The whole nation waited for the moment with bated breath. And when Sachin Tendulkar nudged the ball into one of the gaps to complete his 50th Test century, the collective sigh of relief let out by a billion Indians was loud enough to be heard by curious aliens on distant planets. The loudest sigh was probably from the man of the moment himself. Too many times has he touched a new high, never known to the cricket statistician.
|Boyish smile through graying beard|
For all his mammoth achievements and noise made about it, the curious aliens mentioned above might think that Sachin looks like the standard issue Spartan warrior, tall and muscular, running with his spear towards certain death; deafening roar included. No sir! He has a particularly meek voice, much to the delight of local mimics. He is small and portly, with a boyish smile even at the age when his speckled chin reminds us of his age. And no, never had even two ab muscles surfaced through his midriff, forget the 12-packs. Today, the battle-veteran stands taller than everyone else and more feared as a batsman than when he was young and hotblooded. His opponents will admit that he is among the smallest and most harmless looking men to have ever given them sleepless nights. . If his glory isn't of 'Everlasting' grade already, now it will be, after the Golden Century.
Yet, the actual moment defied the traditional visions of glory. He ended up on the losing side, and the defeat was nothing less than ignominious for a team sitting at the top of the ratings table. Unbelievably, the Golden Century had to come on a day when not many people bet on Sachin reaching the 100-mark. I too was one of the skeptics.
As the moment neared, I found myself at my tailor's in Andheri West keenly following the score update on Cricinfo mobile, juggling the trials simultaneously. The closer Sachin edged to the landmark, the desire to watch the match kept growing. I wanted the memory to be like the one I have for his 200* in ODIs. That day, the entire workplace came to a standstill and everyone on the floor gathered to watch it on a TV in a fancy corner cabin of a generous higher-up. It was a great memory, and I thought the much-awaited Golden Century deserved a similar treatment. I hurriedly got out of the place and jogged along two kilometers to reach home, brushing past thousands of Sunday shoppers and dodging a million vehicles on the bridge to East. Looking for a rickshaw was useless in that traffic. I reached home as soon as I could and Sachin reached 97 as soon as he could (he hit a six and raced from 89 to 95!). I immediately rushed to the PC in the hope of finding an internet uplink.
Yes, you read it right. I went to the PC, not TV. Coz, the cable guy did it again! The enterprising peddler of faulty TV signals didn't pay the piddly subscription for Ten Cricket. He was airing it illegally all the time, and was forced to switch off when the big matches started.
Let us pause here for a moment, and ask a question. What is the price you will pay to attain Everlasting Glory? Whole life, Sachin will tell you.
Which brings us to another important question, what price will you pay to witness Everlasting Glory?
I went to the PC in a desperate search of illegal uplinks. First four google searches were duds. Time was ticking, may be Sachin already hit a four and attained his destiny! I didn't want to be the guy who missed it by a whisker. Luckily, the fifth link was succesful, but the video was buffering like Dravid's scoring rate.
All of a sudden, there it was, the fuzzy pixelated image of the demi-god himself. I wasn't sure what the score was. I caught him in the act of gently nudging the ball into a gap. There was a thundering roar. He ran the single and raised his bat. I was there!!! I caught him at the exact moment (ignoring the buffer lag) of Everlasting Glory. I was glad all my efforts didn't go waste and I made it to the moment of the Golden Century. Hurrrraaahh!
Crazy cricket fans, yeah? Oh, there are crazier ones,believe me!
Prince, my colleague at office told me his story. His cable had the match on, but the TV was in his parents' control. All he had was the office laptop, with no speakers. He tuned into the netcast of the match, without the sound while his infant son and wife were sleeping in the same room.
But what's a match without the crowd roaring and the commentators' drivel, eh? The never-say-die cricket fan in him came up with the solution. FM radio commentary on his mobile phone added sound to the video on his laptop. There he was, happily watching pixelated Sachin bat carefully while a hindi commentator gave the 'aankho-dekhi' of it. So what if the audio and video were not synced properly? Don't you remember the good old days of power cuts, when you pricked your ears for commentary on your neighbour's pocket transistor? All the visual you were getting was that of a kerosene lamp then.
What really mattered was, he was there too when the Golden Century came. He burnt a good batch of microwave Dhokla in the process much to the chagrin of his wife. All in the day's work for a criket fan!
I'll ask the question again. What price will you pay to witness Everlasting Glory? Think for moment before you answer that question, because it isn't as cheap as subscription charges for the sports channel.