Sachin – Stuck on 99

I’m hardly a cricket fanatic – or an expert for that matter. No deep insights on whether Dhoni should have persisted with spin in the 44th over instead of taking a chance with pace. None of those nirvana-soaked discussions on why the yorker is better than the over-pitched delivery. I’d quietly slink out of any conversations that were threatening to get too detailed for my taste – or patience. Following the game on and off depending on whether India is losing or winning – that’s more like it. When India struck a losing streak in their recent tour of England, the TV wasn’t turned on very much at home. IPL is fun – football masquerading as cricket. It’s when the gentlemen of the game get down to being rowdies. Bend the rules so far back that the Englishmen wonder if the genteel game they played at 10 miles per hour has got a riotous subcontinental accent they do not recognise at all. A little like Saurav Ganguly appearing half- naked in the stands at Lord’s in the middle of all the ‘propahly’ dressed Englishmen, swirling his shirt in the air, giving the whole opposition the metaphorical finger. Half naked Indians have always been the English nation’s Waterloo – Gandhi or Saurav.

But what strikes me as strange is the national obsession with Sachin Tendulkar’s hundredth hundred. He’s got 99 of the damn things and come perilously close several times to crossing the line for the hundredth time. But he’s paused, hemmed and hawed, fallen out of form, got out on the verge of crossing it so many times, it’s a national pastime – Will he? Won’t he? TV Channels get themselves into a bind – panel after panels of experts are constituted and they hold forth on why Sachin has failed to make it until now and when he is most likely to. Each one ends up with egg on the face. The simple fact is no one is sure when and how it is going to happen. When it happens, we’ll all get drunk and commend the nation on having produced the world’s greatest batsman since Don Bradman. But can we move on and not worry about it so much?

At the end of the day, it’s another statistic. Fine, this is an important one – the batsman with the highest number of centuries in the world has a nice ring to it. A Hundred Hundreds. But it’s just another number. I remember the ‘millennial frenzy’ the world got into about Dec 31st, 1999. As if we were going to feel more civilized, more alive, more modern. We worried about how we were going to write ’00 on the cheques the next morning. There was this thing that a lot of Indian Information Technology companies made mountains of money out of – the millennial bug that would freeze out our computers, our weapon systems and the world in general. But on Jan 1st, nothing happened. The world looked pretty much the same, at least the world we knew. Nothing crashed, nothing burned. Sure Sachin will hit that mark. Now can we let his bat do the talking instead of our mouths?