Sachin Tendulkar did much more than score 93 runs against Sri Lanka at Nagpur on Tuesday. He cheered up a whole army of Indian cricket fans with his batsmanship, lifted the morale of a side that had not tasted an emphatic victory in a while and made me realise that sometimes English, as a language, can be a bit restricting.
After a quick trip to Mohali to watch him at the N.K.P. Salve Trophy Challenger series final earlier this month, I had been telling anyone who cared to listen that the little big man of Indian cricket was back from injury with his reflexes, skill and hunger intact. But what does that or his knock of 93 have to do with English language, do I hear you ask?
Even if you did not watch his face closely on TV, you could sense it radiate an aura that had been missing for a while. And it is this word that causes me to wonder why the language does not have anything that reflects his state as well as the Urdu term raunaq or the Sanskrit word tejas.
One thing is clear. He has the power to make up fan and critic alike sit up and take note with his brand of batsmanship. He had a more youthful Irfan Pathan blazing away at the other end in a century stand for the second wicket and yet, Tendulkar was able to leave his imprint on the minds of connoisseur and couch potato alike.
They have always said public memory is short but I am surprised many have already forgotten that the last of his 38 centuries in one-day international cricket was a knock of 123 off 130 balls against Pakistan in Ahmedabad earlier this year. Perhaps the fact that the remaining five innings in the series were all single-digit scores contributes to that.
In Nagpur, it was almost as if he batted with the enthusiasm of a greenhorn coupled with the maturity of a master who has dominated the world stage for many years. For some time now, particularly after the World Cup 2003 where he made more runs than any batsman, his approach to batting seemed to miss the element of joy.
If Brian Lara could make those big scores without losing any of his wizardry, surely Tendulkar could do the same, we kept wondering. Secretly, I am pleased he has vindicated my belief that he had embraced the percentage game and could change tack anytime. If he continues to bat with as much fire, passion and determination as he did, we may yet see him dish out great entertainment.
The image of a clinical accumulator was fast overshadowing the earlier picture of his being an aggressive entertainer. I believe he may now be getting ready to wear the entertainer’s mantle again and that can only be terrific news for his fans – and bad news for India’s opposition this season.
I have a feeling that deep in his heart, he will like to be remembered not so much for the volume of runs – and he has already made more than any other international cricketer – as for the manner in which he has made them. And when he is enjoying himself so much at the crease – including playing the inside out strokes over mid-off – he can only transmit the joy to those who watch him in action.