Life after Sachin Tendulkar: a cricket tragic's tale

HOPEFULLY , from tomorrow, I'll regain control of my life. 

Looks like Sachin Tendulkar might not need to bat a second time in this his 200th and final test match against the West Indies in his and my home state of Mumbai.

You see, ever since I was cajoled into watching a little curly-headed muppet of about 13 in a school cricket match, my life has never been the same.

Sachin was just starting out on the road to fame and I had just landed a plum sports journalist job with the Times of India. 

Few knew Sachin then. And we had to be cajoled into watching the new boy wonder.

'We' were a motley bunch of sports journos who hailed from south of the Mumbai border, from the neighbouring exotic, laidback and hippie state of Goa known for its sun, sand and sea or fish, feni (local distilled spirit) and football.

Never mind that this bit of paradise is now overrun by the Russians, Germans, Israelis, British  and Nigerians.

Goa is perhaps the only state in India where football is more popular than cricket or the tourists' rave parties. Not too sure about the cricket bit now, what with the Sachin effect.

And what an effect it has been. Even we, the Goans, dubbed the 'Catholic Mafia' by our colleagues in the sports fraternity who probably envied our hard-drinking, hard-playing  plain-speaking style of journalism, were in a dilemma.

We love cricket and came to adore Sachin, but we felt that cricket was stifling other sport in India, especially our beloved football. That put us on a collision path with our sports editors who were, after all, die-hard cricket writers.

This hard-drinking plain-speaking nearly caused a war when the original Little Master, Sunil Gavaskar, was shocked when told plainly that if one could stop a hockey ball with a thin hockey stick, there was nothing challenging about stopping a cricket ball from hitting your wickets if you had a broad cricket bat in your hands.

Perhaps it was the fact that we were both guests at the party and that I was taller than him (Gavaskar is about 5'4") that saved my neck that day.

My boss wasn't amused.

A few days later I saw Gavaskar at the railway station. When we made eye contact  he appeared to dash off for a quick, sharp single.

I swear I heard my faithful liver hush my brain's  now-see-what-you-have-done protest with: "This is a railway station, he (Gavaskar) probably had a train to catch."

Logical. And now that Sachin is retiring, non-cricket fans, if there are any left, will be hoping for a more sober analysis by sponsors and pointing out to them that there are other sport besides cricket in India thirsting for funding.

Another reason I'm glad Sachin is going is the deepening family rift. We don't talk cricket anymore.

Sachin is the only safe topic. We all love him.

But emigrating to New Zealand and becoming a full-fledged Kiwi and then hopping across the ditch to Australia, poses problems. Where does one's loyalty lie?

My mum, back in India, does not care as long as Pakistan doesn't win.

My two sisters are behind Sachin and India 100%. My poor brother, somewhere in Canada, is still wondering if he backed the wrong team because he had to look further afield than his West Indian partner.

As for me, I decided I'd throw my weight with the underdog. That threw up an interesting point.

With the All Blacks, everyone else is the underdog.

But Black Caps? Seriously. And India playing abroad? Give me a break.

So my brain took over:

As long as Sachin scores a century in each innings, let the Black Caps win. Perfect.

It's one that every emigrating Indian has copied. As long as Sachin scores, who cares about the result? Interesting phenomenon. One for the next Mr Freud.

By far, the third and most important reason I'm glad Sachin is finally going is this: due to the time difference I wait up late into the night. In comes the current Little Master to bat.

Twenty runs later he is gone. Bloody hell. Three hours of sleep sacrificed. And it happened almost every time.

You would think a guy who scored a hundred hundreds would score one when I'm watching.

Even a fifty would have been a solace, but it was as rare as gold imports are nowadays in debt-ridden India. It was frustrating. 

No wonder Australia beat India in the last series played over here. It wasn't Michael Clarke who made the difference. It was me. I watched Sachin bat.

So Friday, I'll do Sachin a favour. I won't be watching him resume his innings on his overnight score of 38 not out.

But one thing I'll say for him. His timing is as impeccable as ever. By deciding to retire now, he has 'uncomplicated' my life.

He must have heard I've recently acquired Australian citizenship.

Clarkey, take heart. I'll try to watch when Ian Bell bats. The Ashes are as good as won.

Sachin facts you may not know

Sachin has a ward named after him in New Delhi's Tihar Jail.

He is now a member of India's Upper House (Senate)

He hasn't used taxpayers' funds, so he won't be visiting the jail named after him.

His idol is John McEnroe.

Went to the MRF pace academy to be a fast bowler, but academy coach Dennis Lillee told him to concentrate on batting.

Loves Dire Straits and playing at the SCG


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