Age is just a number for the maestro

Cricket: At 37, Tendulkars hunger for runs remains unsated:
Last Updated 31 July 2010, 16:39 IST

It will, also, hardly do justice to the joy he experiences and delivers in equal measure when he is on top of his game, and therefore when he is making run-scoring appear the easiest thing in the world. 

For all its complexities, the world of Sachin Tendulkar is a very simple one. Make that the cricketing world of Sachin Tendulkar.

The freshness untouched despite the rigours of 20 years at the highest level and the hunger unsated in spite of the fact that he owns most batting records in the history of the game, Tendulkar is the ultimate example for generations of cricketers whose desire wavers and ambition gets dulled at the first hint of ephemeral success.

Tendulkar has, consistently, chosen to steer clear of discussing numbers. He has left it to the connoisseurs and the statistically-inclined to dissect his career threadbare, opting instead to focus on what he has to do to continue pulling his weight in the team. He has accepted success, adulation and hero-worship with grace and panache, thankful for the wishes but with his feet always firmly grounded.

It is, though, inevitable that, at some stage, the natural cloak of self-control must crack. That happened on Friday evening, shortly after the second Indo-Sri Lanka Test ended in a tame draw, when his age was called into play.

Tendulkar is, lest we should forget, 37 years young. More than half those years have been spent fending off hungry bowlers aware that scalping the little Mumbaikar would remain the highlight of their CVs. More often than not, he has defied the bowling and the pressures that expectations inevitably bring with them, the passage of time and the stacking up of numbers doing little to douse the still raging fire.

“I don’t think too much should be made of my age,” Tendulkar said. “I am in good shape physically and mentally, and that’s what is important. If I can score a double-century in one-day internationals aged 37, then I don’t think my age should be discussed any longer. You don’t score runs at any level because of your age, you do it because you are good enough to score runs.” 

Elusive milestone
It’s interesting that Tendulkar should bring up that one-day double ton. No one deserved to be the first man to that highly elusive milestone than the man with the most one-day runs and centuries, though it appeared as if time had passed him by. Twice in the 11 months preceding his unbeaten 200 against South Africa in Gwalior in February, Tendulkar had made scores in excess of 160, and not gone the distance. His mastery of the South African bowling and of the situation – he was the calmest when Mahendra Singh Dhoni was clattering the Proteas at the death and people wondered if Tendulkar would ever get the strike in the last over when on 199 – was courtesy his experience, his vision and perhaps his unshakeable belief in destiny.

If it was meant to happen, it would.  It has already been a year of plenty for the little master. Six Tests have brought him five centuries and an 84, to go with that historic one-day double ton. It’s the first time since 1999 that Tendulkar has made five Test hundreds in one calendar year; with at least seven more Tests lined up, it is more than likely that by the time 2010 makes way for 2011, he would have touched the incredible number of 50 Test tons, his match-saving 203 in the SSC game having propelled that tally to 48.

“I have always gone out and just played,” Tendulkar said, not for the first time. “It’s people who look at records, not me. I want to score as many runs as possible. My focus has never been on records.”

From young sensation with a curly mop of unruly hair to elder statesman with a hair-do to match, Tendulkar’s metamorphosis has been gradual, yet the output and the aura haven’t diminished one bit.

Even in a line-up with some of the most glittering jewels of the modern era, he stands out for his luminescence, the guiding light for veterans and greenhorns alike, and the hope of a nation. Forever.

(Published 31 July 2010, 16:39 IST)

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