Son, what do you want to be when you grow up?
Sachin Tendulkar, came the prompt & confident reply.
Yes, not an engineer, or doctor or even a cricketer. Just Sachin Tendulkar!
And I am not talking about me or any particular kid, I am talking of every child of India who grew up watching this baby faced, squeaky voiced batting maestro. For the 24 years that he graced cricket pitch with, he inspired every Indian child to be like him.
Every gully cricket team played with 11 Tendulkars. Every one wanted to open the batting, had a MRF labelled bat in possession, crouched and gave a full grin in their stance, and acknowledging the crowd with a tilted bat, trying to copy every move of our idol. It is not as if didn’t like other cricketers. We admired Ganguly, Dravid, Kumble & Azhar too but Sachin was held in different level of respect. While others were adored, Sachin was worshiped. When India reached the final of World Cup in 2011 which was supposed to be his last World Cup,1 billion people prayed for an Indian victory, not because of their obsession with the trophy but only so that their childhood superhero could achieve his own childhood dream and grab the most coveted trophy of International Cricket in his hands.
While Sachin switched the brands he endorsed, our kitchen’s started filling with empty bottles of Milo & Boost, as we hoped to make the secret of his energy, ours too.
One instance that I particularly remember of how much influence he had on my childhood was when my father weaved a story around Sachin to make me drink milk. I was a stubborn child and used to hate milk. My father, quite a marketing guy that he is made me sit down and narrated a story.
He said, do you know when Sachin was small he was so fond of milk that everyday after coming back from school, he used to ask his mom for a glass full of milk with honey. Seeing him do that, his best pal Vinod Kambli also used to follow the suit and ask his mom to give him millk with ample of honey. I immediately turned to my mom and asked her to bring me glassful of milk with honey in order to ensure I did everything from my end to become Sachin Tendulkar. 15 years have passed since that happened and my love for Sachin and milk with honey stands strong.
The misconception of sports not being a credible career line in India was demolished by Sachin. Parents were happy to see their children turn to cricket as a career hoping to be the next Sachin Tendulkar as they admired him too.
While many sports stars across the globe failed to be an ideal role model for children due to media reports of them being obsessed with the glamour of star life and stories of their nightlife, feuds, haughtiness & misbehavior, I don’t quite remember if I ever heard any negative press publicity against Sachin who in spite of being the biggest star of them all remained humble, focused and hard working towards the only thing that he loved in his life i.e Cricket and was known to be a good family man.
At 21 years of age, I am long past my childhood. I have taken a career option which treads far far away from cricket. But as my childhood hero takes his finally walk into the dressing room leaving the whole nation teary eyed, I can still find so much lo learn from the master blaster and move forward in my life.
MS Dhoni, current skipper of Indian Cricket Team shared the same sentiment in the post match ceremony saying, “I think it’s the biggest match in the cricketing history. It’s something we won’t witness again. Thank you Sachin for being such a role model for all of us. Not only as a cricketer, but the way he has led his life, he is a role model for all.”