He walks at altitudes that we cannot see, and he breathes an air that the gods think is too pure for themselves. His records are a compendium that will be unique for ever and ever; his achievements beyond the reach of any player, past, present or future. He composes prose with his willow that his peers cannot fathom, let alone recreate, and it has been thus for twenty one years and counting. He is at a plane in cricket that was thought unattainable and what’s more, he does (and keeps doing) all of this at an age that is not allowed in modern sport. And he does it seemingly effortlessly.
Do I sound deranged?
Well, dear reader, I will have you know that the opening paragraph you just read is the fifteenth version attempted, and it is the most toned down of the lot. The first paragraph in its original avatar would have had me in the express check-in line for the nearest loony bin.
Or not, actually. For who would disagree with any degree of praise for that mad man?
And he must be mad, no? Genius alone cannot cut it any longer, for you’d describe other batsmen of our day and age as being geniuses. Dravid is a genius, for example. 31 centuries, faultless technique and one of the best No. 3’s ever. That other, recently much maligned No. 3, briefly thought of as competition for the exalted one, Ricky Ponting – he should also be considered as a genius. As should Kallis, who recently thumped his first double.
But if all of them are geniuses, what does that make a man who has recently scored his fiftieth Test ton? Who is setting new (and impossible) records at the ripe old age of (almost) 38? Who has, in 2010, scored 7 Test centuries at a ridiculous average of 85? Who recently completed a double hundred in one day internationals? Against, arguably, the best bowling attack going around the world these days. Who has 96 international hundreds? Who is, and has been, the best batsman in a side filled with sublime talent for the better part of two decades? What, I ask you, does all that make a man? Can’t be just genius alone, not even Genius with a capital G.
And if it isn’t genius, it must be insanity. Only the insane can go on doing what Sachin has been doing for 21 years. Only the insane can have it within themselves to push their body through the pain that must inevitably be a part and parcel of this impossibly arduous journey. Only the insane can be inspired enough to overcome the lord alone knows how many injuries, setbacks and heartbreaks and go at it anew the next day. Only the insane can look back at what has been achieved and dream of… and this is the part that clinches the argument… improving.
The mind has long since passed the boggling stage when it comes to thinking about Sachin Tendulkar. Boggling is like, so 1998. Now, there is nothing but stupefied, dazed, jaw dropping awe. With a touch of delirium as garnish. Sports writers that I read and admire must be going through the wringer far more often than I have while writing this paean, and for similar reasons.
Because every time he smashes a new record, one (well, by one I mean all of said sportswriters) must perforce write about it. But what does one write about someone who is now beyond the range of all adjectives? How does one begin to describe, in mere words, the achievements of a man who knows not the meaning of the word ‘insurmountable’?
By sounding somewhat insane yourself, of course. It is the price we must pay of being fans of madness.