New Delhi: Fans put him on the same pedestal as God, worship him, probably disregard that he is human. For them, he is never-ending, an immortal. And for those who forget that he has a heart under his flesh, Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar – the cricket God – weeping beside the remains of Sathya Sai Baba offered a reality check.
One can hardly blame the sighs of millions as they could never imagine tears rolling down the cheeks of a man who brings smiles to faces. After all, these same people had been witness to the Tendulkar of 1999 World cup whose desire to play couldn't be held back even by the death of his father, midway through the tournament.
He happens to be the same kid who traded teenage mischief for hours under the sun, trying to straighten that elbow in shadow practice. Comparison to Sir Don Bradman, while in early 20s, would have puffed up anybody’s chest with pride but for Sachin, it was like a binocular that helped him zoom in on what he wanted next.
We can't question the devoutness of his fans for missing the man behind the cricketing gear. The endless joy his game, humility and unpretentious demeanour brought to his fans was bound to raise him from Sachin ‘the cricketer’ to Sachin ‘the deity’, who shall be worshipped for the rest of their lives.
An on-field sledging will be answered with a boundary, followed by a nod of gratitude. An off-field criticism will be humbly taken into stride, better still poetically framed: "When people throw stones at you, you turn them into milestones."
But the cricketing God pleads he is still just a paper page behind the hardbound covers. "I don't react on the ground. But I give vent to my feeling at home," said Sachin at a function earlier this year, indicating that he too is just human.
And you don’t need a magnified view to see that, feel that. That emotion-filled hug to Yuvraj Singh on winning the World Cup, that pale face after the ignominious ouster from 2007 World Cup, that sombre walk after his early dismissal in the 2003 World Cup final and of late, when he had a lump in his throat while grieving at the departure of his Spiritual Guru on his birthday. All of these suggest that beneath the immortal exterior lies the frail soul that – just like all the mortals – gets dented by sorrow, buoyed by happiness and feels a hollow at the loss of dear ones.