My tryst with this wonderful sport started in the year 2003. India were taking on Pakistan in the 2003 World Cup, and I, hardly 7 years at that time, watched on, as you played a stunning innings against our arch rivals and guided India home.
By the time I had started watching cricket, you were already the Demi-God of our country. You had tamed the best of bowling attacks, and you were already kept at the highest pedestal. I have heard your legend, from both my father and my grandfather, and I can see the pride in their eyes when they speak about you.
But then Sachin, you were too good to be emulated. You were the owner of most of the batting records, your technique was flawless, your stroke play was splendid, but then, I could only look at you as a man on the highest pedestal.
You were not for the common man. Tendulkar, you were a genius, a man to be worshipped.
It was in the year 2008 that I saw a man, just 19 at that time, who made his debut for India. He was a man who had grown up watching you bat, and wanted to emulate your deeds on the cricket field. Virat Kohli was starting out on his Indian journey, and I could relate to him, more than I could ever relate to you.
In the initial days, he struggled. Every time he failed, people labelled him as a man who was more interested in ‘hairstyles and parties than scoring runs. You see Sachin, that is the precise difference between you and the others. When you failed, they never questioned your dedication. That is because you were perfect, and again, too good to be emulated.
After all, ‘God’ does not have any faults, does he?
Kohli, on the other hand, had to face the brunt of the media. People questioned his character, his dedication, and he fought his way through.
I still remember your last ODI innings, Sachin. You had just got that devilish hundredth hundred off your back, and you scored a magnificent 52 in that match. But, what blew my mind away was the way Virat played on his way to a splendid 183. He was showing the world that he was indeed arriving on the big stage, and coincidentally, he arrived when you departed.
And, after your retirement, he has taken Indian cricket to great heights, and definitely, he has made you proud. With every passing year, my hero grew in stature. Hundreds came rolling, he started taming bowling attacks around the world. And through the entire journey, I also grew up, watching Kohli’s exploits on the field.
That ethereal hundred at Adelaide in 2014 against the likes of Johnson and Lyon that almost took us over the finish line, that magnificent knock in the 2016 World T20 against Australia where my hero engineered the chase, and of course, that splendid series that Kohli had against England in 2018. It felt extremely satisfying that my hero had succeeded on a place where he had failed 4 years ago (remember that 2014 England series?)
Today, his hundreds tally stands at 41 in ODI cricket. He is just 9 hundreds shy, of breaking your long standing record and overtaking you, as ODI cricket’s highest century maker. And, I have seen many of your fans, grudge and complain that Kohli has scored runs against easier bowling attacks, that he never faced the kind of pressure that you faced.
You see Sachin, even after Kohli goes past you, he will still say that you are the greatest of all time. And, seeing the way that you have conducted yourself, all of us, have the utmost respect for you. And when Kohli goes past you, I think you will be an extremely proud man.
After all, you were the master, and he was the disciple, right?
And finally master, as a Kohli fan, I would like to say just one thing- We will never ever compare the two of you. It was because of Gavaskar that you took up the sport, and certainly, it was because of you, that Kohli has taken up the sport.
Thank you Sachin. Thank you for inspiring a man like Kohli and making him take up this wonderful Sport, and in turn, allowing him to act as an inspiration for all of us.
From an ardent Kohli fan