A billion dreams rested on his shoulders for 24 years. October 10, 2013 felt like every other morning, until I happened to read the lines, ‘Master Blaster to retire after West Indies series’. That shook the core of my existence. In America, he means nothing but to the cricket loving millions he is a legend. A freak of nature when he stroked his bat, and yet when you see him you cannot help but see the 16 year old who first walked into the fields with a bat in his hand 24 years ago.
I am addicted to sports. I love my basketball, but my love affair with sports began with cricket. I have never been able to connect with NFL and NBA, although I love NBA. I grew up on International sports, and the patriotism you feel when you watch international sports is different. As a seven year old, very few things can hold your fascination for more than a few minutes. On one such fleeting moment, I glanced at our TV to see a young boy hit fours and sixes. If you don’t know cricket, sixes are equivalent to a homerun in baseball or a touchdown in football. I was hooked. He made cricket exciting to a seven year old, and I was never the same. I hear people exclaim, “Oh cricket is boring, and long”. Not when Sachin played. He made it fun, exciting and entertaining.
Sachin was more than cricket. With his thick curly hair and short stature, he was the boy next door. He could be the kid on the streets in India playing cricket, and yet he made magic with a bat. I became his biggest fan ever. I know there are a million girls who would say the same. I was different: I wanted to be a cricketer like him. Teenage girls in India had his poster in their rooms; I hid his picture in my book. He was the first man to have made it to my room. When I was growing up in India, there was no women’s cricket team. My dream to be a cricket player stays a dream, but I dared to dream because of him. If a short man could play international cricket, so could I. I was born with a height ego, and my world revolved around height. At 5’5 I have the ego of a seven-footer.
Until 2001, my schedule was based on when Sachin and India played cricket. In 2001 I came to the US. I read my Sachin news but could not watch the games. In 2011, I watched the Indian world cup on TV. I watched my guys play their hearts out. I sacrificed my Saturday night sleep as I watched cricket games on TV, and for the duration of the world cup, I was the seven year old in India again. It was exciting, entertaining and a bonus offer for all my sleepless nights- my team won the world cup.
I am a huge Michael Jordan fan, which is surprising to people because here I am an Indian girl who was raised in India, and I love Michael Jordan. I watched his plays and honed my basketball skills as a teenager. My coach made us watch his games to see how to play basketball. When he retired, I was in India crying my heart out because he was leaving me. I feel those emotions again, just a lot more intense.
Sachin and I go back 24 years. I have never watched cricket without him, and as I try to ponder I cannot imagine cricket without him. He was cricket to me, and every time I watch him to this day I become the little seven year sitting on the floor staring at the screen. I remember screaming at the TV when he got out, I remember running to watch the pepsi commercial that featured him each time it was on TV, and the many school nights I stayed up to watch his play. It’s the end of an era and for people like me who only remember cricket through him- it is never going to be the same.
There might be another player who might break his records, but there will only be one Sachin Tendulkar. A billion dreams rested on his shoulder, and he made those dreams a reality every single day for 24 years. Sachin, thank you for daring me to dream the impossible, for making the kid next door the coolest thing to be and for inspiring a generation! You will forever be missed in the blue uniform. You will forever be our little master.