I was over-Googling Sachin Tendulkar today, and I came across a piece in the archives of Outlook magazine, a cover story by the historian Ram Guha on the fraught and loaded question of How History Will Judge Tendulkar.
...That he is so marvellously cool about this is perhaps the most remarkable thing about him. His gifts of character, if anything, exceed his cricketing gifts. Look into yourself, dear reader, and examine afresh how you react to a child who wails at night, to a hard disk that crashes when you are finishing a book, to an examination paper that is to be answered at eight the next morning. We routinely respond with anger or dis-belief to the most trivial tests of character. Yet this man meets with complete equanimity the intensely magnified and completely unfair expectations of a billion of his countrymen.
It was written eleven years ago.
A word for MS Dhoni. It takes a spine of steel to be batting the last balls of an innings with Sachin at the other end of the crease on 199. His concentration never wavered, neither did his determination. He stood there and racked up boundaries and sixes in spite of the fact that the entire stadium, the entire country, was yelling at him to give Tendulkar the strike. He had his eye on the team's score and he pulled it past 400. It was great batting, great, professional teamwork, and great captaincy. I've said it before: Dhoni is an emblem of this point in India's cricketing history, and he is everything we have hoped for in a successful batsman and a captain. We are lucky to have him.
It's now complicated to feel this way about Sachin. Can someone like that belong to you, to your team, to your time? Beyond a point, isn't all of that just chauvinism? Isn't it only that you are letting some part of you be defined by the fact that you are of their time? Sport cannot define a nation and its character. It's just love that nourishes those fantasies. Last night, Tendulkar said, "I do not know how to react to this but I would like to dedicate this double hundred to all the people of India who stood with me for the last 20 years and supported me no matter what. There have been ups and downs, but they stood behind me."
But you stood behind us, too. That's what we meant to say when we yelled at Dhoni to give you the strike.