The collective sigh of a nation can be deafening, and the attention of millions can be blinding, but Tendulkar, a mortal from Mumbai, overpowers this distraction with Yoda-like yogic powers.
He wields the cricket bat just like Yoda does the light saber. Like the Star Wars Jedi, the cricketer either does or does not; there is no try.
We all know the statistics — the imminent two hundred Tests, a hundred international hundreds, fifty thousand career runs — but what’s the point of repeating all of them. In sport, admittedly, greatness is often defined by numbers. Tennis player Roger Federer will be defined by his 17 Grand Slam singles titles; Boxer Rocky Marciano will be remembered for his stellar 49-0 record; chess genius Garry Kasparov will be immortalised by his 255-consecutive-months as World No 1.
But with each of these champions, we err in associating them with numbers. I suspect we might end up committing the same mistake in Tendulkar’s case.
For, the thing about the 40-year-old cricketer is not numbers. It is not about his second-innings record; neither is it about his 22-match centuryless streak.
It is about the silence that grips a stadium when the umpire raises his finger to send him back to the dressing room.
It is about the high-fives we give our friends when he hits that exquisite backfoot cover drive. It is about the chairs broken from the jumping after he hits a century. It is about the hugs we give each other when we win the World Cup.
It is about the hope he provides us when he triumphs over his shortcomings, and it is about the despair that envelopes us when he fails.
Tendulkar is us.
This Collector’s Issue is about exactly those moments. It is not about mere numbers, but about the exhilaration Tendulkar gave us all through these years, seen through MiD DAY’s pages.
Next month, he retires. And as the umpire’s dreaded index finger is raised to send him back the one last time some day between Nov 14 and 18, this country will experience a range of emotions — a stunned silence, a resounding applause, a billion teardrops and a billion smiles.
Who wouldn’t trade this for all the money in the world?