Thank you is too small a word really. Yesterday tears rolled down my cheeks when I saw you struggle, pause, choke, struggle through your speech to convey your thanks to the people who really mattered in helping you realise a dream. If not for them perhaps you would have been doing a 9-5 office routine balancing most things in life like a large majority of us do living a domestic civil life.
But then you were cut out for something special, by no means was your life just fun and frolic but I absolutely understand the hours of practice you put in, the sweat, your crazy craving for perfection, the insecurities when it came to choices which you made perfectly at all stages that you got to live a dream that was not just your’s but of a lot of others. Not just that you told a lot of us growing up kids that there is hope, that you can play and still make a life. For me you signified hope, you inspired us, you provided joy, lifted us up on numerous occasions and took a brunt of our expectations on your shoulders.
My growing years and your career almost together I have followed most of your career and there are some unbelievable memories.
Your batting in Pakistan against Waqar/Wasim/Imran even after being hit in the nose and bleeding told us that you were not going to be rattled, however, we had quite a few gritty players before you and so whilst we felt that you were not one to throw in the towel we still didn’t know how special you were. But then it was only the beginning and you were just 16. Then came your century in England which perhaps told you that you were to be here for a while and be a part of Indian cricket for a while.
But then better things awaited, for me your defining moment came in our disastrous tour of Australia and even more significantly when you smashed that 100 in Perth, the worlds fastest pitch, the rowdy Aussie fast bowlers and we Indian’s always dreaded the thought of Perth. Perth signified terror for us. To see you score that hundred, defy the bowlers and actually scintillate and dominate was something we Indian’s had never seen an Indian do. Unfortunately this being a team sport we didn’t win much then, but you gave us hope, that we could dominate. Though we lived in the subcontinent and the pitches here didn’t bounce it was not a deterrent for us to go and play around the world, not just play and compete but dominate.
The word ‘Dominate’ was rarely used for Indian cricket, I may be wrong, but I cannot remember too much of the word Dominate being used for any Indian Batsman overseas. Yes, they scored runs, grinded the opposition out and eeked out a ton but watching you Punch of the backfoot through cover, Hook, Pull, Square cut was a completely wonderful feeling. I guess after that tour of Australia you and the whole world knew that you are here to stay for a long long time.
Over that long decade you provided with so many memories that its difficult to list them down, we cried with you in Chennai in that pain staking century which ended in a defeat and we were thrilled when you raised a desert storm in Sharjah. I can for one never forget even more than your performances your dedication to your sport and the hours you put in practice. For me the tale of you preparing for the 1998 tour of Australia, with L Sivaramankrishnan bowling to you around the wicket with the pitch dug up told me volumes of how much you worked at your craft. The innings of 155* that followed where you collared and completely obliterated ‘The Warne Myth’ is what every one remembers and is stuff of legends. However, the hard work you put in for that performance to follow is what defines you for me.
I hated it when people called you lucky, you weren’t, you damn worked your ass off for your successes and I salute that effort you put in day in and day out.
Innumerable memories will remain and I for one cannot even imagine what you might do without playing cricket. I guess your love for the game can be second to none, what came out in your entire playing career was your sheer passion, enthusiasm and love for the game. I hope and wish you a very good time ahead and hope you can find something to engage with equally passionately in your life ahead.
For me and an entire generation you were a Superman, a dream, an inspiration and gave us a lot of reasons to smile, feel joyous on a tough day and I would actually like to thank you for that.