Monday, April 23, 2007

The King and WI

The high backlift. The crashing down of the blade and the perfect shot through the covers to the boundary. The Oscar winning performances ascribed to his name, even as the supporting cast failed to garner so much as a nod of approval.

He walked when he knew he was out. Sometimes, he had to walk when he knew he wasn’t. Now he has walked, pushed by the very hands that once applauded him. But that was the man. A gentleman and a sportsman on the field. The world of cricket had never seen and will never again see an incarnation of the great man. And it will be poorer for it.

The motivation of the man despite the negativity is something he will always be remembered for. His decorum and statesmanship was nothing short of that expected of the best diplomat.

As the salty tears streamed from his face on the fateful final day, his legions bowed before him and celebrated him. They acknowledged his status of Entertainer Supreme. He was the last of the old guard, from the era of greatness. A transitional soul that played at the heady heights of the early nineties to the dismal doldrums of the new millennium.

And as the indigenous orchestra played its farewell tune to its most celebrated son of the soil, realization was slowing sinking in that a void had been created that could never be filled.

He wasn't perfect, but it was his flawed genius that made him a legend. His off field antics and sometimes stubborn battles with administrators and sponsors served, not to blemish his legacy but to create it. The manner in which someone takes so much pressures without flinching takes much understanding.

Perhaps, fittingly, his imperfection is meted out by his 299 ODIs and 11,953 Test runs. Perilously close to unchartered territory. But then again, this was a man who discovered new heights and conquered them. These trivialities would have served only to affirm, rather than confirm his greatness.

In his final masterstroke, he has defied his detractors and ensured that he left on terms dictated largely by himself and no one else. He was a gentleman first, and a sportsman after. Others will be remembered for what they have done. He will be remembered for who he was and what he meant to the game. A greater compliment could not be paid.

Yes, we basked in his glory and cried at his feet. He was our man. He was our love. He was our Lara. And now, he is gone. The poet of great memories had written his final verse, without so much as a proper goodbye. And while there will be those who accuse me of elevating you on a pedestal, I rebut by saying that there is no harm in speaking the truth and no truth is more resounding than that which you have created for these islands in the last 17 years.

So thank you Brian. Thank you for the memories. Thank you for the 277, the 375, the 213 and the 153*, perhaps your greatest ever. Thank you for the 400* and the 501*. Thank you for being the Atlas for your nations. Headley would have been proud.

But thank you, Brian, for making the choice to leave when you did. For the ignominy of playing for those who do not deserve you superseded any more accomplishments that would have been added to an almost infinite list. You had nothing to prove and you proved that by exiting with your head held high and your dignity intact.

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