I do not know how to address this letter, simply because, you always have been a kind of “hidden” figure for me. Growing up in an era graced with the very presence of Sachin Tendulkar, the man we consider as our God; your involvement in the game seemed secondary for us devotees.
Now when I look back, all those times shine yet again, to show me your equal greatness which might have been a bit overshadowed by one man’s presence. Yet I am amazed, that all these years have not faded you; instead you have become that support, that anchor, that wall who has stood tall and become clearer than ever.
A year ago, when critics and cricket fanatics had written you off and fans sighed at your poor form, you have not only bounced back this year with a great performance but showed every cricket follower of what stuff you are made of. As opposed to Sachin, who midst great fanfare has tumbled records and added some of his own; you have been that silent killer, patiently biding your time, playing your natural game, slowly & surely moving towards pinnacles of perfection. You have been awe-inspiring, indeed.
When I first came to know that you were chosen as the first player outside Australian subcontinent to deliver the Bradman Oration; my first thought was – Why you? Why not Sachin? While as a die-hard Sachin fan my emotions fall perfectly in their place; right now, let me tell you, I am embarrassed of accepting this. When I first read your speech at the Bradman Oration, I had goosebumps on my arms. It took almost 5 mins after I finished reading to finally snap back into reality. I read it. Re-read it. Re-read it again. Re-re-read it and in 48 hours I have been basking in the glory of those sentences….smiling inwardly at those little anecdotes you sprinkled along the way….thinking seriously about the issues you put forth and watching awe-struck at the finesse you displayed while delivering this speech. You have left me spell-bound. It takes a lot of courage for a Sachin fan like me to accept that you, Rahul, have conquered a place in my heart and earned a respect so great that it will last a lifetime. Your speech and the video has become my daily fodder since.
I absolutely loved your opening para – “We cricketers devote the better part of our adult lives to being prepared to perform for our countries, to persist and compete as intensely as we can – and more. This building, however, recognizes the men and women who lived out the words – war, battle, fight – for real and then gave it all up for their country, their lives left incomplete, futures extinguished.”
It shows your strength of character in such a way that I can’t help but admire & feel proud of the fact that I am an Indian.
The issues that you have put forth have made people sit up and take things seriously. Now whether something will be done about it, who knows….but at least you have given them something to ponder on. When I was younger, I always used to have a blast with my friends watching matches, enjoying them, playing our own version of cricket….While, I still enjoy discussing, watching & playing cricket with them; Sadly, most of my friends have been distanced from the game feeling that there has been too much of it lately and it has lost its original charm. It sometimes scares me and makes me wonder that this one thing that fills a spark in my life may one day suddenly vanish from my life too; especially when I think about Sachin’s retirement.
However, cricket has been so much of religion for me; losing it will be like losing my identity as a person and my meaning as a die-hard fan. Cricket has been family. Not a commercial bandwagon but a sentimental roller-coaster that I believe fuels not only mine but millions of other lives all over the world.
And yes; as you say, it is this generation that has the power to re-write history, to set a tradition to honor the game and come to terms with the fact that players will come and go but the game will truly live on…
Your bold decision of quitting one day internationals especially at a time when the selectors were just realizing your mettle; was indeed commendable. You showed them that you aren’t a puppet to be pushed around. You command a respect that is as unparallel as the devotion that Sachin receives. Just because you have been a quiet and humble player throughout cricketing history doesn’t mean that you are dumb. But it actually means you exhibit an intelligence so profound, that few even have the capacity to grasp it. Recently, when you were felicitated for being the second highest run scorer in Test history, my heart swells with pride to realize what rare gems this Indian soil has produced.
Being a person of few words, the long speech you delivered gave us a glimpse of your intense passion for the game…the reverence you showed while uttering Sir Don’s name and the genuine warmth you displayed when you mentioned Sachin shows us the purity of your heart. The elegance, the poise, the perfection, the humbleness you display while batting truly puts you in a class of your own and you applied the same rule during this speech and touched our hearts in such an intimate way, that I feel a deep sense of affection towards you.
I came across the poster below while searching for your photos online. For once, I am not annoyed that it shows Sachin in a lesser light than you; instead I am amused as to why I didn’t realize before the importance of this simple statement.
Rahul, you are yet another person I would like to thank after Sachin for showing me what cricket is all about. For being that “lambi race ka ghoda” we all momentarily forgot. For being an inspiration…..a legend….a man that we have all come to respect. If it’s “utmost devotion” for Sachin, it’s “genuine respect” for you. If it’s “unconditional love” for Sachin, it’s “undying trust” for you. If it’s “pure admiration” for Sachin, it’s definitely a “standing ovation” for you for being the man we all look upto.
I always joke with my friends that if Sachin Tendulkar came in front of me, I probably wouldn’t know what to say because I would definitely pass out cold with the euphoria of seeing him in the front of me. While, the same wouldn’t apply when I see you Rahul; I would certainly bend and touch the ground you walked upon. My love for Sachin probably doesn’t leave a space for anyone else but my respect for you has increased ten-fold, perhaps more and it’s one thing that I as a fan can sincerely give you.
I will dedicate this post to all your true fans and encourage my Sachin fans to read this too. ‘coz as people you two may be as different as chalk and cheese but inherently there is something divine in both of you.
And if at all, you ever come across this letter, let me tell you, I mirror the words of a much larger crowd. And I stand in front you with folded hands, praying to a man we never dubbed as god but worshiped all the same……a man we never understood……a man who lived in shadows yet one day unknowingly became greater than it that we had to stand up and take notice….a wall that we could never tear down…
With lots of respect, admiration & awe,
A fan whose loyalties you just earned for life