A Mortals Ode to Sachin – The Summer of 98

I just can’t get over a year when Sachin celebrated his birthday in the most astonishing fashion, his performances transcending the boundaries that limit mere mortals. Yes, the summer of 98 it was. That was when he made us all proud to be Indians. Not that he had not done it earlier, not that he is not doing it now but things reached a crescendo then. Bryan Adams sang ‘Summer of 69’. I would have done a ‘Summer of 98′, had I been blessed with even a fraction of Bryan Adams’ skills. I am not and therefore it’s plain words that I conjure to describe the ecstasy of seeing genius on display.

We all know what Sir Donald Bradman had to say about Sachin. It’s not style to repeat that, just like how people think it’s not style to praise Sachin Tendulkar. You are just stating the obvious, but proclaiming that the guy cannot flick a full toss on the pads may earn you, a second or two of fame. Fame or notoriety, I doubt because gravity takes care of all attempts of spitting at the moon.

Oh ! The summer of 98.

Sharjah Sachin Tendulkar Desert Storm

Discussing the brilliance of any of the innings played by the maestro is gross injustice because genius transcends words. It is exhibited on rare occasions and on rarer occasions do billions have the fortune of watching it. I still remember that it was the first semester MBBS examination time. My first year away from home and staying on my own in Belgaum.

Move on to Sharjah. Till then Sharjah was synonymous with the last ball six by Javed Miandad. Post Summer of 98, Sharjah is all about the twin centuries from the master’s blade. Those were the days when watching pay channels was a luxury few could afford, especially if you were not residing in a city. Star Sports had just gone the ‘pay channel’ way. Hundreds flocked around the television set placed in a temple corridor of all places by the only cable operator showing Star Sports in town.

There was silence every time ‘Aapla Sachin’ (‘Our Sachin’, that’s how he was addressed) was on strike, followed by thunderous applause or mass hysteria depending upon whether it was a single or a boundary scored. By the time the finals came, every cable operator in town had Star Sports. Tony Greig’s commentary during the blitzkrieg provided the ideal background. Genuine admiration sprang from each word he uttered. And there I was watching the genius (he wasn’t a God then) conducting a symphony in mayhem. There was a desert storm during the first of the centuries, but watch the videos and you will see one man looking it in the eye.

The Aussies went back defeated but with tales that will be part of their autobiographies. Shane Warne spoke of nightmares but for millions it was a dream…