Harsha Bhogle: Sachin Tendulkar's place in history is secure, but can a champion let go?

Harsha Bhogle

I can think of few more thrilling things than to see an artist at the peak of his/her powers; where every situation is but a stage to perform on, every obstacle merely an opportunity to vanquish. Roger Federer has seen that and Lionel Messi is. Sport dramatises skill but you see the impact of peak performance everywhere. Lata Mangeshkar hit every note that music composers could conceive, surgeons find ways of reaching tumours that others may not know of, architects see beauty in a barren landscape.

With time you can take skill for granted, maybe even ignore the factors that allowed your skill to dazzle. Inevitably you will know what to do when the next challenge surfaces but that confluence of factors may have disappeared; the mind may be willing but the lungs may be weaker, the fingers shaky, the eyes not quite what they were. But the mind of a champion refuses to see those as indicators of a weakness and so fight on because that is what they are best at.

Players become champions because their response to adversity is always to fight, to seek to vanquish, to look it in the eye and say "You think I can't?" You and I may not always understand that because at some point we might have accepted limitations, might have bowed to the situation. But these people don't. They are not only gifted but they are aware of their gifts, it is a fundamental difference, and they use those as weapons to win battles. To overcome, to vanquish, these are intoxicants, champions live with them. There is a limitlessness to their ability, an audacity to their thinking.

Limitlessness of ability

That is what allowed Sachin Tendulkar to even contemplate not driving a single ball through the off-side at Sydney in 2004. It was the audacity of the thought and the belief in his ability that allowed him to carve out a double century. It is the limitlessness of ability that sees a gap over a fielder where others would hope to hit between two men. It was his faith in himself that saw him rebound from 2007-8 to have the two best years of his cricketing career in his late thirties. Why, in the final of IPL-3, when he shouldn't have been holding a bat, he conjured up a fifty.

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