New Delhi: This is what I counter-thought when I saw a cricket fan carrying a banner saying "Sachin! Make hay while the sun shines," and the champion batsman crafted his 42nd Test hundred in Hamilton. Maybe the fan wanted Sachin to score quickly in the rain-threatening New Zealand weather, but it had other connotations as well.
Many find it absurd when I say Sachin Tendulkar doesn't figure in my 'favourite cricketers' list. My logic is simple. The list starts after him. With all due respect to the prowess of his contemporaries and promises shown by the young talents, Sachin to cricket is what cricket is to India. Inseparable! Incredible!
In his 20-year-long career in international cricket, the Master Blaster overcame every known injury, made and broke almost every imaginable batting record, played innumerable match-winning knocks and set his own benchmark. But most importantly, he carried hopes of a cricket-crazy nation every time he walked out to bat and brought smiles to over a billion faces.
No doubt the current crop of players have responded well to the new challenges and are shouldering responsibilities with aplomb. Now nobody relies on Sachin to always play like the ultimate saviour. But at the same time everybody knows, as long as the Little Master is out there, one can always expect something special.
In the just-concluded New Zealand tour, he showed how his mere presence touched the morale of the two teams. After the back-to-back T20 losses, cricket pundits, sharpening their daggers, were waiting for one more failure to attack Dhoni's knights. While some criticised Dhoni's tactics, the superstitious ones blamed the new 'Blue Jersey' for bad luck.
Come Tendulkar, everybody takes a sigh of relief, including the captain. "The amount of contribution he can make to the side from his experience is amazing. He changes the dressing room atmosphere completely," Dhoni once said.
The last 12-14 months have been phenomenal for Team India. A few players like Gautam Gambhir and Zaheer Khan took their game to the next level and assured that the future of the Indian cricket was in safe hands.
But Tendulkar was equally instrumental in most of those victories, be it the CB series win in Australia, Mohali Test against Australia, Chennai Test against England or the first Test against New Zealand in Hamilton.
His presence at the non-striker's end not only gives confidence to his batting partners, but also makes them conscious of playing a poor shot. Sachin's ability to change the approach and adapt to the situation not only makes him the strongest pillar of the Indian team, but also the storehouse of knowledge for the new crop of players. From on-field application to off-field demeanor, the younger lot can learn so much from him.
With recession leaving many with gloomy faces before the General Elections, one doesn't know if India is actually shining. What one can be assured of is, as long as Sachin is there, Team India will definitely shine!