And quiet flows Sachin

November 23, 2009

It is 2:30 in the afternoon and I am still not able to lift myself to do anything worthwhile. It has been one of those days. It would be simple to classify the feeling as monday morning blues. Unfortunately, that term has no real significance to the life I am leading.

It is at times like this that I go back and think of the life that sportsmen lead these days. To motivate oneself to go through the grind of travel and the monotony of playing the sport that one used to enjoy at some point must really take some doing. Can the money that they earn compensate for the rigidity and inflexbility of modern sport. It is again very simplistic to assume so. It may explain the motivation of some of the journeymen sportsmen. But that of a top notch performer like Federer, Woods or Tendulkar. Hardly.

The media has once again gone overboard in celebrating Tendulkar’s 20th anniversary of international cricket. Most of the articles are more like a narration of his journey over the last couple of decades and some have had long interviews with Sachin himself. Beyond Sachin himself revealing that it is the love for the game and the pride that he takes in representing the country which has made him carry on for so long, there is nothing much more that explains his long innings. Maybe it is not for us plebians to understand such phenomenon. Yet that does not stop us from trying.

Could it be that people who appreciate their shelf life on this planet consign everything else, but the joy of living out their dreams on a given day (which in the case of sports performers is every day), to the back of their minds and carry on with their lives. After all, most sportsmen do understand that their days under the sun are limited to a few years or a decade at the most and are keen to make the most of it as long as it lasts. Particularly in terms of maximising their potential. In terms of performance. What happens in the case of lesser mortals when we come to appreciate our own mortality is very different till such time that this appreciation sinks in. Maybe these chaps understand this much better than most of us.

Or could it be the paranoia of not knowing how the world would treat them in case they stopped plying their craft. McEnroe refers to this in his “Serious”. The fact that most of the tennis players live in oyster, especially during their heydays blindsides them to the “real world”, so much so, that they continue well past their prime wondering how they would survive if they stepped out of this cocoon. What would Sachin, for instance, do once he quits the game. I am not sure that some of the conventional choices that exist for ordinary cricketers (ie everyone other than him) are not applicable to him at all, either because of the sheer enormity of his stature or his lesser capability than the rest in assuming these roles (yes, there are areas outside of the cricket field where Sachin’s records on the field will not count for much). I cannot think of Sachin, for one, getting into cricket administration. Too small a playing field for him and he has not shown the same felicity in getting people to go along with him as, for instance, a Sourav. He is also not going to fit very well into the commentary box. A coach, forget it. All one needs to do is to rewind back to Kapil’s stint as the Indian coach. It is almost like Ramanujam being asked to teach in a college. Very rarely have genius and tutoring been good bedfellows. When it comes to successful coaches, history has time and again shown that it is the mediocre or the average player who has come up trumps as a team coach. Their ability to understand the minds of lesser players (relatively that is) and help them exorcise their ghosts is so much more critical than technical knowledge. So, could it be for this reason that he is unwilling to hang up his boots. By no means am I suggesting or implying that he should be.

Or could it even be the nagging fear that in a team game, irrespective of everything else, history will measure a player in the context of his team’s achievements that keeps spurring him on. How many, with the possible exception of Liverpool supporters, remember Ian Rush. Maybe the fact that he has not been part of an Indian world cup winning team ?. Especially since over the last decade India has always gone into a World Cup with a team which, on paper, was capable of going the distance. Sachin himself has alluded to this a few times. If that is at least part of the reason for him continuing to embellish the game, we can breathe easy till calendar 2011, comfortable in the knowledge that he will continue for at least another 2 years.

Whatever the reasons maybe, I, like millions around the world, am grateful that Sachin continues to carry on. It is just that I would like to understand what is it that motivates him to wake up on a Sunday morning at 5 AM and set out to practice with the rest of his teammates, be it those from India Indians or Mumbai Indians. Carry on, Sachin and let the rest of us wonder.


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