Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Sachin and India: Tale of two majestic growth stories

The 1990s was a time of awakening for the Indian economy. It was a time of VCRs, Walkmans and Maruti-800s. It was an age when still cameras needed roll film, there was only one Bachchan, Air India was still making money and the gift-toting NRI uncle was treated as a VIP. It was also the era of Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.

If Manmohan Singh broke the shackles of the nation's economy in 1991, the same happened on the cricket field through the bulky bat of a 5-foot-5 batsman with a squeaky voice and the most vicious on-drive ever. Tendulkar, with his middle-class upbringing in suburban Mumbai's Sahitya Sahawas, went where no man had gone before.

As our economy began its majestic rise, the nation saw hope in this genius from Indian cricket's capital. Finally, we had a player who went after the impossible. If Gavaskar was the man who staved off defeat, Tendulkar was the prodigy who always eyed victory... he was the competitor who gave the opposition a taste of their own medicine. Cowed down for years, it was time for India to hit back, whether in business or on the cricket pitch — and hit back we did, with aplomb.

In Sachin, Indians saw the aggression of Richards, the technique of Gavaskar, and the heart of Kapil. And when he entertained them, they forgot their troubles, rooting for the "little bundle of dynamite" who made 'blond bombers' look pedestrian. For Sachin, failure was not an option. Old women prayed for him, executives skipped office, and an entire generation dreamt of becoming cricketers. While the 'Little Champion' was at the crease, there was always hope.

Carrying a super-heavy bat, synonymous with the burden of the nation he bore, he had his days on the pitch and as had our roaring economy. If there was desert storm in Sharjah where he single-handedly destroyed the Australian attack), then there was also the sensex crossing the 10,000 mark. 'Sensexational' said one TOI headline, 'Batman Begins' said another. Our forex reserves went up at the same speed with which 'Tendlya' accumulated hundreds. "We lost to Sachin," Aussie captain Steve Waugh once said.

As India's software engineers began putting their stamp on global markets, a resurgent Team India, inspired by Sachin, started doing something they had rarely done before — winning abroad. Once that barrier was breached, there was no looking back.

Of course, it's not just his batting talent that has always been revered (or the fact that he turns the ball more than any Indian spinner)...but also the humility that this magician brings to the turf. This is the same person who sits atop a mountain of advertizing cash. Remember the commercial where every kid wears a Sachin mask, or the one where the soundtrack screams 'Sachin aala re', echoing the thoughts of millions of Indians. Even now, he seems omnipresent.

Through the years, as India's economy gained momentum, the economy of the Tendulkar household didn't do too badly either. Sachin's pathbreaking multi-crore deal with WorldTel made him cricket's first millionaire. Not that he let it affect his game. He stayed in the zone, the monk with the Ferrari.

Now, 20 years after the reforms that transformed our sleeping economy into a crouching tiger, and ages after an enthusiastic boy convinced his skipper to let him open the innings, we are one of the two fastest growing big economies in the world, while that teen with the squeaky voice has become a legend. Still, when he goes out to bat, India holds its breath.

Batting for posterity
• Sachin has scored highest aggregate runs and maximum 100s and 50s in both Tests and ODIs game. He also holds the record of most 90s in ODI, getting out 18 times in the 90s
• Has hit 1,943 ODI and 1,892 Test fours, which is the highest for any batsman
• Played 177 Tests and 446 ODIs, the highest by any player
• His 21-year, 71-day career is the longest among current players as well as cricketers who have played more than 100 Tests
• Is the only player to score more than 1000 Test runs six times and 1000 ODI runs seven times in a calendar year
• In the 2002-03 ICC World Cup, he scored 673 runs, the highest for any player
• In 1998, he scored 1,894 runs in ODIs, the highest number of runs scored by any batsman in a calendar year
• Has scored 9 hundreds against Australia, the highest against any team by a single batsman
• Has scored 1,778 runs in the 42 innings he has played at the Sharjah Cricket Association Stadium in UAE, his highest on any ground
• Has faced 778 different bowlers, of whom 528 have failed to get him out even once
• Of the 250 bowlers who managed to get him out, Brett Lee has been the most successful, scalping him 14 times
• Sachin has scored 600 runs off Muralitharan, his highest off any bowler
• Has faced 47,788 balls in international cricket. This is equal to 7,965 overs
• In his over 21-year career, he has spent 1,145 hours on t

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