(This post by the author also appears on Cricketcountry.com)
As Virender Sehwag bulldozed his way to the world record score, the entire country – and the large pockets of Indians worldwide – went delirious with excitement. There was a kind of innocence with which the balls were brutally blasted to all corners of the ground, slaughtering strokeplay purified by the fire that seemed to scorch the Holkar Cricket Ground.
What followed in the aftermath of such a fantastic milestone paints a rather mottled picture of the nature of cricket following in India. There were truckloads of accolades and applause that framed the monumental achievement with deserving and sparkling embellishments. However, there was also in equal proportion that age old propensity of the Indian cricket fan to dip a landmark in the murky green colours of comparison in order to tarnish some of the glittering gemstones in the treasury of the sport.
Instead of savouring the moment and allowing the goose-pimples to deliciously die down along with the reverberating echoes of the tremendous strokes of the Najafgarh maestro, out came the self-appointed cult of cricket activists who claim to live to keep the game supposedly clear of the vicious tentacles of individualism and cabalistic blasphemies.
Quite quixotically, Sachin Tendulkar, miles away from the action, peacefully flying through the skies on his way to Australia, started popping up in posts, articles and comments. For many it was a triumph of the sport against the passion for individual glory as represented by the adulation for Tendulkar and his achievements. For some ridiculous armchair metaphysicians, it was proof that man could triumph over ‘God’. The glee of these peculiar perverts, thrown up in ever increasing numbers by the game in this curious country, had to be seen and read to be believed. A floated joke about Tendulkar being the new holder of the world record for the slowest double century soon began to be taken seriously and started doing rounds as the fabricated sense of righteous indignation against the man who had broken the 200-run barrier. Well, if a 147-ball 200 can be criticised for slowness, I will live with it.
While the end result was simply that Sehwag scored a brilliant world record-setting 219, and India won the match and series comprehensively, this ridiculous reaction produced comical self-referencing paradoxes engineered by the guardians of the game, the national and the theological keepers of Indian cricket.
It is striking evidence that these very followers of the game cannot rise beyond the limits of individual fanaticism. Their enjoyment of the brilliance of Sehwag came a poor second to their endless endeavour to tar and feather the achievements of the greatest Indian batsman of all time. The country and the cause of India are simply excuses for these sickly souls to rise up in diabolical debasement of a hero.
And by calling upon the spirit of an absent soul, someone traversing the heavens in the direction of Down Under, these very scattered groups riddled with the hate gene did ensure that the little master was bestowed with powers of omnipresence.
It was these very critics through their own vested interests, in order to throw malicious mud on his path-breaking performances, who presented the abilities of god to the man. Tendulkar absent seemed to exercise a more powerful influence than Tendulkar present, a defining benchmark for a God.
Would it not have been simpler to revel in the glory of two Indians owning the record for the top two scores in One-Day International cricket? Much as Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid own the top two aggregates in Test match cricket as well?
Can we imagine Australian fans reacting in this way if Michael Clarke broke some record of Ricky Ponting? Or the English if Jimmy Anderson went past some landmark set by Ian Botham?
Ah well … there continue to be some things which happen only in India.