I write this letter to you, as you step on to the cricket field one last time, tomorrow. The day we all dreaded, has finally arrived. I’d like to recollect fond memories of yours which made my childhood what it was.
When you made your test debut on Children’s day in 1989, I wasn’t even born. My first live memories of you date back to your 25th birthday when you made Warne & Co. look like school kids in that flawless innings of yours at Sharjah! I was a 7 year old kid then… Tony Greig’s commentary during that innings still echoes in my ears, often. It was a great partnership, between you and Mr. Greig, which will delight cricket fans for years to come.
I remember watching the Chennai Test in 1999 live from Chepauk. I remember very well, how you fought a sore back en route that classy 136, which took India to the brink of victory. The entire nation cried with you when India lost that epic test match by 12 runs.
I remember a crowded TV room in my college, cheering you as you toyed around the Aussie attack during your masterly 175 in 2009. We all cursed Sir Jaddu for letting the match slip away from us, I remember very well.
Virender Sehwag and Rohit Sharma may have surpassed your highest score in ODI cricket. There may be many more double hundreds in the future. But yours was a special double hundred in more ways than one. First, it proved the world that a double hundred in ODI is not impossible. Second and more importantly, it was a class act against a quality bowling attack of RSA. I know that no one in the world was happier than you were when Viru and recently Rohit surpassed your record.
I remember the 2004 series of Australia. You were terribly out of shape for most parts of the series. Critics started to write you off. You didn’t speak. You let your bat do the honors. What an innings that was, the 241 against Australia in Sydney. Not a single cover drive in the entire innings. That’s a lesson on self-restraint for youngsters like us, in all walks of life!
I’ve always enjoyed you bowl, and felt that you could have bowled more in the late 2000s as well. Probably the elbow, I understand. Kumble mentioned and I agree, that you threatened his spot as a bowler in the team.
I was there sitting in the Chepauk stands in 2008 when Viru set up an awesome run chase against England and Yuvi and yourself sealed it beautifully. When you jumped and punched the air after that winning paddle sweep, we all knew what that century in the fourth innings meant to you! Ten years back, you had taken India to the brink of victory at the very same venue but couldn’t seal it. This time you did, and how! You dedicated the century to the Mumbai attack victims, I remember.
I remember you almost reaching your 100th hundred against West Indies at Wankhede when Rampaul bounced you out. We knew it was only a matter of time before you reached there and you did.
I remember vividly, all the shots you unleashed against Shoaib, Akram and Waqar in the 2003 World Cup. You were at your best during the World Cups.
I remember watching YouTube videos of you as a young lad negotiating the bounce to perfection at Perth and Old Trafford. I remember a hundred other innings of yours which will stay in my heart forever.
In your landmark 200th test, you scoring a triple hundred or getting out on 38 makes no difference to me. A 100 international hundreds is as good as 101. Like Dhoni remarked, do not take too much pressure. Just enjoy your last few hours in the cricket field.
Today as you retire, I feel like a part of my childhood is going away.
I hope, some day you’ll read this letter.
One of your billion fans