And, we will soon be left with only memories of his craft. YouTube – and I guess the sports TV channels – will ensure that the memories do not acquire a sepia tone for a long, long time to come.
Come to think of it, nearly everyone who has lived in India over the past 25 years will have been touched by Sachin Tendulkar in a manner that archived videos can never replicate, surely not in its entirety. Watching replays can be exciting and even cause some goose-bumps.
Yet, when we draw joy from his trademark push-drive past bewildered bowlers or from the definitive punch through covers off the back-foot, we will be well aware that they are only replays. When we watch him bowl that magical last over from the Hero 1993 Cup, our minds will restrain the heart from skipping a bat.
We can no longer reach out and feel the electricity in the atmosphere as Indian sport’s first superhero walked out to bat. Nor will our hearts swell with hope and pride like they did when, as a nation, we learnt to believe in the power of our dreams and harnessed our own power to evolve as a people.
None has bound India together – and fewer still have held India spell-bound – as this little big man has. Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan would have come close but, because of the nature of their work, the actors need a language to communicate with the fans while Tendulkar just needs willow-craft to touch hearts.
For years, that has been some experience. It is hard to imagine that we will now have to develop such passion for some other sports star. Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Virat Kohli will be the first to acknowledge that Tendulkar’s shoes are too large to think of filling, even though they have overtaken him on the endorsement stakes.
Tendulkar signed for a variety of products but we were sold more on his abilities to dream and to achieve them with awesome preparation and minimum fuss. This is something that only Dhoni, with his unparalleled leadership record, may be able to rival but the moot question is: How long will he remain in public consciousness?
The little big man of Indian sport contributed to so many businesses, without getting into endorsement deals with them. I can recall my father, himself a sports journalist all those years ago, speaking about how the nation consumes enormous power when watching cricket on TV. Conversely, discoms would be disheartened when he got out.
Come to think of it, his onset spawned many ancillary industries – endorsement costs rose to dizzying heights, celebrity management acquired professional overtones while cable & satellite TV identified him as a superstar to make inroads in not just its nascent years in India but also as it evolved into an omni-present giant.
Now, as we witness the biggest retirement in young India’s history, we must prepare ourselves to be left with only memories – and, of course, more than a few tales to tell.