You obviously don’t know this. But since the evening of April 3rd, 2011 your picture holding the world cup trophy has graced the background of my desktop. I look at it every day and a sense of fulfilment engulfs me. And then I have to see you play in the IPL. I thought I would never tell you this. But yesterday I saw you getting out stumped to Syed Mohammad of RCB and I could not hold myself back anymore. Hence this letter. I hope you understand.
You know Sachin, Mr. Peter Roebuck wrote these words for you in an article dated November 14, 2009 published on the website, Cricinfo.com. I quote: “Tendulkar might lose his wicket cheaply but he is incapable of playing an ugly stroke”. Let me make few things clear first. I have nothing against IPL. It is providing a viable career option for the cricket crazy youth of our country. It is making middle class parents confident about the future of their bat-wielding, ball-hurling kids. I have accepted the fact that my beloved game is no more a Gentleman’s game but has become a Businessman’s Game. I have also submitted to the inevitable commercialisation of Cricket which might have taken the game to new heights but has certainly brought the players to their knees (and shoulder, if you happen to be Gautam Gambhir). Par chalta hai. Times change. So now coming back to the point. I was still happy. My faith was intact and I had hope in my heart because you were there. The senseless urgency of the 20- over game wasn’t showing in your strokeplay. And then came “that” moment. It was a game between Mumbai Indians and Kochi Tuskers. All was well, runs were flowing from your bat as usual and the serenity of your approach, the balance of your stance was reassuring me that IPL hadn’t diluted the purity of your batsmanship. Until, of course, “that” particular shot. A routine delivery, pitched full, just outside off stump had accepted its fate of being dispatched somewhere between extracovers and longoff. What happened next was blasphemy. You went deep into the crease, beyond your off stump, covered the line of the ball, the bat came down in a whirl and with the tremendous power of your wrists the ball was sent screaming wide of long on for a boundary. IPL had done its job. Sachin Tendulkar had just played the Helicopter shot. If at all anyone reads this, I am sure I will be criticised for being a Puritan. And for being too fussy about technique and sanctity of the proverbial “text-book shot”. But I can’t help it. 19 years of watching Sachin Tendulkar bat does that to you. It’s not that I am putting the blame on you. Yet watching you play that shot was as painful as it would be watching a strategically semi-clad Madhubala performing a hideously hip-gyrating senseless item number in a Bollywood movie. It’s not because Mr. Roebuck says and hence I think playing an ugly shot is so a-Sachinic. It’s just that I plainly agree with him. It is not because of the mountain of runs that I worship you. It is not because the monument of centuries that I revere you. It is because of the straight drive (and the high elbow, obviously), it is because of the paddle sweep, it is because of the backfoot punch that leaves a trail of scorching grass lids from the batting crease to the cover boundary. I sit in front of the TV with starlit eyes gazing at the front foot defence and admiring your still head position. I am sure when Michelangelo was painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel he looked the same.
Any way seeing you play the 20-over game is as ridiculous as watching Micheal Schumacher drive a Tata Nano through the daily Mumbai traffic jam. Your devotion to IPL and Mumbai Indians beats me, dear boy. As a player you have nothing to prove, no doubts to clear. (For instance, the lap shot over the head of the short fine leg, which is so much in vogue today due to the T20 cricket, I have seen you play as far back as in 1998 in Sharjah against Australia). Money, I guess, is not your motivation. Yes, leadership might be. But for that to hop around the country for the mindless slam-bang of T20 cricket is a little bit too much. You are the master, Sachin and you know the best. Yet, I would not want to see you play in the IPL, play those ugly strokes, get out not through the skill of the bowler but succumbing to the required run rate. I know that an ignorant’s careless scratch on The Mona Lisa’s face doesn’t lessen its beauty one bit. But then it is the fault of his who has taken the masterpiece out of the galleries of the Louvre and left it on the streets. I want to see you play the Test cricket. Every IPL game, I feel, is taking one test match day away from you. And from me. Those who have loved will know that no amount of time spent with your beloved is ever enough. I love you Sachin and I want to see you play for a long long time to come. I don’t want IPL to tire you earlier than when you would have. I want to see those deliveries pitched on off stump go through the off side. I want good deliveries to be shown due respect and communicated the same to the bowler with that delectable little nod of your head. Is that too much to ask for?