When a genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign -- the dunes are all in a confederacy against him."
For the better part of 15 years, Sachin Tendulkar was an exception to the words. He was admired by not only his peers, but also by the more dangerous lesser talented individual. His genius was widely acknowledged, his contribution was justifiably rewarded -- he could simply do no wrong.
Come another age, come an older body, come injury, come a change in approach, come big bang new generation artillery -- come a new breed of critics.
A critic whose rise with the 24 hours news channel is no coincidence. A critic, who is not only the man with the mike but also the retired expert saying what he is expected to say for a couple of extra grand.
It is no longer important to talk about the century made on a seaming track against bowlers trained solely to bring him down. It is important to talk about the un-Tendulkar way in which the century was made. It is important to not miss commenting on the duck made in the next match. The super-human eye should be talked about, but not as much as the battered elbow or the aging spine.
Critics have started to talk -- for silence over a 30-minute video segment will not do. Viewer interest has to be generated, even if God has to be challenged. After all, it makes sense to knock the little genius off the pedestal -- he has reached so high that when he falls -- the largest noise would be generated. More noise directly translates into more eye balls.
To be in the Indian cricket team is a rare honor. To shine out of nearly a billion aspirants, all of whom capable of playing a decent game of cricket is a rare achievement. Statically, it is probably easier to get into an IIT or a Harvard. Being an astronaut is probably easier in some countries. To be in the team for nearly two decades, do what Tendulkar has done is truly special. It is a once in a generation event.
As the last act of the Tendulkar show starts, one can't help but look back at a childhood not too far away, when the man was probably the only piece of good news coming out of the country. No political stability, low industrial output, and the infamous Hindu economy. Sachin Tendulkar was everything the nation wanted to be. Young, but wise. Small but strong. A person who combined fantastic achievements with remarkable grace. Tendulkar was the only hope. The guy kids dreamed about and wanted to be.
The media claims to have created Sachin Tendulkar. The media also claims the natural right to destroy him once he starts to fail.
The media never made Tendulkar. Tendulkar was made by kids watching him spank hapless Australians around like schoolboys. The critics have no right to put or pull pins out of him, for they never owned the doll in the first place.
For me -- the most inspirational sight in world cricket is not the sight of Tendulkar lofting an Akhtar out of the ground. It is the experience of watching him walk towards the pitch, a hint of graceful swagger -- a quick glance to the heaven and the quiet unassuming look to the bowler. That's the way you deal with life. Fearlessly, one thing at a time.
When I look at the criticism slowly being directed towards Sachin, I sense the vultures closing in. A big fear is the critics getting close and destroying the legacy made over such a long time. This has happened to great Indian sportsmen before, and it may again happen with Tendulkar in the next couple of years. That is clearly not the farewell the master deserves. We need to leave the master alone -- and preserve the image for the next generation. Gods today are rare, let us not destroy the finest one we have.
In his last few years as the great Indian hope, savor every moment possible. Applaud not only the straight drive down the ground but also the mistimed dismissal. Don't criticize what you don't understand. Years later, highlights will only bring a sense of nostalgia. We have been lucky to have witnessed the Tendulkar era. Sure new heroes will be found, but another genius may take time to develop.