He is revered world over, but worshipped in India. Yes he’s better known for a century of centuries but there he did have a fair share of battles……on the field, off the field and at times in the head. He prevailed over most and lost a few, but it was enough to offset the negatives. Here’s a look at some of the finest battles and milestones that marked the glorious 24 years.
#Ripples: A splendid partnership, Endorsement and gifts from a legend, A grandslam of debut centuries in Domestic cricket, Smashing Kapil Dev over his head in nets, Destroying Abdul Qadir for 4 sixes…….. The ripples that created waves
# Welcome to the big boys’ league (Boys don’t cry): An unforgettable debut. Staring at intimidation- eye to eye, taking the challenge chip-up and not to forget the bleeding nose. Way to start your dream. Guts tested and glory defined.
#First of the lot: A ton in Manchester, saved the team the blushes. Still a kid.
# To the land down under: A long love affair. It was perhaps love at first side. There was mutual respect and admiration amid the typical Aussie banter. A lost cause, but the 2 glorious tons were enough to validate the hypothesis that the kid was indeed special.
#Up north in Yorkshire: Where foreigners were not welcome, there was a red carpet waiting. Performing in the den of the great Len Hutton. Yorkshire is where the tough rise from and rise he did! Only the first overseas player to be drafted, he did not disappoint anyone, barring the opposition.
#The first Safari: A memorable knock…off side laden, but it was touted as his weakness, with nothing on offer on the legs for charity. Perfect test of composure.
# Cup in colours: The first world cup in coloured clothing and the first for the little man. India disappointed immensely but the prodigal son left his mark. It was here that it was established that the expectations were never going to be a burden. Glimpses of flamboyance, but when you bat down the order you are entitled to some.
# Last over Hero: Had the tenacity to snatch the balls out of his captain’s hands and bowl India to a nail-biting victory against the very powerful South Africans. A double edged sword, it was a gamble but more importantly faith in self that came to fore.
# Opening up: A chance grabbed by both hands in New Zealand. Made hay while the sun shone bright. Opening up was the mantra from here on for the reserved fella.
# The dominator announced: At Sharjah we saw glimpses of aggression unseen. A tweak in style, delight for fans and torrid for opponents. The pitches were flat, but the intent went with him where they were green and bouncy thereafter.
#Swift Windies at home: They were the top dogs then. Brutal and mean. Rolling like a juggernaut. Matched up bouncer to bouncer, challenge to challenge. Posted career best score. Brian Charles Lara was a much hotter property then, having notched highest test and first class scores. Catching up was the name of the game and boy did he do well!
#Heartbreak: 1996, when the cup came to India… It was a time of unrealistic hopes, that too when you depend on one man a bit too much. Managed a long way ahead, won the match that was bigger than the cup, but lost an easy chance. Was the best performer by miles.
# A captain, rather young: Captaining a eleven on field and a billion off it, it has been the most coveted yet most feared title in sports in India. You win, you are the jewel of the nation, you loose and life’s miserable……just a sport, mind you. Doing the honours at 23 was a tad too soon. India did not do well and more importantly his own form dipped.
# Beating the best: Titan cup. The only feather in the cap while marshalling his troops
# Donald duck: A chink in the armour exposed and exploited by the white lighting. A glittering ton in Cape Town was a fitting reply. Engrossing encounters, but lost a bit too often.
#Too gentle to handle: The trouble caused by gentle-medium pacers got highlighted. Hansie Cronje and Dion Nash had a bunny.
#Fasting in Carribean: A certain victory turns into a torrid loss. No food for a day for the man. Went foodless for a day in anger, Fasting is no solution to hunger.
#The nasty neighbors: In the forbidden land, got pelted by stones and missiles(not the jet type). Lost on field, but won hearts.
# Driving from the backseat: Left captaincy and the stats supported the call. The wisden year beckoned. Destroyed Aussies at Home, gave Shane Warne nightmares and became Australia’s biggest nemesis
# Storm in the desert: Sharjah and the world saw demolition job par excellence. Taming the kangaroos is no child’s play. Who said cricket is a team sport? One man sure is enough. A birthday well spent.
# Loss of a lifetime: Missing from the World cup to attend to a severe blow from destiny. A mentally strong and resolute person emerged, supported a white grille for a change and became a critic’s nightmare.
#Making it large: First of the 6 double tons. Silenced those who questioned the ability to get big scores.
#Back at charge: Taking responsibility is mature, but to some it just does not come naturally. Realized the limitations as a leader in principal, got back to being a leader on the stats-book and scoreboard.
#The Don’s clan: Official induction into a hall of fame like none. Personally acknowledged by the Don as the next best thing. An honour bigger than any other.
#Thunder down under: Dismal performance, dubious decisions, personal attacks and failure. Can’t tame a pack of dogs like gentlemen. The shell gave way to a more positive outlook.
#The backbone shattered: Issues with the back, question marks over hooks and pulls- the jam and cheese of a batting great.
#The Fab Four
It was during this time that the Fab 4 started contributing in tandem. They guided India to glorious victories
#Stumped for once: Once and for once only in Tests. Never again. Was not the natural self, compounded by self doubts.
#Playing second fiddle: The Laxman-Harbhajan series, played the supporting act for a change. A change in the surroundings, got company absent previously at the middle. Change in fortunes.
#Getting good at Gamesmanship: Sledged McGrath for a change at Nairobi…..for the records, was not provoked this time!
#Honing a clone: A masterpiece with a clone of sorts. Bloemfontein was never the same again and imitation is indeed an effective form of flattery. Looked like a teacher giving the student a lecture on execution and the student reverts with full marks in practicals. Saw the first signs of a feature that was to be regular in the wide array of shots- The uppercut.
#Playing with the ball: Not in the usual fashion, but on the charges of ball tampering….caught on camera nailing the seam. Yes the BCCI showed how it would bully the world in future
#Bright in Blighty: In England, had the series of a lifetime. Looked at his peak and technically flawless.
#The crushed toe: No, the ball did not do it, but the toil had him. Troubled on and off.
#Now or Never: In South Africa, with a bandwagon that fought like champions till the final frontier. Contributed significantly, but not all alone. Yes the team sport finally lived up to its name.
#The unnatural beauty: Curbed the enthusiasm to play on off side. Lacked charisma, but made up with efficacy. A double ton to remember and a series to remember, Australia it was.
#Back to Where it all began: Good neighborhood starts with winning hearts. Yes the series was wrapped up as a complimentary gift. Played pace like breeze. The nerves were calm and composure was apt.
#Tennis the menace: Got the dreaded elbow
#35th milestone- Top of the mountain: Took a while to come, but graced it at Kotla with elbow ban intact
# A dip in the curve: Questions and questions, struggled with answers. Legs shaking….a sign of the END-ulkar? Not quite…..
#carribean cruise that sunk: A good combination of youth and experience. Shrewd Chappell at helms, where could the strategy go wrong? On the field perhaps…
#Don’t take your eyes off the ball: Took the eyes off the ball and got hit on the helmet by Akhtar at 155+, got shaken. Hit on the helmet again by a paltry James Anderson bouncer. Took the eyes off the ball, a rarity. More questions to answer!
#Glimpses of the young brigade: A break from the game of the young, breath of fresh air. More questions, was this the time to go? Not quite
#Older the wine, the better: By far the most productive series from the personal standpoint Down under. The love affair intact and so was the confidence in the abilities
#The Monk and the Monkeygate: Finger raised at the role of the sage, a bitter pill to swallow
#Forever Young: IPL and the glamour, but the maestro’s evolution was exceptional. Adaptation at its best and finally gave his wicket to Warney for a change!
#Revival: Consistency like never before, stricter discipline. Leaner.Meaner.Faster. Better
#A tale of two tons in three hours: A 200 in ODI, unheard of superhuman, by a man well past his prime
#The cup of dreams: A childhood dream realized. A nation of a billion satisfied and the hunger intact. Bombay blues literally!
#A CENTURY OF CENTURIES: Prolonged lull, culminated in Bangladesh
#Reality check: Only whites till end…..piling frustrations. After all age does matter and especially with what he’s been through
#The end: Can’t defy the laws of nature. Tears in Eyes, Yes BOYS DO CRY. A farewell TAILOR MADE.
Who cares who is the greatest. The script was like a fairytale, Let it be so forever. Don’t debate, don’t compare. A nation struggled with him, smiled with him, hoped with him and prayed for him.