Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh, Virender Sehwag might have arrived but for a school going kid, who bats in the streets and the maidans of our country, he still dreams to be a Sachin Tendulkar!
Sachin's stance, style of play is what every kid on the streets of India wants to impersonate. Everyone wants a slice of the little genius. We found Sachin over 20 years back as a prodigiously talented teenager; even our mums loved him. The curly hair, the boyish looks, he was the kid in a man's world.
In the 1990s, Sachin became synonymous with the Indian cricket team. When Tendulkar would be dismissed early in an innings the spectators in the stadium retreated, and the ones watching at home switched off their TV sets.
For a million Indians, the word Sachin spelled hope. Sachin was also the only Indian batsmen whose game did not falter when playing on the hard and bouncy or seaming tracks abroad. He was at ease on all surfaces. He was one Indian batsman, whom we knew would never flinch in front of bouncers or short-pitch bowling. In the 1990s the Indian team did not win any Test matches outside the sub-continent, and the only consolation would be a Sachin hundred on foreign soil.
Away from Tests, Sachin's attacking style of play made him an exciting proposition in the 50-over version of the game. Every time he was called onto bat, the expectations surged-anything less than a hundred was deemed as a failure. In the ODIs, Sachin played a number of memorable knocks, but one of his innings stands out. Remember the 'desert storm' in Sharjah in 1998, when he single-handedly took the Indians to the finals of the tournament, and then followed it by a match-winning innings in the same. He psyched the Australians then and simultaneously mesemerized us.
But for the champions, the real test is not only the numbers but the spirit as well. Just days after his father's funeral death, Sachin returned to score a century in World Cup England 1999. Such is Sachin Tendulkar.
The hundred that was dedicated to his father was testimony to his focus and a tribute to his commitment towards the Indian cricket team. In 2003 World Cup when the cricket fanatics were seething in anger, Sachin Tendulkar was called upon to do some firefighting on behalf of the team. When the master spoke, the nation listened, as he asked the fans to keep their faith.
In the next few games India worked a turnaround chiefly on the back of some scintillating knocks from Sachin.
The beginning of this decade saw the younger brigade in the Indian team come to the fore. As for Sachin, he never grew old, yes the bones creaked much more, and tennis elbow injury kept him down for almost a year. The master though never got tired of making centuries. After surpassing Don Bradman's record of 29 Test centuries, Sachin is now at 42 and still counting for more. He is also the highest run maker in both Test match cricket and ODIs.
From a child prodigy to an institution of the game itself, Sachin has walked straight into the hearts of his fans and his team members alike. He is the senior member now, a person to whom everybody looks up to for all sorts of advice.
Be it a technical flaw in the batting style of a way to deal with all the pressure on the cricketing field, Sachin Tendulkar is the man-to-go for all the members of the team. On the field or off it, Sachin soothes the nerves of his team members, by constantly joking and squeezing in humour in the tense dressing room atmosphere. The master is enjoying the success of the Indian team , something which he missed doing during the 90's.
For the fans, he is the cricketer for whom kids have bunked school, the office-goers have feigned illness. After a hard day's work he is the one guy who has lit up the faces of the common man, with his breath-taking performances. Everyone relishes Sachin Tendulkar. His game, his smile, his humility has charmed one and all. At the age of 36, Sachin is still playing with the same passion, the same hunger that he had when he first held the bat to thrash a turning or a swinging ball to the boundary. All we can say is may the good work continue for a long time in the future. India@62 loves Sachin Tendulkar and asks for more!