By Roger Sawh
Having Sachin, the cricket world’s closest thing to a God, bat for your team must be thrilling. Caribbean fans should know – Lara, a genius, scored almost twelve thousand test runs in his sparkling career for the West Indies. Chanderpaul, likened to Atlas himself, is still going, 150 tests strong.
But as much pleasure as a superstar like Sachin gives to his adoring fans, admiring him while he flays the bowlers that are supposed to be representing my team has always been a schizophrenic experience. It is one thing to doff your hat in reverence, but it’s quite another when you’re on the receiving end – I doubt that even the most diehard Tyson fan would delight in a right hook to their own jaw.
That’s why it’s hard to write about Sachin. I admire him to bits, really I do – power, grace, class, statistics, runs here, there and everywhere. I guess I just could never go wild for him because, every once in a while, he would go against my team – by proxy, he was batting against me. I know his fans, in excess of a billion, bleed blue, but the last time I checked, my heart was still Windies Maroon.
Still, though, there are players you are happy to watch – a Fleming, a Vaas, a Pollock – and there are those that you can’t help but observe in the deepest possible way. I had my chance to observe Sachin live just once in my life.
When India toured the West Indies in 2002, Sachin headlined (as he has for 24 years). Their first test was in my homeland of Guyana, and I was hell bent on taking my chance to see Lara v. Tendulkar, co-starring Dravid, Ganguly, Laxman and Kumble alongside four Guyanese: Hooper, Chanderpaul, Sarwan and rookie Mahendra Nagamootoo. It was a young man’s dream come true.
True to form, the docile Bourda pitch was a sounding board for the melodies of the willow. While Lara made a beauty of a duck, Hooper and Chanderpaul scored 233* and 140 respectively. Sarwan even chipped in with a fifty. I had begged Javagal Srinath for an autograph from behind the wiry fence of the Schoolboys’ Stand on the afternoon of Day 2 – he assured me I would receive one at Tea. It is now 11 years later, and I’m still waiting.
Day 3, Saturday, was a big one because the West Indies had piled on 500 and the game was a certified non-loss, a victory in itself in those days of West Indies cricket. It was even bigger, though, because Sachin would definitely be taking guard at some point. Thanks to my Dad, I found myself sitting in the members’ area of the pavilion, elbow-to-elbow with important grey men with their own brand of cricket wisdom (and colorful vocabulary). The carefree abandon I had shown in the Schoolboys’ Stand had to be tempered.
As the Indians began their innings, the pavilion was abuzz with anticipation for Sachin. It was as if those around me had forgotten who they were supporting for a bit. When he entered with just a few runs on the board, everyone was wide-eyed. He had arrived. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to get him out right away, or whether I wanted to see a four or two before making his stumps cry, but any quip made about Sachin folding early was met with stern stares.
As it turns out, the Little Master delivered – he was sublime, dissecting our ‘attack’ like the cannon fodder it was. My heart sunk, for my own were being vanquished; but what lovely vanquishment it was. Still, though, my patriotism persisted, and the emotions of those in the ground had started to turn – it was as if we collectively said ‘OK, we’ve seen him, he’s good, now get him out!’
The final chapter of the Sachin experience was the best part – Nagamootoo, our own green thumb, was bowling heroically. His leg breaks were skiddy, a la Kumble, and while Sachin was imperious, ‘Nagas’ remained probing. Then, it happened – a leg spinner pitched nicely, drawing the little man forward.
Edge! Gayle takes it at slip! Why aren’t they celebrating? What do you mean dropped?
My emotions changed from euphoria to shock to outrage in no more than three seconds. What a miss.
He is going to score a quintuple century on us. The sky is falling. Nagamootoo was robbed.
If looks could kill, Gayle would be six feet under.
While the wise men around me muttered, Nagamootoo composed himself and had the ball again. Hooper had tried to calm the troops. Gayle was still getting the eyeballing of a lifetime.
All right Nagas, do it again!
Nagamootoo came in, skiddy, and rapped the little man on the pads. For a split second, the noise of twenty-odd thousand in Bourda sent shockwaves across to Brazil.
How is that? HOW IS THAT?
We bellowed. We begged. We pleaded. The finger raised. It was over. Justice for Nagas, and how. Exit the Great One. Sadness tinged the joy. Yes, the local boy had won, but only after a Godly 79. He was done, for now.
Damn, I guess he’s as good as they say.
Roger Sawh is a lifelong cricket fan who attends Law School at Queen’s University in Canada. A non-test leg spinner, his favorite cricketers are Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Shane Warne. When he isn’t pretending to be busy with books, he’s either watching cricket (or basketball), reading about cricket (or basketball), stressing about his next move in fantasy cricket (or basketball), or pursuing his newest hobby – writing about cricket (and not basketball) for www.wicricketgroup.blogspot.com