Friday, November 06, 2009

[Cricket] This is the One

Before I say what I am going to say, I need to take a bit of time explaining the context here. About 1994, when I started following Cricket, Sachin was just about starting to convert into a match winner from the child prodigy he was hailed as. He hit 4 match winning centuries that season and has effectively been a consistent solid batsmen.

He is one of the most stylish, technical-sound, calculative, confident stroke maker you will ever find in the game. It is no surprise, then, that me and millions like me around the world were his fans expecting him to perform his magic every now and then. And he enthralled us all will amazing match winning performances, the tipping point most certainly being the 1998 Sharjah final against Australia.

However, in the years to come, possibly because of captaincy pressure, or otherwise, there were one too many matches in which either he didn't contribute or that he couldn't close things out. Most of the fans, having more idolatry than objective affection for him, continued to idol worship, while a few select people like me started questioning the point of making so much runs when India wasn't able to convert these to victories that matter - Test series victories abroad; Major (World cup, Champions trophy) ODI tournament victories and so on.

I was carrying this grudge for a few years and stopped giving as much importance to him, as I did to people who were from a younger generation, but working hard to make those very same victories happen. First Ganguly started a trend of winning test series abroad and then youngsters like Yuvraj and Dhoni and the likes have started making it happen in the ODI/T20 arena on the big stage. Somewhere Sachin wasn't contributing to this movement all the much, with the like of Dravid and Lakshman in Tests and Sehwag-Gambhir-Yuvraj-Dhoni in the ODI making the crucial difference.

However, I started having a change of heart in the past year or so, as Sachin has started making that extra difference - closing out the win against England on the fifth day and the World series finals in 2009.

In this context, I wish to say that I was most privileged and honoured to have witnessed what a fantastic effort he put into play in making the stunning 175 yesterday. It was an effort in the second innings, which is generally harder with the tiredness of the first innings showing in, under the pressure of a huge total, with little support during the first half of the innings when the Indian top order was busy failing.

A few innings of such proportions come to my immediate mind, but none of them is better than what Sachin did. Saeed Anwar had a runner while batting first; Brian Lara batted first for his 169; Herschelle Gibbs had a solid partnership going for him during his 175.

And probably for the very first time, the result didn't matter. It didn't matter that he didn't close out the win, it didn't matter that he fell a few short of the ODI world record, it didn't matter that India lost the match, and possibly could lose the series on this one match. It doesn't matter. The effort was the absolute best I have ever seen in an ODI. Period. Full stop.

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