It all started in the year 1999, when Sachin Tendulkar returned back from his father’s funeral to do what he does best, play Cricket for his country. A banner held by bunch of fans outside Bristol Stadium, saying ‘Cricket is Our Religion and Sachin is Our God’. When Tendulkar scored gritty double hundred against the Australians in 2004, the religion got its name as ‘Sachinism’ by a fan who skipped his exam just to watch him bat and score a 100 on that sunny afternoon at SCG. 2 years later, another fan came out with the name SACH Is LIFE, the phrase ‘Such is life’ modified with the 1st alphabet of English Language. So, there we were, following the religion Sachinism, calling him the essence of life now the only thing that was missing was to name the fans after him and then it was in the year 2010 that when he has scored tons after tons at the young age of 37, Sachin’s fans call themselves Sachinists with pride!
From Religion to Almighty to the essence of Life, everything connects you to just one person, Sachin Tendulkar. Religion and God is all about faith. India is a country where people believe more in their religion and God than anyone else. So what is faith then? According to dictionary meaning its ‘a strong belief in a supernatural power or powers that control human destiny’. How true does this hold for Sachin and his fans? He has played for 21 years with his head held high, taking up challenges and reaching to HIS goal of playing for the country. So what is that is intriguing for the whole span of 21 years? Why do fans still love him? Why do we have people ready to take on anyone head to head when it comes to “fighting for Sachin”? In other words, why “Sach is LIFE”?
He has played through disappointments (his 169 vs SA in lost cause), he has played through pain (136 vs Pakistan when he had back spasms), he has played despite personal losses (140 vs Kenya at Bristol after his father’s sad demise) and that is the reason why he is loved not just fans in this country but all across the world. After 1999, 2004 was also considered no better though he was averaging into high 90′s, still the year was termed as not so great due to 3 huge not out innings (like someone had stopped others to lose their wickets). In 2006, which was the worst year/season from his own standards, the term ‘Endulkar’ caught fancy of some media persons, but if you ask about the belief of the fans, it has always remained intact. In the next 3 years, he lambasted the critics with knock after knock flowing through that heavy bat of his. No player in the world has been worshipped like God and for thousands of reasons. Never give up, passion for the game, keep trying until you excel, hard work towards achieving your goal are few of those reasons.
Born in a middle class family, Tendulkar was sent to coaching classes at the age of 11 years. He was immensely talented there was no doubt about that but talent alone can’t get you to the top, his best friend Vinod Kambli is a prime example. Talent without hard work, discipline and balanced mind would lead to failure more than success. Giving 10-12 hours to cricket, sitting at the back of Achrekar Sir’s scooter, playing innings after innings even upto 4-5 matches in a day, Tendulkar got used to play ‘more’ and ‘more’ which eventually helped him in his international career. Focus and concentration to achieve your dream was what he learnt at an early age. Due to rigorous practice schedule, Sachin never went to college, something strange for the people of India as Indians by nature are considered to be academically strong than in sports.
The humbleness, the modesty, keeping team above his personal goals, respect for everyone be it teammates, opposition, elders, kids or fans just shows you how he has imbibed the values. What is commendable is not that he is humble and modest, but that in the span of 21 years, he has not shown a single sign of anger, frustration or annoyance towards anyone. Recalls veteran journalist H Natarajan, “ I had once requested Tendulkar for an interview after he had returned from a long tour. The request was made at night while the following morning he was heading for spending some quiet couple of days with his wife outside the state before heading to play a benefit match. Yet, he was gracious enough to say that he would do a long-distance telephone interview for me. I just did not have the heart to take advantage of his niceness. I told him that he deserved his rest and the little moment of privacy he got with his wife and decided not to trouble him. Was I unprofessional? Maybe. But I felt good that I was able to project a human face to a good gesture.”
Just a year after Cricket was termed as a religion and Tendulkar became God, in 2000, the world saw opening of the can of Match fixing worms, fans were outraged, disappointed by each passing day, finding one of their favourite player involved into shameful act of match fixing. Any relationship starts and ends with one simple word ‘trust’. The fans had lost it, it just looked like cricket will lose its charm and then you try look for an inspiration which brings you back to the game. Not all cricketers are involved, was the 1st reaction. Their act of switching off the television once their favorite player was out didn’t go in vain and what they believed was true. “You can’t fix a match until Tendulkar is out”, was a statement made by a bookie. There is one man who doesn’t put money above country. So the fans trust was intact and they knew that this is one person they can rely on and this love, affection and admiration helped him come out of the lean patches.
“I’ve played 20 years but that doesn’t mean that I know everything about cricket,” he says. Exactly, even when he is at the top, in the form of his life, he is still willing to learn, he is still ready to improve, still feels good about his success and his appetite and thirst for runs never gets satiated. When Tendulkar was suffering from Tennis Elbow, he was unable to hold the bat in his left hand, he prayed to God to give him the last chance to get back into the game. Tendulkar at that time was the leading ODI runs scorer and had already amassed above 10000+ runs with highest number of 100s in both form of the game. So what actually motivated him to get back to the game? It is sheer love and passion for the game.
When talking about grabbing the opportunities, during the New Zealand tour in 1994, Tendulkar got a chance (he himself asked the team management) to open the batting for India in ODI, and we all know what happened next. He scored a brilliant 82 off 47 balls. Determination to be successful is one thing and being confident is the other. In 1994 at Auckland against NZ during the same innings, he said “I won’t open again, if I fail in this inning”. Who would forget Sharjah 1998, in between the sandstorm break, Tendulkar singlehandedly took the team through to the finals beating NZ on net runrate and then again hitting another century in the finals to win the Coca cola cup. After a loss in league match in World Cup 2003, and an unconvincing win over Netherlands, Sachin promised the outraged fans that Indian team will show better results and guess what, India was through to the World Cup Finals with Sachin scoring record breaking 673 runs in the series. If these instances are less motivating we can always go back to 1993 Hero Cup semifinals at Eden Gardens against South Africa, when Sachin’s “Magical Over” sealed the win for India and he did not let South Africa score 6 runs off 6 balls!
What motivates Tendulkar is his love for the game, what motivates his fans, is HIS game. So whether the term originated in 2000 or in 2006, the truth is that Sachin Tendulkar has been lifeline of Indian cricket since the last 21 years. Time and again he comes up with the knocks that will make the belief and trust of the fans go stronger and stronger, innings by innings. Whether it was the knock against Pakistan in his debut series, or against Australia at Perth which is one of the fastest pitch on earth, or against Pakistan in Chennai 1999, or the first ODI double hundred from him, Sachin Tendulkar has continued to be “The Beacon of Indian Cricket”, someone who 1 billion Indian Cricket fans look upto as the man sent by God to provide joy and happiness in their times of distress. After the 26/11 2008 Mumbai attacks, India won the test match against England in Chennai with Sachin making a terrific 103*. What made the win special was that Sachin was the one who hit the winning shot, scored a century in second innings and take India to an emotional victory. He said, “What happened in Mumbai was extremely unfortunate and I don’t think by India winning or my scoring hundreds, people who have lost their dear and loved ones would feel better. It’s a terrible loss and our hearts are with them. All I can say is that in whatever way we can contribute to make them feel better, we’ll make that effort.”
Such is the power, Such is the commitment, Such is the class, Such is the determination, Such is the passion of the man who has given more than half of his life to the game we worship, the 1 billion fans who wait for him to step out on the ground and welcome him with the loudest cheer, do you still need reasons to know why, “SACH Is LIFE”?
(This article was originally written by Parul Chaudhary)