Encores are hard, in sport, and in life.
How ever hard we try to manufacture happiness, seldom are two moments alike.
When you think of it, most of our lives are spent searching for perfect moments and then recreating them.
But what is an encore, really?
Is it repeating the same thing again?
The same shot, the same feeling, the same taste?
When the band walks away from the stage, you beg for an encore because no show is complete without an encore.
But can you repeat last quarter’s glory this year?
What about trying to recreate the feeling of a rookie who has nothing to lose, after climbing the corporate ladder has left you looking at a hollow version of yourself in the mirror?
Isn’t almost everything we do trying to recreate a happy memory?
We know this, but don’t want to believe it.
How do you do perform an encore in sport where no two days are alike?
An encore isn’t about consistency.
It’s about replicating a magical feeling to the t.
In the summer of 1998, Sachin Tendulkar played the near perfect encore.
He scored 143 to help India qualify for the final.
In the final, he scored 134. Even the scores were identical.
This was 1998. There was Sachin Tendulkar who walked on water, and the rest who struggled who struggled to find their feet.
In 1998, in another corner of the world, another God disguised as a basketball player led a team to a famous second three peat. Michael Jordan was the fulcrum around which the Chicago Bulls revolved. After that famous Bulls dynasty was eviscerated after the 1998 NBA finals, the Chicago Bulls haven’t won a single title. 6 titles in 8 years. 0 titles in 22.
Geniuses have too much of a burden to bear. They need to rise to their own unrelenting standards and carry their teams along with them. Many geniuses are mired in mediocrity, waging lonely battles that never end. Think Brian Lara and the West Indies.
But it’s tough, even for a genius, to do an encore on two different days.
Sachin Tendulkar coming down the pitch and hitting Shane Warne for six. Warne swatting off a fly and trying to come to his senses at the same time.
Everyone feels what Shane Warne is feeling – “did I just see that?”
You can’t see Tony Greig but you can imagine him standing up from his seat and trying to follow the ball. Did he fall off his seat like you?
“They’re dancing in aisles.”
Damn, we were all dancing in our living rooms.
Out of nowhere, an actual desert storm stopped play and India’s target was revised. But Tendulkar was going for the jugular. Seeking to merely qualify is for mere mortals.
In the first match of the Desert Storm limited series edition , a familiar tale played self out. Tendulkar perished and along with him, so did the chances of an improbable victory.
But there’s an encore. The finals against the same opposition.
April 24, 1998. Sachin Tendulkar turned 25 and he’s already a bonafide legend. And he’s about to play another innings that will forever define his career.
Australia set India a steep target of 273. Think of it in terms of money. If someone owned a house that was valued at 10 lakhs in 1998, how much will it be worth today? Now think of it in terms of runs. What is a score of 272 in 1998 worth today? 400?
At the start of the chase, Tendulkar almost played on. If that had happened, a lot of electricity would have been saved that night.
Michael Kasprowitz, Damien Fleming, Shane Warne, Steve Waugh, all deer in the headlights, being taken to the cleaners.
There was one part where the similarities ended. India won the final. Sachin took the team closer to victory, leaving the finishing to Ajay Jadeja and Hrishikesh Kanitkar.
If you look at those two knocks, so much is the same.
The raucous crowd.
The garrish yellow worn by Australia.
Tony Greig’s commentary that still rings in our ears after all these years.
In a Carnatic music concert, there is a part where only the percussionists play and take centre stage. It’s called TANI AVARTANAM. Tani loosely translates to rhythm and Avartanam means repetition. The kanjira, mridangam and ghatam, all come together in near perfect unison. Sadly, in many concerts, the audience get up when this begins. As the Tani Avartanam comes to a close, the main performer jumps back into the fray and the concert nears its end.
Over those two nights Sharjah, in Carnatic music terms, Sachin Tendulkar played his version of a Tani Avartanam.
Rhythm + repetition.
And unlike in a Carnatic Music concert, no one dared leave their seats.