Can we leave Sachin Tendulkar alone to just play cricket, for two more games?
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This is like a movie you know will soon end but you just hope for another sub-plot. The last reel has begun to play, you can hear it whirring, you want to stretch the last few minutes...
This is the Big Tendulkar Movie and it has been playing on our screens longer than any other. But end it must. Another story must be written, another character must light up our life. There is a reason that is the way of the world. Endings seem sad but they are essential and so they are good. Reality must give way to memories at the right time so they remain beautiful.
And Tendulkar, while remaining in our midst, must be a beautiful memory. As the mind drives an increasingly reluctant body, as the bat no longer vanquishes distant lands with impunity, as opponents who didn't have a hope in hell sense an opportunity, you know this is the right time. We wish him to stay on but we do so out of selfishness. It is our need, our fix. We need a peg to hang our pride on, we need him to lend colour to our spectacle. But he is not the same person. Our rational mind knows it but we banish it. We are wrong.
Tendulkar has been the pivotal figure in my years of watching cricket. He started in 1989, my first tour to England was in 1990. I saw him as a child, as a young man, as a father and in the limited cycle of a sportsman's life, as a senior citizen. I saw all the phases; each one gave way to another and they were all inevitable. As this one is. The excitement of waiting for Tendulkar to come out, the delayed visits to..well anywhere..while he was batting, the agony when he perished, the debates over whether the umpire was right...all that was a great phase. But there is apprehension now. You still sit on the edge of your seat, not out of impending thrill but out of concern. You only hope this is going to be the day where you once were sure it was. You wonder why more good balls are making their way towards him, why the uneven bounce reserves its spite for him. You bite your lower lip a bit more. And deep down inside, much as you fight with it, you know it is true, you know it is time.