That’s it, really. That’s why I’m going to Bangalore.
I’m going to watch Sachin Tendulkar bat.
At the fall of the second wicket, much like everybody else in the stadium, I’ll start clapping for all I’m worth, and yell at the top of my voice. I don’t need to tell you what I will be yelling, right? Close your eyes, and you can see Chinnaswamy stadium roaring out the word in that semi-religious, semi- crazed cadence.
And then, that magical moment. Voices that you’d have thought couldn’t possibly get louder will reach a higher crescendo, and Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar will emerge onto the playing field. I know I’ve said it before, but twenty years I’ve spent admiring the man – this’ll be the first time I’ll encourage him on to a Test match arena.
I missed Chennai 1998. Out for 5 in the first innings (Mark Taylor gleefully snapped up the catch at first slip, didn’t he?), and he hammered 155 in the second innings. There was a savagery around his batting then – a beautiful savagery, to be sure, but savagery nonetheless.
I missed Chennai 2001. That was a more workmanlike century . It doesn’t really stand out in memory – I think his best batting in that series happened in Mumbai, and if it hadn’t been for that freak dismissal in the first innings… ah well.
I missed his half century at the Wankhede in 2004. From what I heard (I didn’t see the match), he and Laxman held forth on the art of batting in those circumstances at length, and quite a masterclass it proved to be.
I missed Mohali 2008. If I had to watch just one match in each series, I’d have picked the Delhi Test. It still is a massive facepalm moment, realizing that I can never watch Kumble bowl in a Test again.
And of course, I missed Perth ’92, Sydney ’92, Melbourne ’99, Sydney ’04, Sydney ’08 and Perth ’08 (I know that last one wasn’t a century – but it was a delightful innings in it’s own right. Especially for all the uppercuts). But hey, economics plays a role in all of those. The ones in India can be put down to plain stupidity.
And forgive the diversion, but while we’re on the topic of delightful innings in their own right, anybody remember his 79 off 86 balls at the Eden Gardens? Azhar was the emperor in that Test, but Sachin scored a half century of absolute class in the only innings that India needed to bat. In fact, there was a passage of play (when the new ball was taken) during which Mark Taylor ran up to Michael Kasprowicz, and the two conferred for a long, long time.
They finally settled, at length, on a cover cordon that they thought would work. Kasprowicz ran in, bowled a ball designed to be left alone at best, hit to somebody in the cover region for no runs at worst. Sachin threaded it through for a boundary. The look that captain and bowler exchanged will remain a pleasant memory for life.
There was no savagery in that shot – in fact, from what I can remember, in that innings at all. Today’s Sachin has spent the last 12 years painstakingly distilling the artistry in that innings, and refining it until all that remains is the very essence of batsmanship. To almost each delivery that he faces nowadays, he essays a response that seems, in retrospect, the only one possible. It could have been no other way, it is thus, it is in the nature of things – this is how batting is meant to be.
To achieve that kind of natural, flowing simplicity – that is the true genius of today’s Sachin Tendulkar.
Still, as I say, all these years and not a single match that I have spent as part of the delirious audience. Tchah again.
But I’ll make up for it this time. I’ll wait patiently at the ground until the moment comes. And once it does arrive, I’ll join in the chorus. And bid welcome to an innings that’ll join it’s illustrious predecessors.
Sach-iiiiiin, Sachin. Sach-iiiiin, Sachin.