By Arjun Miglani
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way, but it’s an approach Sachin Tendulkar decided to adopt during the twilight of his career. I was one of many who felt he should have called it a day after the 2011 World Cup, and his mediocre last two years proved that I was right. But now that he’s finally announced his retirement, I’m left with a sense of impending emptiness when I think about my future cricket watching days.
Being an Indian cricket fan gets tougher by the day. You want to support the team, but being affiliated in any way to the BCCI just makes you feel dirty. I imagine it’s a similar feeling to being a Chelsea fan. How can you get behind a team whose board cancels Test tours, censors commentators and runs one of the most corrupt sporting competitions in the world? Beating England is always fun, of course (not that that happens much nowadays), but beyond that, it’s tough to care about yet another ODI or one-off T20. And that’s the vast majority of what India play these days.
It’s very hard to get behind the kids of today, with their tattoos and their hair gel. Sachin made his debut at 16 against Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, and spent the prime of his career facing others like Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne and Alan Mullally. He faced them while carrying the hopes of more fans than any other sportsman has or will ever have to please. He played in a team that really wasn’t very good until about 14 years into his career. And despite all that he always seemed like the calmest person on the field.
Sachin is the last remaining player to have been playing ever since I started watching cricket. He made his debut in 1989, a year after I was born, and here we are, twenty-four years later. Where did the time go? Sachin WAS cricket in the nineties, a decade that brought us so much greatness, such as England losing almost every game they played, and The Cardigans’ ‘My Favourite Game’. It was a time when every team wore different coloured variations of the same kit, when Channel Nine’s commentary was actually good, and when you read about cricket in magazines, instead of rubbish websites.
I remember making calculations as a child as to what age I’d need to be playing international cricket by, in order to share a dressing room with Sachin. If I made it at 18, there’d still be a slim chance, as he’d be 33 then. It was a long shot, but I’m a dreamer. And I’m not the only one. Every kid I played cricket with knew that we belonged to the last generation who could feasibly share a partnership with Sachin Tendulkar.
As it turns out, we were wrong. I had until 25 to make it. Of course, that never eventuated. There comes a time in most men’s life when they realise that becoming a professional sportsman actually involves quite a bit of hard work, and things like running laps and going to the gym aren’t that much fun. Not as much fun as lazing on a sunny afternoon watching other people work hard while getting progressively more inebriated, anyway. I regret nothing, absolutely nothing.
There are so many memories. The hundreds against Australia, most of them when everyone else could barely reach double figures. THAT six off Andrew Caddick in the 2003 World Cup. The murdering of Shoaib Akhtar in the same tournament. The century against England in Chennai. The wickets he’d inevitably take when he came on to bowl his legspin/offspin/medium pace, sometimes all in the same over. But most of all, the childlike joy on his face after winning the 2011 World Cup.
The news of Sachin’s retirement appears to be the final confirmation that the old era of cricket, the one I fell in love with, is over. There were so many characters back then. Ambrose. Ranatunga. Colin ‘Funky’ Miller. Sessions. Who do we have now? Alistair Cook. Shane Watson. Suresh Raina. Worst of all, England are good nowadays. How fucking depressing.