It always happens, and I always feel this way. There's something about the last days of great players, something noble, something ineffably sad that makes them seem greater than they were at their best.
India beat Australia [you may have heard], Tendulkar beat Ponting, Sachin beat Ricky, the Little Master bested the Punter, and it was magnetic, hypnotic cricket. The stats were too beautiful: Cheteshwa Pujara was one when Sachin first batted for India, which means he was a veteran of seven when Ricky first took block in a Test, and not yet born when Australia last lost three in a row [not even Ricky was playing when that happened 'although it feels like I was,' he said ruefully the other day].
What a tale Pujara can tell. At the crease with Sachin [who told him that the nerves would pass, so he should not fight them but feel them], in the field as Ponting raged against the dying of the light, both his own and his country's.
The state of Tendulkar's bat told its own tale - it was a reflection of him, thick-set and broad, well-used but still mighty. What craft there was to his batting, what skill and know-how, and what inevitability. No-one has deserved a swansong more.
While Ponting was a component of the great Australian machine, his batting, though merciless, seemed to lack the aesthetics of his peers, but now, as he fades, the beauty is manifest. In a country where he has barely averaged 30, he made three 70s against his nemesis Harbhajan. His craft matched Tendulkar's, the position of his feet and his head immaculate, his determination implacable. That he knew, in his heart, that he would lose made his effort more glorious.
Some people in Australia want to sack him. Maybe they will, if this curiously flaky team loses to England at home. But history will be kind. He was great, Sachin was great, the pure spirit of the game was inside them.
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