You were my first sporting hero. You came in on the scene just as I was beginning to take a cursory interest in the sport..asking my dad idiot questions like why the batsman were running down the pitch, why was it not one run when the inner circle was crossed just as it was a four at the boundary line.
You grew from strength to strength, capturing the imagination of millions of cricket lovers. I remember waking up at odd hours tracking matches in Australia and New Zealand, staying up late as you played a day night match at South Africa. I remember all those superstitions, staying put in a place without getting up to even take a loo break, leg cramping up, or even that one crazy time when my mother and I had to sing a line of a song after every ball as you hit a four the first time I happened to hum it during the match. Oh my Class 12 board exams, when painfully before every exam that was spread across a month, there was a cricket match and close nerve racking finishes at that and how I’d take a zillion water / snack / loo break just to get sneak peeks of the match and even amma’d turn a blind eye at my eve of exam antics! And Sharjah…you were the sole saviour..so much drama, sandstorms, chasing required run rates, losing the match yet making the final and eventually winning it! Even if you failed with the bat, you’d make up with the ball or by taking some spectacular catches..the commitment that you have shining through always! Every time you were in your nineties..the silent prayers that would be sent up, willing you to reach the landmark and how we’d spend at least an hour moodspoilt if you failed to do that!
How I’d cringe when you’d come on TV in those silly ads! And wish you’d stay away from it and eventually they figured out a way of making you seem ok..by shutting you up!
It saddens me now to see you, a ghost of your former self and I do hope you’d bow out with your head held high..you deserve to leave behind positive memories. When my parents and grandma talk about the wonder that Kapil Dev was and about the energy he brought to the field, I always think of you…you are the man that I’d talk about to my children and grandchildren..about how you saved matches single handedly, terrorising bowlers, inspiring awe in everyone, being so squeaky clean when there was so much rot in the system. You’re my original hero Sachin! Salut!