Most of the great sports stories are about proving people wrong.
Think about some iconic sporting moments, and they’re generally about proving either the pundits, the fans, or someone else wrong. For some, their entire career is about proving people wrong.
But then there’s a select few for whom the challenge is the exact opposite. Their challenge is to prove people right. Lionel Messi and Lebron James are two of the more recent examples that belong to this category. They were both prophesied to become (one of) the GOATs in their respective sports, when they were still in their teens! And both of their achievements have gone far beyond those prophecies. Indian cricket, too, has seen (at least) one such name – The Master, Sachin Tendulkar.
Anil Kumble summed it up quite beautifully when he famously said, “Sachin had to prove people right while I had to prove them wrong”.
At just 14, the great Vasu Paranjpe was introducing Sachin as the second-best batsman in the country! A couple of years later, Sunil Gavaskar, first on Paranjpe’s list, predicted that this boy would end his career with 15000 test runs and 40 test centuries! One of the things that is mentioned quiet often when Sachin’s legacy is talked about, is the immense pressure he must have been under throughout his career. The weight of expectations of a billion people, every time he went out to bat, must have been quite heavy! The way he dealt with all of that definitely boggles one’s mind!
Personally, I am more amazed with the way he dealt with all the predictions and prophecies when he was barely into his mid-teens! Here was a boy who has being talked up by the who’s who of Indian cricket, including but not limited to who were then India’s greatest cricketer, and India’s greatest batsman – Kapil Dev and Sunil Gavaskar respectively. Monikers which many people argue now, belong to Tendulkar.
Well, I’m not sure which one is tougher – proving people right or proving them wrong. But more people experience the latter than the former. In sports, and in life. Maybe apart from the fag end of his career, people expected a hundred from him every game. When the expectations on someone is that high, you could perform well yet fall short and disappoint the people. I can’t begin to wrap my head around what it must have taken him physically and mentally to exceed all those expectations.
As far as batsmanship is concerned, Sir Don Bradman stands by himself for a reason. Whenever you’re discussing who the GOAT batsman is, there’s always a disclaimer noting that this is without considering Bradman, of course. Similarly, Tendulkar stands apart from everybody else in the modern game. (Some of) His records may fall, but his legacy is going to be unmatched for a long time!
As long as cricket continues, the story of this boy wonder who took on the world (or 8 countries) will remain one of the greatest stories ever told in India!