India is a country starved of heroes; and when there is one, people make sure to put him on the pedestal of reverence. As a nation, after independence there was a dearth of national figures, be it from the field of politics, science or sports. Moreover, in the 90s, the country underwent a lot of political upheavals like assassination, Babri Masjid demolition followed by riots, student movement, terrorism, etc., but amidst all these, one little boy from Mumbai had already made a silent progress on the cricket field.
The boy was Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, who, in the 90s, united a nation in one faith and for whom time stopped in India. Tendulkar was a name that gave joy to millions. Everything took a backseat when India played and the baby-faced boy amazed everyone with his strokeplay.
Tendulkar was destined for bigger things, which became evident in his debut series against Pakistan at the tender age of 16 in 1989. The thought of facing world's fiercest bowling attack at that time comprising of Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis can send only mortal shivers down the spine. That series was baptism by fire for Tendulkar and after that there was no stopping him.
In the early 90s, Indian batting so much depended on Tendulkar and the opposition sniffed victory after getting his wicket. This would have been the norm in every household in India that time - televisions switched off at the fall of Tendulkar's wicket and they believed nothing could bail out their team, maybe only a miracle.
This was the period when Tendulkar from being a batsman graduated to be considered as a hero, who could do anything with his bat. Whenever he has come out to bat, there must be millions in muffled breath praying for his extended stay at the crease. Tendulkar never wanted such pressure on him but knowlingly or unknowingly his shoulders were heavier with expectations.
Never once did he complain or flinch and instead took up the challenge until in the late 1996-97, when Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman arrived to ease some pressure off him. The level of expectancy reduced a bit among people when he walked out to bat as the focus somehow got ramified to the other new heroes in the team.
So it would not have been apt to keep Tendulkar in the hero bracket and then the 'God' tag happened. However, it would be difficult to pin-point how Tendulkar got that tag, but surely it has to be the true fans of the master blaster who bestowed upon him this title.
On numerous occasions in the stadiums, a banner or placard reading, "If cricket is my religion, Sachin is my God", can be spotted. Maybe that is how it got started and remained with Tendulkar and will stay foreever.
Truly, for 24 years, he has been the God of batting; statistics says it all, admiration and adulation says it all. Tendulkar's career makes an interesting timeline and can be divided into three parts - he started as a batsman, progressed to be a hero and finally retired as a God.
Hold on, do Gods retire?