It all started in 1998, I was 12 then – My cricket fanatic father was watching a cricket match on TV, Sharjah Cup it was, India Vs, Australia. There were some regular interferences, and my father told me to adjust and hold the antenna in the north-west direction for around 20 minutes, A short man with his unruly curly hair was adjusting his helmet and a Kathak stance followed. “Jaldi kar Sachin ki half century nikal jayegi” (Be quick, or I’ll miss Sachin’s half century. While on the stairs to the antenna-studded roof, I thought who’s this Sachin, and why is his half century so important!
My father shouted “Come-on down, the signals are fine now”! There I was, watching cricket EAGERLY for the first time, a straight drive to Jason Gillespie, a back-foot punch to Tom Moody, a nightmarish straight slog to the Warne and the commentators reiterating “What a player, what a wonderful player”.
I now knew, who that man was and why his innings was so important!
He’s been a habit since, from newspaper cuttings in school registers, to the wallpaper with his cover drive captured, and the trump cards where I would yearn for the “Master Card”! I’ve known Cricket to be Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, not a fraction more or less.
But this habit has changed now, my idol, my motivation – SIR Sachin Tendulkar has retired from cricket, and so have i!
I have been a die-hard Sachin Tendulkar fan, but never really got a chance to see him batting live, in a stadium. To be frank, I was never keen on that, as I had a notion that the TV cameras and different hawk eye views are simply the best way to indulge in his divine strokeplay.
When I heard the dreaded news of his retirement, I felt like a part of my soul has been stripped off! I kept sulking on my way to office, not sure what to do! A couple of days later, BCCI announced his final two tests (199th and the 200th) at Kolkata and Mumbai.
This very moment it was decided, come what may but I am going to see the cricketing GOD live at least once before his willow rests!
I aimed for Mumbai, but things didn’t looked good with only a few thousand tickets for the millions of Sachin worshippers. I called every soul I knew, tried every possible or impossible options that might work. The first test already in progress, 2nd day, 1st session – Not for Mumbai, but the ticket for Kolkata was in my hands, elation is just too small a feeling to match my emotions.
INDIA VS WEST INDIES – Test Match, Day 4 it read. I somehow managed my travel tickets, got my leaves sanctioned! It was hectic, but awesome…
Until West Indies ruined my party with a 3rd day fallout!
I didn’t know how to react, Mumbai seemed to be like a vacation on the Mars, and like a common man, a bicycle was all I ever had.
A couple of days later, BCCI announced that the tickets will be sold online at www.kyazoonga.com, and only 3500 is available for the general public. It was like aiming at a grain of sand amidst a vast sea, a chance of 0.0000001%.
But I was determined, especially after the Kolkata fiasco, it was now or never!
The ticket sale started at 11.00 am and at 11.05 am, the website crashed, a sea of traffic in a mug – it tumbled and blasted. I tried refreshing the whole day, asked a couple of friends to keep trying, the webpage were continuously refreshed on the mobile phone – but nothing happened!
- At 9 pm the first page opened, but it never went past the 2nd page.
- 11.30 pm, I finally got to the transaction page – and it crashed
- 1.15 am, for the second time it crashed on the transaction page
- 4.30 am, again the transaction page, a prayer on my lips, and Bingo! There was it, TRANSACTION SUCCESSFUL!!
I thought it can’t be real… hard to believe what my eyes told me – I got a confirmation email and an SMS! It was destined to be Mumbai – the 200th test match. Two tickets, one for me and one for Aniruddha, my brother! (Yeah, I got two:D)
Before 4.30 that morning I didn’t sleep because I had no tickets, after 4.30 my eyes never blinked – Impossible – is that what I said?
Very special thanks to Mona here, for making voracious efforts and supporting me endlessly.
A tatkal ticket and I was in the train, 3.40 pm from Nizamuddin station, Wednesday, the 13th. I grabbed my seat – Mumbai for the first time in my life!
As time progressed, I got to know that half of the compartment, was going for the ultimate cricket match. People played videos of Sachin Tendulkar’s innings, Pakistan 1992, Perth Test, CB Series, Sandstorm Sharjah innings, 100th century, 200 not out – and what not!
It was like when we go to a pilgrimage, everybody sings the same lyrics, dances to the same tune, and nurtures similar emotions in their heart! Instead of bhajans, there were videos here – and the God was Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.
7.15 am I reached Borivali, and 8.15 am at my friend’s place in Goregaon. Aniruudha and I all settled for the first day, my first local to the Churchgate station. 10.30 am we were in the stadium, and that very moment I knew how it was to watch a match LIVE!
And there was the master – at the point towards Garware Pavillion, a hat over those unruly curly hair. I could breathe, I could feel the magnificent atmosphere – Chants of Sachin…Sachin… so loud yet so soothing! The stadium roared when the ball came to master, or when he moved around the field, or when he was near any of the stands – Pilgrimage, oh yes!
It didn’t really matter who was bowling, what was the score – Mexican waves and Sachinism ruled the stadium. I saw many empty seats when the West Indies were batting; I wondered why?
West Indies were bundled out after lunch, and the Indian openers were out in the middle. What I witnessed was bizarre, the crowd was cheering the West Indian bowlers to take the wickets, and the umpires were booed for not giving the batsmen out.
I got my answer! Here came the moment – two successive wickets, and suddenly the stadium was jam-packed – even air wasn’t allowed to pass through!
There he came, the master, on the field for the final time, the crowd dancing… Sachin…Sachin… echoed, and everybody up on their toes. I cannot recall even a moment when the maestro was batting, and people were on their seats – young, old: it never mattered.
A crisp cover drive, and Aniruddha went berserk, a buttered straight drive and I went mad! Tendulkar looked in his prime and the crowd was bonkers. Looking at the jeers and cheers, we were wondering – how can somebody concentrate here?
But his name is Sachin Tendulkar, focus and determination were named after him! He was looking confident, relaxed, and quintessential! 38 not out was his score on the first day!
On the journey back home, Aniruddha and I were discussing, how the master will be feeling on this day! He has given 24 years to international cricket, and suddenly everything will be gone!
It was hard to get into the stadium on the second day, a stretched queue ensured we reached 30 minutes after the day’s start, sulking that we would miss Master’s half-century – our blood pressure reached the Tsunami level.
However, luck was too generous, the moment we reached inside the stadium – a straight drive rushed from the master’s willow, and there was his half-century.
It was destined; GOD LUCK was on our side. The stadium erupted! He waved his bat, I felt he waved at me, and I waved back!
Tendulkar was at 74, facing Shillingford – and there was a dead silence in the stadium. Sammy took the catch, but did not dare celebrate. The end of maestro’s last innings, the stadium stood up, the breeze halted, and the sun motionless– the time stopped. The master went back to the dressing room – a vacuum felt, shivers in the heart!
The match ended within the first half of the third day! The presentation ceremony commenced, and what followed was the most spectacular and heart-warming speech in the sports history.
The god of cricket, humbled the world with his gratitude for almost everybody – His family, friends, sponsors, media, fans! Men are strong they say, but this very day, I saw 90% of the men heads down with tears rolling down, too overwhelmed to speak!
Some people held themselves back from crying – including me! Then came The Sachin Tendulkar, all alone, touched the ground, smearing his forehead. My eyes were moist this time – I could not stop!
Sachin retires from cricket and so have I, determined to meet the Master once!
I know this is a very long post, but I could not help share my innate feelings! Here’s a poem for the master!
And yes for the last time it is Sachin…Sachiiinnn!