I watched his farewell speech with moist eyes. Sachin Tendulkar was a phenomenon for Indians.He achieved milestones in cricket that one would have never imagined. No wonder his retirement from cricket was a national event. I was quite emotional. I liked all those Facebook messages from my friends who said they have started feeling a vacuum in their life or they had a parallel life in his cricket career which got over etc. etc.
I started wondering why is that so? Why would everyone stop their work to watch him bat? Why would people cry when he stops playing a game? Why would people call him God? How can a sportsman with a wooden willow in hand who can hit a leather ball very skillfully create such a strong bond with a billion people? Why do Indians love Sachin Tendulkar so much?
Most of us noticed Sachin Tendulkar in a friendly match against Pakistan where he got sledged by Abdul Qadir, about 2.5 times age, challenging him to hit. This curly haired, baby face teenager happily obliged. The arch rival were overawed. Instantly, Sachin had made an emotional connection with the viewers. Then came Hero cup match with South Africa. Someone needed to bowl a tidy over, main bowlers hesitated, Sachin volunteered and completed the job. Indian fans were overawed. Everyone wanted something like this to happen but they had never seen it happening before. He was the guy who believed in himself and made it happen.
It was not all fairy tale. There were bad patches, lost opportunities, careless dismissals and injuries. He battled injuries like never before. There was a time in his career when he could not grip a cricket bat because of tennis elbow. He emerged stronger. Opponent teams found out his weakness, devised strategies. He counter attacked, invented new shots, new techniques, mastered them. He won respect from opponents. Most of his opponents had nothing but praises for him off the wicket. Bradman saw himself in his batting, he came in Shane Warne's dreams, Brian Lara wanted to be his son in next birth and President Obama who does not understand cricket had backhanded compliments for him. Indians love international appreciation. Sachin got it for them.
But the story does not end there. Despite all this heroics, he stayed humble, rooted to the ground. Somehow, humility is an essential quality to become a legend in India. Lata Mangeshkar and Amitabh Bachhan initiated this, Sachin proved it further. He was an impeccable combination of on-field aggression and off-field humility. He showed the world he could be aggressive where he needed to but chose to be humble. Despite all his mega milestones he never boasted or showed the opposition down. Some opponents mistook humility for weakness and paid the price. Yet off the field, Sachin had good words to say about them. Despite all the international accolades he remained perfectly Indian. He personified Indian values.
Sachin Tendulkar came from a perfectly middle class background, chased his dream against all odds, achieved it without any God father's help. He was brave, skillful, perseverant. He dominated the world unarguably for 2 decades, earned respect and limelight globally and yet stayed humble, rooted and a proud Indian. This is exactly what a common man in India wants to achieve. His emotional connection with 1 billion Indians comes from there. Its not just about cricket. Its about believing in yourself, fighting against all odds and succeeding, unarguably. Be it a player, be it a student, a corporate executive like me or that poor man on the street who has set out to earn something to make his both ends meet Sachin is a role model. Sachin is a dream in motion. Sachin is not just about cricket. Its about success in life.
Indians love Sachin Tendulkar so much because they want to be him in their own field.
Read extended short story version of Why Do Indians blogs with a few more interesting indian inscrutable ways in Why Do Indians..? - The Book