It is but with a heavy heart that I take to pen down my feelings. Sachin batted in what is very likely his last international innings today. No more Sachin. And to make matters worse, Anand lost the fifth game to Carlsen after drawing the last four games.

They measure life by the moments that take your breath away. I can reminisce my life so far by the Sachin moments I can recount. He was always there all my life. I distinctly remember enjoying what would be known as the Desert Storm, watching on my our old TV, in seventh grade. Then there was Sachin’s 98 in the India-Pakistan match in the 2003 world cup, two days before my Maths exam in HSC. And how can I forget the first one-day double century ever by Sachin; frenzied IIT-B hostel-junta was all jumping on the mess tables. And there was the World Cup India won, in 2011, when Virat Kohli carried Sachin on his shoulders. Those Sachin moments I associate with the good times I had studying Mathematics at IMSc. With Sachin retired, there won’t be any more of these moments. Dhoni puts it succinctly – “With Sachin Paaji, a part of me will be gone too.”

I respected, loved, adored, worshipped Sachin but frankly, I never wanted to be a cricketer myself. But at least for a little while as a kid, I wanted to be a grandmaster. Like Sachin, I grew up seeing Vishwanathan Anand. Chess was amazing and Vishy kept winning those rapid and blindfold games and I just idolized him. He became the World Champion in 2007 and has retained the title until now. After four consecutive draws, finally blood is drawn he loses to Magnus Carlsen. With seven more matches to go, I am badly hoping Anand resurges like a Phoenix in the remaining matches and clinches the title. It doesn’t matter if Carlsen snatches the title back from him next year. It might sound silly but, for me it’s like a battle between Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty; it would be the crowning achievement of Holmes’ career if he could defeat Moriarty. Not that I hate Magnus Carlsen, but it’s just that it would pain me to witness Anand fall.

I believe it’s not just the fact that they have been the best players in their respective sports that puts Anand and Sachin on the same pedestal. Of course, both are Indians and I have grown up worshiping them both. But the real similarity between them is that both have their feet firmly on the ground. They both are the epitome of humbleness, a quality too difficult to exaggerate. It comes only with immense patience and respect towards your surroundings. In 23 years of his professional career, I don’t recall a single outspoken statement Sachin made, nor the slightest harsh action on the field. Hit by a speedy bouncer, he would calmly pick himself up and continue to bat in pain. And Anand, well, I’m honoured to see him nay, play a game in an exhibition match with him. It was at the the ICM at Hyderabad in 2010. People asked random, stupid questions to him and he answered them all with aplomb. Take a bow, masters!

Why do we need idols?

My sadness at Sachin retiring and Anand losing a game to Carlsen got me thinking; why did I feel sad? Because I wouldn’t be witnessing my role models in action. And why do I need role models? I study Mathematics, neither of them are anyway remotely related to Mathematics. That’s not the reason I idolize them. I revere them because seeing them in action makes me believe I can excel in my field too. I equate myself with them. I want to be a part of their success, and even failure. If Sachin can persevere and perfect that straight drive, I too can push my cognitive limits and understand my Mathematics. If Anand can produce a masterpiece, may be one day I too can.

I hope Anand fights back tomorrow and comes up with something brilliant. He always has.

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An article I wrote about Sachin long ago — here.

A moment to cherish:

Vishwanathan Anand and me

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