This was the single word into which the endless frenzy, glitter, emotions and tributes for the great man culminated into. The words, at the end of an emotional speech, were spoken in high earnest but low frills by the man who has characterized the same qualities throughout his public life. It would have been unfitting if Tendulkar’s last bow was anything but a simple acknowledgement of the love he received and his own gratefulness for the same.
With this Goodbye, what ended was not just a glittering career that saw unprecedented emotions in over two generations of fans, but also an era of Indian Cricket. Contrary to my earlier Tendulkar-centric posts, this one is about the heroes of the era.
The Indian cricket of early 90s was a typical medieval Bollywood saga - a nondescript plot, a following content with mediocrity, an occasional surge and dramatic pitfalls, the largest of them being match fixing scandal. Quite in contrast with today’s racy adrenalin filled moments, aggression bordering on bravado, well-timed heroics and famous victories. What brought about this transformation is, what I like to call, the ‘League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’
League – noun – a collection of people, countries, or groups that combine or form an alliance for a particular purpose, typically mutual protection or cooperation
Extraordinary – adjective – very unusual or remarkable
Gentleman – noun – a chivalrous, courteous, or honorable man
I could go endlessly about the individual brilliance of the quartet pictured above, their magical moments, their rise to become legends in their own right, what all and what not. If one was the master and the most humble servant of the game at the same time, another was the most talismanic leader Indian cricket could have imagined at the time. If one was the man, the ever reliable and ever protective wall, the other was a wizard and the anchor around which India’s attack revolved for a decade.
But what Indian Cricket needed was much more than that. It needed credibility, dedication, belief and mentorship. More than that, it needed Sportsmanship from perfect Gentlemen. This is what made this quartet special. For them, it was always India that mattered… it was always the moment that mattered.
They didn’t just have to win matches, they had to win back a lost faith. They didn’t just have to build a cricket team. They had to build a dream that the team could pursue and achieve. And they had to support each other. Without clashes, without disrespect and without wavering. If there is one thing that set this group apart was the fact that they pulled off all of the above.
They gave Indian Cricket not just momentary glory but also promising future, not just training for the moment but inspiration for times to come. This, truly, was the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
That their era turned the most turbulent phase of Indian Cricket into the most glorious one is no coincidence. It is a result of a decade of dedication.