“What kind of a man stands tall in a sandstorm,” I remember asking myself.
Until that moment, cricket was a sport, an exciting sport. At that moment, it transformed into something surreal, almost supernatural. It took me many years of pondering about what happened that day in a stadium to understand that there was more at work than what we, the spectators, understood.
There he was, a 24 year-old, staring blankly, unamazed by the spectacle that nature conjured. The rest of the players on the ground either ducked and had their mouths in their shirts, or ran to the pavilion for cover. The crowd was suffocated for all of 15 minutes. In any other moment of sporting history, one would expect the spectators to run for cover.
Enough of the sport; life is always more important than entertainment
But why was it that none of them left? They took short breaths, covered their faces, coughed, and cried. But they persisted. Every once in a while, a few fans would dare open their eyes, wipe the tears, and catch a glimpse of what was happening on the pitch.
Then came an unusual moment. About a fifth of the spectators, scattered across the ground, started staring unblinkingly into the middle of the ground. While the others ducked, hid, and breathed to hang on to dear life, there they were, the chosen few, transfixed at the happenings on the ground. The wind beat against their bodies, but they were unshakable. Slowly, it became clear to more and more people what force lay behind this small army of spectators.
A cameraman ran for cover but decided to leave his camera focusing on the pitch. In the haze, as the sandstorm started its departure, you could see him. He had not moved since the storm began. He was studying the pitch, waiting for this delay to end. You could forgive him for being annoyed because to him, the sandstorm was just an interruption. He was about to carve his masterpiece, but he needed the others to pass him the paint. And he was made to wait.
Maybe it was just a hallucination, but it seemed like it was not he who feared the sandstorm, but the sandstorm that feared him. Maybe that is why, on that day, nature exempted him from its wrath. Maybe you could not have two gods on the same ground. The lesser one had to pass. Sachin Tendulkar stayed.
Two decades have passed since that incident. That day is forever remembered but seldom talked about. I think everybody fears not having an explanation for that day. Man always drew boundaries between the the possible and the impossible, the real and the imaginary, the natural and the divine, but that day, the sandstorm seemed to have blurred the distinction, and for a fleeting moment, in the haze, allowed you to see God.
Praveen Chunduru is an aspiring blogger who dwells on small, unimportant things a little too long.