There were countless hours when I used to argue about Tendulkar versus Richards with my dad, Tendulkar versus Lara with classmates in school, Tendulkar versus Ponting in college. Just talking for Tendulkar gave me goosebumps, leave alone glorify him. If I had the opportunity to watch him play - which was sadly curtailed ever since the idiotic Set Top Box made its presence (rather, absence) known - there was untold joy. Straight Drives were imaged in the memory to be spoken about with friends the next day. Statistics were religiously studied, analyzed and thesis were presented on why he was God and others were not. Cover Drives and flick of the pads brought more smiles than deepavali crackers and badaam halwa. But as fate would have it, if there was Tendulkar batting at one end, the batsman at the other end would be Manoj Prabhakar (or Sanjay Manjarekar or Praveen Amre or Vikram Rathore..) casting a dark shadow on the unbridled joy of watching SRT bat. If at all irony had a visual definition, a random Indian batting score card in a game played in England/South Africa/Australia/West Indies between 1990 - 1996 will suffice.
Since 1996, SRT had two other sidekicks - Rahul Dravid and Saurav Ganguly. While one of them was a flat track bully and the other a technician of the highest order. Apparently, God had smiled on another God - or so it seemed. But combine some inept captaincy (1999), some Theevetti Dhadiyan attitude (2003, courtesy Sodha) and horrible planning (2007, Courtesy Greg. C), SRT could still not get the one thing that would foolproof his resume - the World Cup winner's medal.
2010 - An Indian Team where SRT is referred to as Paaji. And then, the captain, MS Dhoni. In my opinion, M.S. Dhoni is the best thing that happened to Indian Cricket since Sachin Tendulkar. Both of them have completely different batting styles - while one is the surgeon, working with finesse and precision, the other was a brute-force butcher. But it needed both of them combined to bring home the silverware that every person in my generation coveted and desired beyond a lot of other things. MS Dhoni has brought a quality that is often not found in a lot of Indian leaders - a straightforward approach and a never say die attitude. And best of all, consistent with the adage that "when the going gets tough, the tough get going", Dhoni just slapped all his critics with one masterful, mother-of-all-captain's-innings and father-of-all-under-pressure-innings in the WC Final.
SRT and Dhoni, both of you deserve to be venerated. You have made my 20 years of cricket fanticism culminate in a memory that will live with me forever.
My two favorite pictures from the final (courtesy: Cricinfo)
P.S: For morons who say MSD is lucky, you can be called lucky only when things go your way once in a while. When you get things done consistently, then the appropriate word will be "good" and not lucky.