Sachin Tendulkar has been the biggest name in Indian cricket for more than two decades. All or some of his astounding records may or may not be broken in future. Only time will tell. But despite all those mountains of statistics, the appeal and aura of Sachin has never really been about mere statistics or records.
For a generation of Indian cricket fans growing up in the 90’s, he represented the new fearless India. When he announced his arrival with that hattrick of sixes against Abdul Qadir or as a young teenager fought fire with fire while facing the fearsome Pakistani bowlers – Wasim and Waqar - it ignited the collective imagination of the generation of Indian fans who had for long gotten accustomed to meek surrender of their favourite superstars to the two W’s and Imran Kan.
More than Sachin’s unquestionable talent, it is his fearlessness and aggression that made him a darling of the Indians. Nothing else united India as Sachin did. From the time of his arrival in the international scene, till he retired, he remained Indian cricket’s biggest icon. And he continues to rule the hearts of Indians even now.
His exemplary behaviour on and off the field, despite his aggression with the bat, made him a role model for any aspiring cricketer anywhere in the world, but especially in India. There were times in the early stage of IPL when franchises had not established their fan base, most Indians would support Mumbai Indians, only because it had Sachin. How could they not want him to win? It had been a habit for so long to cheer for Sachin, and it would not just go away.
But with time, different franchises have steadily cultivated their fan bases. Even though the rivalry among fans of various franchises has not risen to the level of animosity we see among European football club fans, still there is a steady rise in the number of passionate fans who would sometimes not mind bad-mouthing or trolling opposition players, supporting staff and even management.
This is where as a long-standing fan of Sachin Tendulkar, one wishes he were not associated with just one franchise, cheer for one franchise and express happiness or sadness, depending on the performance of just one franchise.
It was okay when he was part of the Mumbai Indians team as a player. But after retiring as a player, his continued association with MI raises conflicting emotions in the minds of fans who are supporters of IPL franchises not named Mumbai Indians.
Imagine Mumbai Indians playing with Royal Challengers Bangalore, and Sachin high-fiving with his MI mates at the dismissal of Virat Kohli. Or visualize a closely fought match between MI and another franchise, where MI secures a win on the last delivery leaving millions of fans of the other franchise devastated, only to see their ‘God’ on the TV screen jumping with joy!