Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sachin Tendulkar - The Fulfilment of Potential, His Greatest Achievement

When Sachin Tendulkar burst upon the scene way back in time some (Sunil Gavaskar probably) predicated that he had the talent to make 50 test centuries and 100 international centuries. I am recollecting this from memory and could be wrong but I strongly believe that this is what I read. Anyway, what I am getting at is that in those days when Gavaskar's 34 centuries seemed out of reach for most mortals as was his 10000 runs and many other records, it looked like a crazy prediction. The only thing one knew was that with this talent, if all went well, if this lad lived up to his potential, he would get to these mind boggling figures. After almost two decades of toil, the young lad has reached there finally.

To me that is the biggest lesson to others, or the greatest tribute one can pay oneself - the fulfillment of a human's awesome potential. How does one translate one's considerable talent and use it to realise what one can achieve, the highest peaks that one can achieve? Sachin's international career is all about that. How a man can fulfil his innate potential, how one can go about systematically chipping away, climbing the mountain, adapting himself to changing situations, overcoming physical and mental fatigue, overcoming praise and criticism and go with single minded focus towards only one thing - the best that one can be as the bar is raised each time, the contest made more difficult. It is simply astounding to see how this man has done this over all these years.

The first hurdle one faces when one arrives on the scene with such a flame of genius (not a spark surely), of being the next conqueror, is probably the hardest. Most find the burden of their talent, the potential they can fulfill heavy and wither away, seeking solace in less demanding circumstances. Many champions have fallen by the wayside at this (Vinod Kambli, L. Sivaramakrsihnan etc), having promised much, doubting their own talent and content with the predictions. To harness the talent, to chip away at the potential, one needs an amazingly mature head, complete submission to the process and a total dedication to perfecting the talent one has been bestowed with. It is incredibly hard work, to stay focussed on this, when everything is going right , when far less is enough in a land of mediocrity. To deal with fulsome praise is the first hurdle one has to pass, and Sachin did that - easily.

Along the path come many challenges. Age, injury, criticism and perhaps even boredom (like it afflicted Brian Lara who left it all and went away) and one can again rest, content in what one has achieved. Why does one need to push mindlessly when one has already been crowned the king, nay, the emperor? But this is what distinguishes the truly great from the great. To push on regardless of competition, regardless of who is snapping at his heels, to surge ahead when the winds are favorable in the quest for perfection, for more until one is totally satisfied. For having outlived, outlasted all these, Sachin deserves greater applause than for the records he had set. For me, more than all the records, all the encomiums he receives, it is just this - the way he went about fulfilling his potential that is his biggest achievement. It is one that could be studied and made into a course in all lifeskills classes.

It needs an astounding amount of sacrifice. It needs one to give up one's youth, one's private life, one's personal space. It needs hours and hours of dedication to the medium. It is not easy at all when your team members were all infants when you made your debut, as a child yourself. And that is Sachin's destiny, his story, his tragedy, that he has always lived the role of a man, a grand old man, since the time he had been a child in Indian cricket. He evolved rapidly to being Bheeshma from a young Abhimanyu in a couple of years, despite having the years of an Abhimanyu on his shoulders, and in times when most seniors were behaving like young kids. And he carries that mantle gracefully in all these years. Add to it, the expectations that the country has, a country that has a consciousness of a loser, of an unforgiving parent, and it is tough for any champion who is on the path of excellence. But he bore all these roles that were thrust upon him and went about his agenda of being his best, giving his best for the team, the country.

To adapt from being the aggressive destroyer of his early years to the careful plodder, the experienced man who knows when to attack and when to milk, who knows which arrow to use to maim and which to kill was only natural. Sadly, for us the viewing public, he forsake the more romanticised, the more glamourous role of the slayer and turned into a dour run machine. The odd shot still came but there was an air of solidity to it all. There would be far less risks (which makes it all more exciting) there would be no free gifts in his effort to dominate. He  would respect the opponent and he would kill him, by a thousand cuts, and not by lopping his head off sensationally. In this role he accumulated runs with care and precision, with less danger. It is what happens when men mature, when men evolve. They do not race down the road on their cars and bikes like they were sixteen, they know when to hit the gas and when to go slowly because there could be a child, another soul that could be in the way. It is the path of responsibility, of respecting nature and the environment around, and it happens to everyone.

In a way, he must have realised early on that if he gives his best, it is best for the team. By getting more runs without throwing his wicket away, he would serve the team's interests more than by throwing his wicket away. This could be a tough call to make sometimes when it is more romantic to throw your wicket away in a seeming quest to garner more quick runs. But in waiting for the right ball, you have a better chance. In waiting, in holding your wicket, you have a better chance, especially if you have the repertoire of strokes. And so he focussed on playing the fifty overs as much as he could, consuming as many overs as he could and milking the bowling. It is a tough balance to suddenly attack and suddenly withdraw - one must choose beforehand. One must choose one path, one process. It is obvious which path Sachin has chosen.

Through all this Sachin lives with many ghosts that surely haunt him. His captaincy record, one where he would have loved to take India to the pinnacle that Dhoni did, would rankle. But he is still learning, and is a better captain, a man manager, as one can see with the Mumbai Indians these days. He has realised one would think, that men are different, that all men do not bring the same intensity and preparation, they do not need to, because they are different and bring different skills to the table and he must let them be and not mould them into his template.
His inability to score the big hundreds, the doubles, the triples with the felicity and ease that Lara did or Sehwag does must bother him too; he seems to have a deeply ingrained pattern in his mind that gets him to a hundred easily and then he has to struggle. Something that he practised in some manner in his childhood perhaps. Where Lara could easily score a 377 and then a 400 at will in tests and then score a 500 in first class cricket, Sachin struggled with the big scores. Nothing to do with his technique or physical capability, I suspect its all in the deeply ingrained pattern. But that is fine, a 100 100s is not too bad.
The third flaw could be his seeming lack of heart to get the bull by his horns on situations when they demanded he do, with his immense capability, to stride on as he could have when approaching his big landmarks, the centuries, the double centuries, when he goes into his shell and carefully approaches he landmark which becomes bigger than the team cause. The resultant loss of momentum affects the team and one cannot wish away that and say that the team should still do its bit since he has done his part. Winning is all about momentum after all. But even there, the fault cannot be laid at his door, he is scoring runs for the team as he is expected to. But it will remain an issue that will always show up.

A wonderful ambassador of the game, not a single slip up in all these years, a glorious role model for youngsters, Sachin is truly a champion who steered much of India's hopes, the consciousness of its youth as it changed, with his cricket. He is probably the biggest influence on the youth who believe that anything is possible - a far cry from the hesitant, doubting years when Sachin came on the scene. The biggest tribute that all his fans can pay is by trying to emulate him by living up to their potential as well. All else would remain mere words, to reflect in his glory is not doing him service - do to yourself, your family, your society and your country what Sachin did and that will make the man happy. No one has been more patriotic than this proud Maharashtrian, one whom Lata Mangeshkar adores like her own son, who has famously said 'I am an Indian first and then a Maharashtrian' - words that neutralised the regionalistic spin of even the hugely popular Bal Thackeray in his own hometown, a neighbour of Sachin in Bandra when Sachin was growing up, and one who would have wielded considerable influence on India's most popular icon. To say so at the cost of displeasing the easily displeased Bal Thackeray shows his maturity, his patriotism - probably the bravest words any true blue Maharashtrian can utter in the circumstances. All Maharashtra and certainly all of India and the world can be glad that we have someone like Sachin walk the earth when we did. Well done Sachin and keep walking, there is a long road ahead of you still. You will know when to stop best, not the rest of the world who watch you walking and running from their armchairs.


Rajendra said...

India is a land of under-achievers, especially while living in India. Sachin is a nice exception. So is Dravid. And Dhoni, with leadership where he achieved more than these two.

Harimohan said...

Yes, Raja and to do that in a time of transition is all the more difficult because there will be a whole nation that says - this won't work. People who write you off and say we always knew etc. To do so from here is truly amazing.