Twenty years ago on the childrens day(nov 14th) a child(almost) announced his arrival in international cricket. He was a 16 year old and stood 5ft 5in tall. Everybody said he would make it big and he has lived up to every unrealistic expectation our nation had. Twenty years have passed and he has the same child like enthusiasm towards the game as he did on day one. He is Sachin Tendulkar a legend and an inspiration to everyone.
Sachin was picked into the national side within one year of 1st class cricket which included debut centuries in Ranji trophy, Irani trophy and Duleep trophy. He is the only Indian cricketer to have such a start to his 1st class career. His first international tour was a visit to Pakistan. He faced the fiercest fast bowling attack fearlessly and had moderate success but showed his true potential in an exibition game at Peshawar where he wallopped Abdul Qadir for 28 runs in an over. The kid had now arrived.
Soon after he scored test centuries in Perth and Manchester. Indian cricket team was considered pretty weak against fast bowling, especially in alien conditions. However, the real turn around to his international career was when he opened the innings in an ODI in Aukland. He smashed 82 off 49 balls. There was no looking back since. Though he got his first ODI hundred after 73 ODI's, he made up and scored hundreds in dozens. He was such a high impact player for close to a decade that if Sachin fired India won else the Indian cricket team was pretty ordinary. Many other young cricketers had similar starts to their career but few stood the test of time.
He had a brief stint as Indian test/ODI captain. He was not that successful as a leader just to prove that he is a human after all(contrary to belief of many cricket fanatics). Even his batting form slumped(only by his standards). During that transition phase from Azhar to Ganguly era many felt that this is the end of Sachin. That was when the best opening partnership of ODI cricket was born. Sachin/Sourav broke all possible records possible and Indian cricket touched new hieghts under Sourav's leadership. Sachin played a pivotal role as a senior member of team India. Sourav was a great leader who must take the credit for making most of the young cricketing talent of India.
Many players like Yuvraj, Zaheer, Harbhajan and Dhoni came in and made a mark for themselves. India was now a team that did not completely depend on Sachin's performance to win. Sachin adjusted his game as per the teams requirements. That was a phase where his genius was a bit overshadowed by the overall team performance. We have seen so many stars get carried away with stardom and lose sight as cricketers and as team members. But Sachin has always been a cricketer par excelence who played for the team, records just came along.
The innings of 175 last week silenced his critics in a big way. He was criticised for being the old man of the team. A selfish player who scored only when it did not matter. He was considered a failure in finals. He played some of the best innings under pressure in the last couple of years. The team might have lost but he certainly did his job. When such criticism is made, it is often forgotten the number of victories were set up because of his start and opener is not the one expected to finish a run chase.
A lot was written about his injuries, age and fitness levels but he has been the greatest ambassador of the game. He has been one of a kind who played with total dedication and discipline. One of the qualities anybody could imbibe in professional life.
When I reflect on my career at this moment I feel the need to stay focussed on achieving excelence at my craft. There is a lot to be achieved but there is no shortcut to success. It is easy to get carried away with some success but consistently achieving and striving for excelence is what matters.
PS: All these things are possible if and only if one loves and enjoys his work.