The emotion of the final day of Sachin Tendulkar’s career .
Captured here by Rohit Brijnath.
From the Straits Times.
Today was too much even for him. Today, on his last cricketing day at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, even he, the impassive man, left the field forever with a stump in one hand and a tear wiped with the other. He was not alone, for this day – for those in the stadium and beyond – resembled an emotional mass. Sport has rarely seen the like of it.
Today, Sachin Tendulkar, who spent a life, he said, over 20 metres – the length of a cricket pitch – for 24 years, was retired. His white clothes to be packed. His bats to be mothballed. His competitive instinct to be buried. A long story, even if it went on longer than it might have, has concluded. There is for him no cricketing tomorrow.
Always he was a man of runs, rarely of words, a private man locked in this most public of professions. He let others do the talking about him, but this day, for almost 24 minutes, he yanked down his well-constructed veil and spoke. In time, people will return to YouTube not just for his innings but for this speech. Tendulkar has rarely been so personal.
In the stadium, an Englishman wept.
Today, with the match won by India, he took the microphone, a floppy white cap on his head, a list in his hand and a shadow across his face. You could not see his eyes, but in the silent pauses between his words you could sense his struggle.
His list was very Tendulkar – thorough and prepared. Nothing left to chance. He, the unforgotten, not forgetting those who made him. Alone he stood there under his last cricketing sun and said: “It’s getting a little bit difficult to talk but I will manage.”
He started with his father, Ramesh, who passed away in 1999. A father whose picture he carried on tour; a father who he saluted with a look to the heavens after every special innings; a father who he described as “the most important person in my life”.
At 11, his father told him to chase his dream, but advised “make sure you do not find short cuts”. Always his father told him to be a “nice human being”. Tendulkar listened well and for all his 15,921 Test runs this has been his finest achievement.
In the stands, the old, the young, together they wept.
Today, a man who a nation has given constant thanks for, expressed his own gratitude. He wondered how his mother put up with such a “naughty child”. He spoke of his sister Savita, who gave him his first bat and “fasted” when he batted. He honoured his confidante, his brother Ajit, who even on Fridaynight was discussing his dismissal in the first innings. “We have lived this dream together, he spotted the spark in me,” he said.
He paused. He swigged his water. There was more to say.
Today he spoke of family, not the cricketing fraternity, but his blood, his wife, his kin. No champion is built alone nor forged in isolation. For the athlete to succeed, the family must live to the rhythm of his wake-up calls, must answer to his dietary whims, must adjust to his varying moods amid defeat and during injury.
His wife, Anjali, a doctor, he said, stepped back from a career when they had children. “Thanks for bearing with all my fuss and all my frustrations, and all sorts of rubbish that I have spoken,” he said.
His daughter, Sara, 16, and son Arjun, 14, went birthdays and sports days without a touring father in attendance. He looked to his children and said, “Thanks for your understanding”. India has given much, but it has taken from him, too.
Behind her sunglasses, his wife wept.
Today he hailed his coach Ramakant Achrekar. For 29 years, he said, “sir has never ever said ‘well played’ to me because he thought I would get complacent and I would stop working hard”. Then he smiled and said, “maybe he can push his luck and wish me now, well done on my career”. Today the timing would be right, he said, speaking with an almost aching sadness, for there are “no more matches in my life”.
In the press room, veteran writer and apprentice scribe, together they wept.
Today, he praised his friends who would wake up at 3am when he was injured and take long drives with him through an empty city while reassuring him his career was not done. It was a startling and beautiful confession to the utter lonelieness of the sporting life. No, he told us, he was no impenetrable genius all the time, but this wounded man who needed help as he negotiated doubt.
Today, he thanked the doctors who healed him and physios who restored him. Today, he acknowledged the cricketers he grew up with and those he played with and accepted “it is going to be difficult not to be part of the dressing room”. In this room he was best understood, in this room he was allowed to be human and fail.
In Singapore, alone in front of his TV, a friend wept.
Today, Tendulkar gave thanks to India. To those who “fasted” for him, who had “flown in” from far for him, who supported him whether he scored “a zero or a hundred plus”. He looked and sounded a lucky man.
So often he batted with such concentration one might presume he was deaf to a nation’s plea and prayer, yet he was listening. “Sachin, Sachin”, this chant he heard, this chant he would never forget. “Sachin, Sachin”, he said, would “reverberate in my ears till I stop breathing”.
The crowd replied as only they could. They cried.
Today, finally, his speech done, he did his lap of honour, then walked alone to the pitch, this 22-yard strip on which he became a myth, a man, a marvel. He stood on his piece of favourite earth, just him and the dust of his past. He touched the ground with both hands, he made a sign of respect, he left. Cricket had been left behind.
Of course, he was weeping.