It is always difficult to describe a man who has defied odds for 23 years. It is tougher still to use adjectives for someone who evokes varying emotions from a billion. So, as Sachin Tendulkar enters his 39th year of being a legend, instead of describing him and his career, here is a tribute to the fans who have supported him in his quest to be the best. Here is a tribute to us.
The batsman has often been asked if pressure of expectations has hindered his style of play. Tendulkar was asked this more than ever before when he needed a century to complete his 100th international ton. While he may have his fair share of critics, his fans did not let-up and waited with bated breath each time Tendulkar stepped out to bat. With prayers and wishes being sent skywards in unison, pressure surely could not have been the adjective Sachin himself would have chosen.
A humble man himself, Sachin's batting for the last 23 years, has brought similar emotions in a country as diverse as India. Each time he has stepped out to bat, the Indian blue and not the communal hues have been central in the minds of fans. While some with a 'serious' line of thinking continue to argue that cricket is just a sport, Sachin and his fans have shown that it is, and is much more. Sachin's batting evokes the same passion in a high-end sports bar in Delhi as it does on a small TV in a tiny chawl in Mumbai. His fours are cheered by the young and old alike. And when the Indian team carried him on their shoulders after winning the World Cup, conservative estimates showed that not a single Indian thought that the veteran did not deserve it.
Some call for his retirement. Some question his will to continue playing. Most though, just let the man amaze them again and again. And even when the day to hang up those cricketing boots arrives, critics will agree that if emulating Sachin's feat is difficult, having another breed of unselfish, passionate and almost jingoistic fan-following (for another sportsperson) would be nearly impossible. Lace it with whatever term - blind-devotion or hero-worshipping - this is what sets Sachin's fans apart from all others and will define our generation, a few before ours and hopefully, several after us.