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Saturday, September 30, 2017

Sachin – A Billion Dreams

Finally, many months after its release in India, I saw the docudrama on Sachin Tendulkar (Sachin A Billion Dreams).

It’s a measure of my utter ignorance of contemporary cricket that during my recent India visit I had to ask a co-passenger the identity of a young man at the Bombay airport that everyone was eager to click a selfie with.

He’d caused a minor flutter at the Delhi airport when he sauntered in casually. A couple of young women shrieked, giggled and ran to click selfies with him. The same sequence repeated at the Bombay airport when the flight landed.

This time, men as old as me were eagerly queuing up to take selfies, and the charming fellow was happy to oblige. As he was led away to a waiting vehicle, I asked a man who had a satisfied grin on his face, having just succeeded in capturing a selfie with this young man.

“Who is that?” I asked him.

He looked at me as if I had landed from Mars.

“That is Shikhar Dhawan.”

I nodded politely and walked out, where this Dhawan was talking to another young man who was surrounded by people clicking selfies. The gentleman, who had informed me about the identity of Shikhar Dhawan, was readying himself to take a group selfie with this Dhawan and the other young man. He rushed past me and hurriedly said, “That is Bhuvaneshwar Kumar.”

In the Cool Cab that I took home from the airport, I Googled both Shikhar and Bhuvaneshwar on my cell phone and discovered that both are star cricketers representing the Indian team.

I hadn’t heard of them.

As I was watching the docudrama on Sachin, I remembered this incident. My love for cricket effectively ended after Sachin Tendulkar retired. I mean, I follow Indian cricket off and on and admire Virat Kohli’s awesome determination, but I have absolutely no information about most of the other players who comprise the Indian team. My interest is limited to who's winning and who's losing. 

On occasion, I get to hear of some astounding exploits by cricketers but am clueless about who they are. I’ve heard that Hardik Pandya has done some amazing stuff, but I wasn’t sure whether he’s a batsman or a bowler.

Fortunately, we live in a world made easy by Google.

The docudrama on Tendulkar is good but should have been extraordinary, which it is not, primarily because it attempts to encapsulate a legend’s achievements in his long career and mixes it with his personal life.

Sachin’s career requires a documentary of its own. There’s just too much to say and everyone in India (and especially in Bombay) knows everything there is to know about the legend. I’m sure, all of them must have felt that they missed something that was (according to them) vital to Sachin’s career graph.

For instance, I sorely missed in the docudrama the nugget that Sachin’s international debut was as a team member of Pakistan, with Imran Khan as his first captain.

But perhaps I'm being overtly critical. The docudrama does introduce the person behind the persona rather effortlessly. And to cricket fans, that information goes a long way in creating a wholesome picture of the icon. 

The docudrama also brings out the supreme adoration that a billion plus people of this planet have for this diminutive yet determined man who changed not only the way Indians played the game of cricket but, also in a large measure, the way Indians saw themselves and their India.

Sachin never had the brashness so typical of the north Indian style of cricket first seen in Kapil Dev and perfected by Virendra Sehwag.  Sachin's aggression was always understated. It personified a self-assured confidence that in cricket was only seen in Sunil Gavaskar.

The generation that grew up watching cricket on television in the 1970s and the 1980s would perhaps be a bit biased in favour of Gavaskar. After all, he played the terrifying West Indian pace bowlers without a helmet.

But Gavaskar played in a different era (and along with Indira Gandhi and Amitabh Bachchan created a unique Indian identity that symbolized an India that had emerged from the long shadows cast by the generation of leaders that fought for its independence). 

Sachin's rise, on the other hand, coincided with the rise of India's economic prowess and a growing realisation that it was time for India to take a leadership position among the comity of nations, and which had been deprived by colonialism and then by a defeatist, fatalistic attitude that considered karma as the sole determinant of results. 

Sachin gave Indians the confidence to change their mindsets. He showed Indians that they could boldly go where they hadn't gone before, take charge of their destinies and change it for the better.

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