No more worlds to conquer

“When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer.”

Sachin Tendulkar does not have this problem, as he seems to break records and expand the limits of what is possible in our best loved game on a regular basis.

Today at Bangalore, on Day 2 of the 2nd Test against Australia, he punched Nathan Hauritz through the covers for 4 and became the first man in history to reach 14000 Test runs. In January this year he passed the 13000 mark. Altogether, his international runs exceed 30000.

Those are just crazy numbers. It’s like Monopoly money. Genius sets its own goals, redefines its own standards of greatness, dismantles them, and sets them again. It is genius that ordinary mortals can barely find words for beyond the same oft-used clichés, because Sachin is better at cricket than most of us will ever be at anything.

There is no flash or bluster about The Little Master. You wonder whether achievement piled upon achievement, records set from the day he took guard in international cricket as a 16-year-old, have jaded him. How much can one man possibly achieve before the extraordinary becomes commonplace? When fans in the crowd hold up placards saying “God is at the crease”, “Keep silent, Sachin is batting”, when the howl of a crowd thirty thousand strong reaches a roaring crescendo as the bowler starts his run and you wait for that delivery that could be right for dispatching to the boundary en route to another milestone… how long do you have to be the best at what you do before you ever get used to that?

He goes quietly about his business with the bat, letting the weight of runs and the beauty of his strokeplay speak for him. It is only afterwards, when questioned, that he tells you honestly and modestly exactly what each achievement means to him. “Last 20 years I have pushed myself really hard. Challenges are always going to be there for me. All I need to do is to focus as hard as possible, work on my fitness, lead a disciplined life and use my body cleverly. When I started playing, I didn’t think of all these things. God has been really kind. I’m enjoying every moment.”

He gives as one of the keys to his success the fact that he still enjoys the game, and that the ball still finds the middle of the bat. The ball finds the middle of his bat with such consistency because, after a difficult period accompanied by injury, India’s failure in the World Cup of 2007 and critics like Ian Chappell questioning his place in the team, he is arguably now in the best form of his life.

Sachin is 37 years old. In the words of Indiana Jones, “it’s not the age; it’s the mileage”.

There is a lot of mileage under Tendulkar’s belt, and one hell of a lot of runs.

And he isn’t finished yet. Because just when it seems there are no more worlds for Tendulkar to conquer, he goes and finds another one.

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