Sunday, 17 November 2013

Goodbye, Master!

It’s over. The curtains have fallen. The era has ended. Tributes are pouring in, tears are still being shed. Me? I’m still trying to fathom what’s transpired in the last 24 hours.

For over two decades, chants of “Sachin Sachin” never left the stadium when Sachin Tendulkar batted. They were like a shadow, always behind him. Just like the billions of devotees around the world, who’ve worshipped their God in their own special way. This is not about records. They’re there in the books. This is about an extraordinary man, who has evoked emotions ranging from outright joy to complete breakdown in the life of an ordinary man.

It was my father who introduced me to this crazy sport when I had barely learned how to ride a cycle. I was far from understanding Cricket, but he would wake me in the middle of the night just to show me how it is played. He would take leaves from office when India batted first, and on days they bowled, he would come home just in time to watch his favourite cricketer bat. I didn’t know what to make of this. Why would anyone skip work or come home early just to watch some cricketer bat? What is so special about this diminutive batsman who literally compelled people to leave everything aside and stay glued to their television sets? The child in me never got answers to these questions.

I’ll admit – for a long, long time I found it difficult to comprehend cricket. The rules, the fielding positions, names of cricketers from certain teams; there was very little my mind could grasp. But then, even a child could remember someone who was a household name in the 90’s. My aim was to follow Tendulkar and get those answers. I don’t know how and when he became a part of me. When he scored a hundred, I would run of the house and burst those leftover crackers from Diwali. When he failed, I’d sit in a corner and weep. Story of my life.

Today, there are no crackers to burst, no corner to cry. He’s gone, but has left a plethora of memories, which will hopefully suffice for the rest of our lives. Cherish him, celebrate his success – we’ve all been lucky to witness the making of a genius!

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Rohit Sharma: Talent has well and truly arrived!

'When the going gets tough, the tough get going'.

This was the 1st phrase that came to my mind as I watched him end a frustrating 3-year wait for an ODI hundred, followed by an unbelievable double ton and a phenomenal Test century on debut. This, after winning two T20 titles in the same year, however less valuable it may sound as compared to ODI and Test cricket. From consistent failures in the middle-order to opening the innings and unleashing his real side - Rohit Sharma has come a long way in six years of international cricket.

Years ago, when Sachin Tendulkar tipped Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli as the ones to break his records, I thought the God of Cricket had lost his mind. We all know Kohli can, but Rohit? That just didn't sound right to me. If the Test cap eludes you despite playing over a 100 ODIs, either the stars aren't kind enough or you're doing something wrong somewhere.

IPL always brought out his true colours as a batsman first in 2009, when he played for Deccan Chargers and later with the Mumbai Indians, where he would also blossom as a successful captain. But in ODIs, there was a stark contrast. The conversion of starts into big scores wasn't happening, and he would often get out because of his own shortcomings. "Brain fades" so to speak. There was a point when his failures frustrated me to such an extent that I was on the verge of giving up on him. Rohit had earned more critics than fans, and the ones who believed in him were slowly losing hope.

Then, September 10, 2013 happened. And my life changed completely. Rather, his.

SMAAASH conducted a wonderful contest where the winners would get a chance to meet Rohit Sharma. I was excited, and somewhere, I could see my dream coming true. And it did!! Not only did I meet him, but also spoke to him for 5 full minutes along with clicking a picture together! The best part of our conversation was that he recognized me when I introduced myself. (Yes, we have mutual friends). This was definitely one of the best days of my life.

CLT20 followed and Rohit added another feather to his cap with his 2nd title win. It seemed like his luck had changed, and the purple patch had begun. Friends and family started crediting me for his success, like I actually had any role to play. On a serious note, the captaincy stints did make him a better cricketer altogether, not to forget a bucketful of experience at the first-class level that came in handy too.

2013 has been a golden year for the 'talented' Borivali lad. A promotion up the batting order in ODIs was like a bulls-eye, and special credit goes to captain MS Dhoni for backing him through tough times. If you look at his teammates, most of them spoke highly of him even when he wasn't performing at his best. Gautam Gambhir called him the best player in the nets, and Virat Kohli appreciated his batting style as well.

What I love about his batting is the composure that has now started reflecting in his shots. After patiently waiting for his Test debut since that fateful Nagpur Test of 2010, Rohit's unhurried approach as he marched his way to a deserving Test hundred spoke volumes of his evolution as a matured batsman. He is finally out of the shell, and I hope it only gets better from here.