Saturday, March 10, 2012
Much as I'd expected this day to come, I wasn't quite prepared for it. I thought I was - it was perfectly logical and clear, and made so much sense. In fact, it seemed fitting.
I had tried to rationalise it in my own head - The guy is 39. And it's obviously his decision.
I tried to rationalise it with my emotional friend who felt he deserved to go out on a high - "But it doesn't matter", I'd argued. " I think he's done enough in his career to retire on his own terms". And though my friend had expressly stated that he didn't care about logic at that moment and that it just pained him to see him leave on a low, I plodded on nevertheless - " I don't think he needs to leave on a high (especially if it is going to come at the cost of bullying other teams at home). If he scores 3 centuries in 3 tests, helps India win 3-0 and leaves, would it make a difference to how you remember him? Good players deserve to leave on a high to prolong their stay in public memory. Doesn't matter as much for great players."
And as if to ensure I wasn't an unemotional piece of rock, I'd added, "if anything, his retirement is fitting. With two years of no away tests, this is the best time to ring in the next gen. Even while retiring, he's putting India first da".
And then, he officially announced it. That was when things started getting difficult. Rationality took a graceful dive out of the window. I went through the scores of tributes that poured in. It was probably not the best idea to read them in office. I realised how choked up I was only when I answered the phone with a croak instead of a hello.
By late evening, I was pointedly trying to think about anything but his retirement. I read ridiculous things I'd written years ago in the name of poetry, watched old Crazy Mohan plays and Lollu Sabha episodes, tweeted dialogues, made plans for the weekend. I didn't want it to really sink in. And I most definitely didn't want to write anything to say goodbye. Not a blog post, not a facebook status, not even a tweet.
But early this morning, I had the most vivid dream. I watched as the two openers walked in on day one; as Viru hit a streaky four in the first over; as Gambhir laced a more assured boundary in the second over and promptly edged to second slip next ball. For what seemed like eternity, no one walked out to bat.
And I woke up in cold sweat.
That's when I felt I'd to write something. If not as a tribute to the legend, at least as a favour to myself.
Thanks for all the memories, Rahul. For being instrumental in changing Indian cricket to an extent where us fans actually feel pain when we lose abroad. For rescuing India time and again, and showing us the value of never giving up. For being the most selfless cricketer ever - the only thing I haven't seen you do on the cricket field is stand in for the umpire. For showing us that nice guys can succeed too.
As I watched India play cricket all these years, amidst all my screams of "Shot!", "Two two TWO!", "Beauty!", there was one particular thing I'd yell that seemed to be reserved almost exclusively for you. And I say it for the last time.