s Zimbabwe, the straight sixes against Eddo Brandes, the hook against Caddick, the best Indian chases all involving him- Desert Storm 1998 and Commonwealth twin innings’ 2010, the straight drive, the innings’ against Pakistan in 2003, World Cup 1996, the back pain and innings against Saqlain & co in Chennai, Dale Steyn competing with him… It just kept going on.

Within a few minutes, we realised that the four young lads in the table next to us, all sporting Sachin jerseys were discussing exactly the same. And so were the group of friends in the table behind us. Ditto with the two couples ahead of us. I don’t know what it was, I don’t know how it worked but I’d never witnessed anything like what was going to happen in the next few minutes. Someone started it from a couple of tables behind us and within no time, the entire cafe broke into chants of “Sachin.. Sachin”. Here. In the cafe. In the middle of the day. We went, “Thank You Sachin”; “Saaaachin..” and all the Sachin chants which we witnessed at the Wankhede. It was unbelievable. Like they say, “Divided by , united by Sachin”. The Europeans in the Cafe, were of course, bewildered, but took the opportunity to soak into the moment and capture “Incredible India” on their cameras. The chanting continued through the afternoon, and you could look at various moist eyes even after the emotional cauldron in the stadium.

Somehow, it felt natural that this should happen. Somehow, it felt inevitable. It was as if we were all gripped by a common force and energy. If there is anyone who has inspired and been loved by the entire nation more in equivocal terms, I’ve not heard of that person.

It has been three days since I witnessed the outpouring of emotions and those words coming from Sachin. I still can’t get over the profoundness and candidness of the speech. It was not earth shattering, Sachin is not the best orator, and it was nothing that we didn’t know. But the connection he made with us in the stands, and beyond was striking. Again, I had never witnessed anything close to this. But then, I don’t think we’ve witnessed anything like Sachin Tendulkar.

The moment which I can never forget is when he walked purposefully across the ground from the Pavilion to the wicket. We were all wondering why it was, and before we realised it, Sachin had bent down, paid his obeisance to the soil and took its blessings before the packed house for one last time. It was at this moment that even the strongest amongst us in the stands broke down.

And so did Sachin.

I still feel that I am floating in the numbness which took over the stands just after Sachin left the ground.

Thank you Sachin.

Rahul Dravid: An Inspiration March 9, 2012

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Yesterday, as I clicked on the trending topic “Rahul Dravid” on Twitter, the first tweet which noticed amidst the cluster of messages and tributes was, “Even when he announces his retirement, the media persons rush to ask Sachin Tendulkar for his opinion”.

This has probably been the summary of Rahul Dravid’s career. It is to his credit that in spite of playing in the age of the biggest Indian sporting star India has ever seen, he has more than held his own and marked his route towards greatness. That he has rarely ever received his due is well recorded; what is amazing is to never find himself fretting about it. Never. To my mind, the greatest tribute he could have received was from the Bradman Oration at the Australia War Memorial, who chose him to deliver a speech in front of an August audience. Needless to mention, the speech was delivered with eloquence, dignity and grace. Just like the great man.

“If I had to chose one man to bat for my life, it has to be Rahul Dravid”- Brian Lara.

Cut to Kolkata 2001. With India in dire straits, Laxman hit that knock, but to my mind, Rahul Dravid was an equal hero then. While Laxman was in good form, and hence had been promoted to No.3, Dravid was not. He was not expected to last long but then that’s when you can trust Rahul Dravid to fight. And fight he did. Digging out all his reserves of mental energy, determination, technique, selflessness; Dravid delivered a master class of the highest order.

In a way, Dravid is someone who all of us can relate to. While Tendulkar is someone who has always been seen with God-like qualities, Laxman with his immense talent, Ganguly with his flair; Dravid’s been one who can easily fit into the role of the boy next door. And that’s what makes his achievements all the more amazing. It is what makes him the most inspiring figure around- “I can try and emulate his attributes, and I’ll succeed”.

“All this going around is not aggression; if you want to see aggression on cricket field, look into Rahul Dravid’s eyes.”- Matthew Hayden.

I don’t have too many words to say, I am too choked with emotion at the prospect of Rahul Dravid retiring. My eyes are moist, for one of the biggest idols of my life is walking into the setting sun; for he is the one who has taught me the biggest lesson in my life. Just don’t give up. Watching him fight high quality seam bowling warms my heart.

My favourite Dravid innings:
1) 233 vs Australia- Adelaide in 2003
2) 180 vs Australia- Kolkata in 2003
3) 144 vs West Indies- Georgetown in 2002
4) 93 vs Australia- Perth in 2008
5) 270 vs Pakistan- Rawalpindi in 2004

God Bless Rahul Dravid.

Sachin’s Journey Consummated April 3, 2011

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Unbelievable. For all my posts, I try and structure my thoughts, put them in a framework and present them in a readable fashion. Not today. Even 12 hours after THE moment, I cannot stop thinking, stop putting it all together.

THAT twirl after hitting the six. It was as if MS Dhoni was saying, I don’t give a rat’s ass to you guys- did you freaking see that? It was the expression and satisfaction of a man having actually led his team. On a night of emotions, his calmness even after hitting the shot was one of the most amazing emotions. Numb. A feeling many of us have even now.

THOSE tears. Harbhajan Singh was putting Sreesanth to shame. Yuvraj Singh was the one with eyes moist, body pumped and world conquered. His hug with God which lasted over a good one minute was a memory which will remain etched in my memory forever. It was as if he was saying, “This is for you, Lord. Just you. Fucking savour this.”

GOD. He didn’t know what to do. Smile? Cry? Can you just imagine? A dream for which he has given everything? Blood, sweat, tears, vomit. Something which kept him going. Something for which he has given everything. Can you just freaking imagine? To my mind, it was fitting that his biggest fans, people who he has inspired, guided, mentored and loved- Gautam Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh completed the jobs. It was like a tribute, and a signal that the Master’s lessons had paid off. It was a proud moment for God when he saw his disciples do the job which he had always dreamt of. It was THE emotion and moment which we all crave for. It was to say, God, we are ready to take over now.

THAT statement by Virat Kohli. Today my despise towards two people turned into respect- MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli. THAT lap for Sachin Tendulkar. What would have the fans felt then- seeing God up close having the most awesome expression and feeling EVER in his eyes.

Absolutely unbelievable. Little wonder that I just fucking could not sleep in the night. The night when I reached a high which alcohol can never take me to. The orgasm which sex can never give. The feeling that to hell with everything, I can peacefully die now.

Love you Sachin. Thanks for all the fish.

MI vs RCB: 21st April at the DY Patil stadium April 22, 2010

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The cheerleader stand: We’d initially entered the allotted stand based on our tickets. However, observing the free movement possible between stands, we moved to the area right in front of the Mumbai Indians cheerleaders. And needless to say, it was a lot of fun, with Mahindroo and Anant dancing on the mini podium with them!

SRT..: All of DYP was cheering for the master, whether he was batting, setting the field or speaking on the microphone. Towards the latter part of the Bangalore innings, when Sachin was injured and was looking on from the sidelines, the crowd went into a delirium when he was shown on the big screen. “Sachin.. Sachin” is all one could hear.

..And the rest: The other players cheered were Pollard, Harbhajan, and surprisingly Malinga. “Ma-Lin-Ga” is easy to chant and the affable player responded with a wicket in his first over. Pollard was cheered all through as well.

The poor Bangalore fans: There were four Bangalore fans in the entire stand- and they were seated right in front of me. While critics might say that the IPL will take time to build franchisee loyalties, you should have seen the hatred in the MI fans’ eyes when they looked at these chaps. For me, the moment of the day was showing them the finger when Uthappa got out after the crazy Harbhajan over.

Dale Steyn and Lasith Malinga: We all know how fast the South African is, but the Sri Lankan was surprisingly quick as well. The ball was reaching the keepers gloves in a flash when these chaps were bowling- it was fascinating to see it in the ground.

The boos: All of DY Patil booed 1) whenever there was a third umpire’s decision against the home team, 2) when KP had a confrontation with Rayudu 3) when Uthappa came into bat.

The ohhs: Collective gasps were common whenever the ball went past the edge! Ohh.. and the Mexican waves kept failing!

Singh is King: Trust Harbhajan with his antics. In the 18th over, when the match was nearly done with- Harbhajan came unto our stand and asked us to show some passion and excitement! The notorious stand that was, the collective slogan was “Singh is King.. Singh is King”. Bhajji loved it, and so did the stand and the square leg umpire (Billy Doctrove).

Yo beauty: After SRT, the loudest cheers were reserved for Deepika Padukone. The junta went bananas when the big screen flashed her.

Balle Balle: The stand out feature of the IPL as opposed to the ODIs and Test matches I’ve seen before is the constant entertainment- it was amazing to be dancing to Bollywood tunes with so many people. It was one awesome party!

All in all, a terrific experience. Looking forward to Sunday’s visit to the ground!