The venue was the Sharjah Cricket Stadium and the occasion was the 1998 Coca Cola Cup. Australia had set India a daunting 285 to chase to reach the final. But daunting isn't a word you throw around Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, unless, of course, it's meant for the man. The little master puts on a vintage Sachin show, bludgeoning the Australian bowlers into submission, and ensuring India gets into the final with overs to spare.
That is one among countless Sachin memories that Sachin: A Billion Dreams draws upon to pay a fitting tribute to not just a global sporting icon, but, as the film so beautifully puts it, to an emotion. Yes, Sachin Tendulkar is most certainly one. Actually, he is more. In a nation so bent on tearing itself apart, Sachin is a unique binding force. And when the lines blur, Sachin is as much India as India is Sachin.
Sachin: A Billion Dreams is not a biography, but a documentary. It documents the legend's journey for most parts, and at other times charts the journeys of everyone who rallied behind in the making of the man. The best thing about the film however is that it gives us a narrative by Sachin himself. And there is a sense of unbridled joy in seeing Sachin speak. There is nothing extravagant about him - it's all simple statements, heartfelt words and the most honest of intentions. The film takes you absolutely up close and personal with him, and he feels completely human. And as a result, when he shares his words of wisdom, when he talks about how you can swallow defeats and victories just the same, when he talks about how even you can do everything he could, you easily believe him.
The film starts off giving you a sneak peek into the life of a young Sachin - the things that motivated him and shaped him. Some of his metamorphosis was just from innate genius, and some of it was owing to the mentoring he received in his early years from his coach Ramakant Achrekar.
The film switches from one milestone to the other in Sachin's life, but it also shows the failures, the cracks and the injuries, and how they all contributed in equal measure to the evolution. And Erskine gives the film just the proper amount of intimacy. A particular scene where Sachin describes how he would organise his kit before going onto the field to bat is entrancing. His romance with his custom-made bats and pads is so wonderful that it makes for a better watch than anything romantic Bollywood has sent our way recently.
The Tendulkar family do their bit immaculately to enhance the narrative, as do Sachin's on- and off-field friends, and that is thanks to arguably some of the best script-work in a documentary seen in recent times. You get accounts of Sachin's greatest adversaries, be they Ricky Ponting or Shane Warne, and each account is heartwarming.
The score for this film is among A R Rahman's best in years. It is brilliantly unsettling when the need arises and inspiring at other times. Rahman makes the "Sachin, Sachin" chant feel like a nation's anthem, using it beautifully to hair-raising effect in the film. Nothing gives goosebumps quite like Sachin tonking Warne out of the park, with Rahman crooning in the background.
Chris Openshaw does a phenomenal job behind the lenses. We all know what Sachin means to a nation with a population of over 1.3 billion people, but to make him just as tangible and corporeal as any of us deserved some really able hands, and Openshaw provides just that.
You'll have a ball watching Sachin: A Billion Dreams if you're a true blue Sachin fan. Even if you're not, you'll still get around to loving a man who placed country over family and mind over heart. In a nation that has been hunting for a collective conscience since time immemorial, what Sachin has accomplished is nothing short of heroic. Only, in this case, the hero doesn't wear a cape. He wears jersey number 10.