On the 18th of November, 2013, Sachin Tendulkar will retire from cricket for the 46th time, leaving a crotch-shaped hole in the hearts of die-hard fans who will no longer have the pleasure of cribbing about how “yaar he should retire only what does he think he is Advani or what.” Well-wishers say that this will be a welcome change for Sachin and that he’ll get to spend some time at home with his kids because really, that’s what teenagers want – their dad to be home all the time.
Just like everybody else my age, I will make this retirement about me, and feel sad about how a permanent fixture from my childhood might now be relegated to a studio full of forced smiles and earplugs, as Sidhu blares on about how GURUUU THE PITCH IS BOUNCY LIKE A COKED UP PUNJABI IN A NIGHT CLUB ON A TRAMPOLINE OYE! Adding to this are reports about Sachin’s supposed demands for his last test at Wankhede, like a commemorative painting, free tickets and slow full-tosses down the leg side.
Some sections of the press had reported that Sachin wanted a portrait, which would have been difficult for any artist. Think about it. Could Da Vinci have painted the Mona Lisa if the model kept fidgeting and making a gentleman’s adjustment every six seconds? No, Da Vinci would have chosen a different subject and as a result, people at the Louvre today would spend hours staring at a painting of a bowl of fruit. (Okay fine, a bowl of fat naked fruit.) And if there was ever a portrait of Sachin as done by the BCCI, it would just be a picture of a pile of gold-plated dollars, painted using the tears of Vinod Kambli.
In addition to this, there will be cut-outs all over the premises, highlighting key moments from Sachin’s career, so you can expect one of Shane Warne in a ballerina outfit because nyah nyah nyah Desert Storm. Also, Sachin has reportedly asked for 500 tickets, 300 of which are in the North Stand, where fans will offer tributes by singing about Pakistani anatomy. Not that there will be too many fans buying tickets in the first place. Out of the 33,500 seats at Wankhede, only 4000 will be allocated to the general public, with the rest reserved for MCA officials, BCCI officials, VIPs, celebrities and their support staff i.e. agents, stylists, spotboys, drug dealers, plus the clubs associated with the MCA (of which there are 367 – apparently the criteria for association is that you must own a functioning hand which you can pretend is a bat).
It’s the same for Sachin’s 199th test at Eden Gardens, where only 5000 tickets will be made available to the general public. Ridiculous. You’ll find that many cricket fans standing outside an electronics store on any given day. And that’s just during the toss. At a Liberia-Somalia match.
I can’t imagine so much drama and effort going into any other player’s farewell. This will never happen with, say, Virat Kohli, because you can’t have a stadium decorated with giant cut-outs of middle-fingers. And you’d never, ever see this royal treatment for non-cricketing sportspeople. For example, it’s going to be different when Dhanraj Pillay hangs up all his boots:
Government: As a celebration of your fine career, we hereby gift you one bottle of water.
Government: It’s actually a bottle of Dhoni’s sweat.
It’s nice how the reports make it sound like Sachin’s last five cricketing days are going to be a party. They’re probably not. It’s a test match, and sure, once in a while, test matches are glorious goosebump-inducing battles (usually on the evening of the fifth day, when Pakistan or Steve Waugh is in town, and the whole game has been directed by Michael Bay). But otherwise the most exciting part of a test match is when you stave off sleep by injecting caffeine directly into your eyeballs. (Note: This does not work if Manjrekar is in the commentary box.)
But everything said and done, Sachin will always be considered god, especially in Mumbai, which means that his team mates will parade him on their shoulders while dancing to Sheela Ki Jawaani and then dunk him in the sea. The only difference is that he won’t return next year. I think.
(Note: This is my HT column dated 27th Oct, 2013.)