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I watched your press conference today teary-eyed on one of the news channel websites and though I had promised myself that the words ‘second fiddle’ or ‘overshadowed’ won’t appear anywhere in the piece, the irony wasn’t lost on me that before the presser video they showed an ad featuring Sachin Tendulkar promoting Castrol GTX.
The press conference, as expected was low on theatrics and high on content reflecting the type of Cricketer you were and the way you conducted yourself on and off the field for more than 20 years, with honour and dignity.
You have always reminded me of the Taanpura in Hindustani classical music. Taanpura is a stringed instrument found in different forms and different places. You too went through your career playing different roles and batting at different positions. The Taanpura is unique in both it’s musical function and in how it works. It does not partake in the melodic part of the music but it supports and sustains the melody by providing a colourful and dynamic harmonic resonance field based on one precise tone, the basic note or key-note. Also, it is not played in rhythm with the music. Its tempo is independent of the music it supports and the speed of playing may vary throughout a performance or remain relatively constant, at the discretion of the player.
You were the undisputed harmonic resonance on the basis of which the Indian cricket team produced some outstanding music. Your presence was always taken for granted but your absence underlined your value. Taanpura is derived from ‘Taan’ which is a virtuoso technique used in the vocal performance of a raga and ‘pura’ meaning ‘full’ or ‘complete’. To borrow from Jerry Maguire, you made the team complete.
My 8 year old daughter knows that Tendulkar is my favourite player but she also knows that you are the player I respect the most in our team. And you have earned that respect by being on that cricket pitch for the longest period of time than any batsman has ever spent in the history of Test Cricket. You have earned it by sheer grit and determination. You have earned it by showing that success is 1% inspiration and 105% perspiration (well you did perspire a lot). You have earned it by not attracting even a whiff of controversy throughout your playing career.
And now you won’t be around any more. I understand the inevitability of champions coming and going. But you have spoilt us by always being there in times of crisis, by making us believe in the impossible. And you spoilt us by getting us to believe that nice guys don’t always finish last. Let me behave like a spoilt brat one last time to demand a better farewell for you. I know it won’t work but then we too won’t remain spoilt for too long.
.. “Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit”
These words by Rabindranath Tagore capture the very essence of you. Our minds were without fear when you were at the crease. Now we will wonder.
I will take this opportunity to wish you all the best for your future and signoff by giving you the biggest compliment that I can think of. Dear Rahul, I wish and fervently hope that my kid grows up to be like you.