Do you remember that straight drive Sachin hit three years ago, a bewildered Lee looking in awe, the ball smashing into the advertising boards, all the while Sachin retaining that pose of artistic perfection? I watched that shot thousands of miles away at Jester auditorium in Austin, bowing down to the projector screen, asking for more. Yesterday, I saw Sachin hit a straight drive for four at Wankhede. There are many older than me who claim that the birth of their first child is the greatest moment of their lives. They have probably not been 100 meters away from a Sachin Tendulkar straight drive for four.
When Sachin walked back, caught behind off of ferocious, deadly Malinga, I sat quietly for a bit with my face buried in the flag I was waving around just a minute ago. Had I just seen his last one day inning? I slowly rose to my feet and applauded, and so did the rest of Wankhede. He said a couple of words to the incoming Virat Kohli before continuing his walk into the pavilion. Virat Kohli carried Sachin Tendulkar on his shoulders later that night, “well, he’s carried the burden of a nation for 21 years, it’s time we carried him on our shoulders”, he said. Last night was poetry in action.
There are these fleeting images – Yuvraj, Kohli, Raina egging each other on, Harbhajan dismissing Umar Akmal and shaking his head in wild, unbridled joy, Yuvraj roaring into the night after vanquishing Australia, Zaheer yelling, “Come on!” after breaking up a partnership with smarts rather than speed , Dhoni’s calm smile after hitting Kulasekara for a world cup winning six. These images will live with me forever.
This Indian team, these men in blue, looked to the accomplishments of Sachin Tendulkar to motivate them, to see pressure in the eye and use that as a catalyst for greatness. This Indian team has conspired to win the cricket world cup, to provide Sachin a joy that had eluded him for far too long. But when you look past the trophy, you realize that they’ve shown the little master that they can win without him. And that to Sachin should be the greatest gift of them all.