What Makes Sachin Tendulkar India’s Most Iconic Cricketer | Verve Magazine
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August 10, 2010

What Makes Sachin Tendulkar India’s Most Iconic Cricketer

Text by Shraddha Jahagirdar-Saxena

With his curly mop, shy smile and familiar form, he’s continuously fired by his passion for the sport and his love for the country…

Promise…performance….perfection. Sachin Tendulkar epitomises all these, and much more to his legion of fans and followers across the globe. All who have seen him on the pitch and met him off it are touched by his simple earnestness, his unpretentious character. Earlier this year, as the Indian Premier League spiralled to an exciting finish, he walked briskly out of the airport lounge, obviously a man in a hurry. There was the next match to be played, moves to be discussed and yet, he paused to exchange greetings on being hailed when I spotted his familiar curly-mopped top from the security cordon around him.

Pain: The emotion was writ large on his face during the final, where the-on-a-winning streak Mumbai Indians team faltered when it mattered most. Tendulkar – who had hurt his right hand in the semi-finals and had to go in for immediate stitches – had put that pain behind him to play in the last match. Few who witnessed that encounter can ever forget the play of emotions that flitted across his face.

Passion: Quintessential Tendulkar is the man who continues to play with his heart on his sleeve even after two decades of representing the country. Much earlier, during another of our conversations that have spanned years, he had said, “I hate losing and every time I go out to play for India I want to give my 100 per cent and contribute for the team. I am generally a reserved kind of guy. I show my feelings only when I am out there in the middle, playing for my country. When I hear our national anthem being played, I get goose bumps.”

“I enjoy every moment of the game”
Frankly, little seems to have changed within the mind of the Master Blaster who has been wowing the world since the time he first wielded the willow at the age of 16 at the international level. He still says, “I learnt my most important values at an early age. These have remained with me right through my life. What I imbibed in my childhood help me appreciate what I have today.”

Late last year he completed 20 years in the sport and yet he remains as enthusiastic about the game – if not more so – as he did when he began. Tendulkar remarks, “If I was still not driven by the same passion, I would not have been able to take the game to a different dimension. I have never counted the number of innings or years that I have played; I simply enjoy every moment of the game. Cricket has taught me a lot, on and off the field. It has taught me to deal with various challenges and not just in relation to cricket. No matter what field you are in, you need people around you to share your joy and be a part of your achievements. I am very happy that over the years I have more than a billion people who have shared every moment of my career with me.”

No wonder then that when Tendlya, as he is affectionately called, steps into a public space the world stops to take notice. When he joined the Twitter bandwagon in May this year, within 12 hours @sachin_rt reportedly had more than 20,000 followers. His messages were read with avid interest. Some of his tweets had social import: “We need clear air so plant a tree on World Environment Day & help us all breathe easier. We must look after our next generation on our planet!” A plea from the master proved effective and ‘Sachin’s Crusade against Cancer in Children’ is said to have raised Rs 1.25 crore in just two weeks after he sent out a message on his Twitter page urging people to do their bit for the cause. Yet he underplays his iconic status with his trademark modesty saying, “It is a wonderful feeling that people look up to you. I have not tried to do anything special but people have liked whatever I have done. All of a sudden I became a role model. And even if I wanted to change, it was not possible to do so.”

Ask Kapil Dev about Tendulkar the person and the icon and the more senior legendary cricketer says, “When I played with him, he was very young. To tell you the truth, I do not know him much personally. Beyond cricket, he keeps a low profile. He is a simple, uncomplicated cricketer who believes in his performance. That is why he is where he is. I appreciate the way he plays and the fact that he has never got into any controversy. He is one of the greatest cricketers born in our present day. But, I think, he should express his views more often…. I felt a great respect for his statement, “I am an Indian first and then a Maharashtrian’. I loved what he said. With his fan following, he can impact society in many ways.”

“There is a great deal of pressure”
When not playing, Tendulkar keeps to himself and admits, “My family is the most unbelievable thing in my life. I have many commitments and I have to leave home to fulfil them. With the support of my family members, I am able to focus completely on what I am doing and this helps me relax. For me, there is a great deal of pressure and expectations in what I am doing when I am away from home. When I finish playing and I come home, I can just be myself.”

At home he enjoys the precious time he gets with wife Anjali, son Arjun and daughter Sara. From going for a drive with them in the evening, or taking them out for relaxing meals, he is devotion personified. “Anjali makes my home a completely stress-free place to be in. There have been tough calls that I have had to take and she has always been an integral part of my decisions. And being a father is a special time for me. It seems as if hardly a few years ago, Arjun was just two. Now he is growing up and before I realise it he will have gone away! Then only a camera or a video can take you back to those earlier moments.”

Today, it is but natural that Arjun would want to emulate his iconic dad. But would the father like him to go through the rigours and make the same hard choices that he did? Tendulkar replies, “There are no short cuts in the game. If Arjun finally chooses to play cricket like I did, I will certainly think that he would have to do all those things that would give a specific direction to his life.”

Success for him has wrought several changes in his lifestyle and yet deep within, he is still the same simple person who delights in the basic joys of life – give and take a few frills that life has added along the way. The bonuses are not just in his Ferrari – a possession that he is proud of – but in the numerous little things that make up his life. “I like food – I love returning home to my mother’s tisryas – good books, reading at night, watches, perfumes, cars and all that,” he says. “Music remains a passion with me though I do not claim to be a singer. I listen to everything from Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle to Santana and U2. All that helps me relax and unwind, especially before a match when I do not think of anything else. This switching off from everything else helps me perform better.”

“Injuries come with the territory”
All the years of play have not reduced his nervousness before a game and the master blaster whom bowlers quake to deliver to, has often said, “I get tense before every game. My body reacts automatically. But I am not afraid. I have been hurt often and bounced back into the sport. Every player knows that injuries come with the territory. I have been hurt several times and often taken a long time to overcome the blows to my body. But thanks to my family I have got through the tough patches. I will not deny that there have been many occasions when I have felt low, very frustrated and even doubted myself. In fact, with my tennis elbow, shoulder and biceps injury, I would be haunted by whether I would be able to lift up a bat and play again.”

After completing two decades in cricket – an important landmark in any player’s life, now, with the IPL season behind him, 2011 holds another important date with cricketing history: The World Cup. For a man who has shattered several records and set new ones of his own, this is one long-standing dream of his that is yet to be fulfilled. When questioned about cricket’s Holy Grail, he says simply, “All of us have our goals, big or small. Of course, one would definitely want to win the World Cup. Not just me, but the entire nation and all the players are waiting for that. Right now, we are in the middle of 2010. There are still a few months to the big tournament. I would like to focus on the here and now, what is immediate; for I like to take one day at a time.”

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