home condition became the primary sign of success and dominance. The year was 1991 and India was just opening out its door to the world and liberalization was being ushered in. It was still struggling to find its foothold in the world. Unsure, uncertain it was taking baby steps towards larger objective and it looking for an inspiration on this unknown journey. Almost in parallel was an individual, similarly unsure, uncertain and taking baby steps towards a possible incredible career. That year Indian cricket team toured Australia. It was almost taken for granted that India would be wiped out, the question was how bad? Offering resistance to the much vaunted Australian attack was no mean task. One man managed to restore respect for the entire cricket team and became source of inspiration for an entire nation and all this at the tender age of 18. He went on to score two test hundreds on that trip. Two things happened after that; the Indian economy soared and so did this young man’s career.
The whole country and primarily the media have gone berserk and overboard in their attempt to give a befitting farewell to one of the most illustrious sporting personality of cricketing world. The festive season this year got prolonged due to one person’s swan-song. This all definitely appears excessive, obsessive and arrogant.
The nation needed a hero, somebody who they could identify with someone who was their own and, it found it in a diminutive young man. He personified in many ways what we collectively were, shy, reserved, talented and eager to strike it big. I would like to view this great cricketer’s career in 3 primary phases.
Giving the hope and encouragement that formidable quick bowling could be faced and one can make runs against hostile opponents, was definitely the first phase. This was also the time when India was being noticed and so was this individual for his performance and thus raising hopes of achieving his full potential.
Once the possibility was well established the next phase came when the attack was taken to the opposition. This was a changing phase for India, from being unsure, shy nation we were going towards prosperity and becoming a key player in the world stage. In parallel again was the little master, aggressive and prolific, attacking the best of bowlers and winning matches. Survival was no longer the motive, winning was. Nobody of my generation can ever forget the two matches played in Sharjah against Australia. One of the matches was interrupted by a sandstorm and the play had to be stopped for few minutes. Once the sandstorm stopped then came a whirlwind of amazing and devastating stroke play that the world had not seen thus far. Australian bowlers were ripped apart with disdain and the world acknowledged a legend.
The third and final phase comes when plenty of young talent came hurtling through, eager to carry the future of Indian cricket on their shoulders. This is the time when India had finally arrived and become a force to reckon with. These were those youngsters who rushed to coaching centers to become the next big name in Indian cricket, clearly inspired by the great cricketer’s performance and conduct. By the time these youngsters could play for India the great man had not only become the most priced wicket, the chief bête noire but also a legend and part of folklore. Needless to say the younger lot turned out to be fearless and never overawed. Someone had demonstrated day in day out to them, that every attack is vincible.
There was a time when the hope of the entire nation depended only and only on one person. However, that person, silently but surely went about his task and inspired a whole new generation of sportsmen. To such an individual who has done such great service tirelessly for almost 2.5 decades, what farewell could ever be befitting?