Saturday, November 16, 2013

Sachin: Good Boy Of Cricket, But God?

By the time Sachin Tendulkar started playing for the Indian team, in 1989, my cricket-watching years were almost coming to an end. Even though I was only 19 then, I had somehow lost interest in sitting through matches -- my heroes had retired, and commercials had taken over the telecast -- and would only occasionally catch up on a game if the TV happened to be on, either at home or work.

I did follow some tournaments after 1989. Such as the 1992 World Cup. But all I remember from that tournament is the explosive batting by South Africa and the hero's performance by Imran Khan who, at the old age of 42, finally earned the Cup for Pakistan. I don't even know, or remember, whether Sachin was in the Indian team for that tournament.

Then the 1996 World Cup. All I remember today from that tournament is three names: Aravinda de Silva, Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana. I don't even know, or remember, whether Sachin was in the Indian team for that tournament. I was working with Press Trust of India at the time, and I had watched the important matches of this World Cup on the TV in the editor's room -- but I have no memories of Sachin.

Though Sachin must have been an established bastman by then, because one morning, the general manager of PTI, M.K. Razdan, burst into the editorial room with the latest issue of Time. In an interview to the magazine, Shane Warne had said that he found Sachin more difficult to bowl to than Brian Lara -- and Razdan had wanted that to be put out as a news item. And one of the sub-editors -- was it me? -- quickly sent a four-para story over the wires. But I don't remember being in awe of Sachin at the time. Somehow, he never registered in my cricketing-conscious -- if such a term exists.

I am sure the loss is mine. I should have followed cricket more closely. But whatever little cricket I have followed between 1989 and 2013, while I remember watching Sachin Tendulkar bat, I don't remember anything of his batting. This is strange, considering I remember some other things: such as Stephen Fleming's gutsy batting as the New Zealand captain in the 2003 World Cup (my heart broke when his team lost); Laksmipathy Balaji's bowling in Pakistan in 2004; long-haired Dhoni's batting in 2005, Sohail Tanvir's bowling in IPL 2008.

In short, I am not able to recall a single exciting contest in which Sachin single-handedly rescued the Indian team from the jaws of defeat and delivered it into the safe hands of victory. And yet Sachin is considered the God of (Indian) cricket.

Really, where was I all these 24 years, when Sachin achieved one milestone after another and went on to become God? I must have been busy chasing my own dreams. But no matter how busy you are, you can't miss the creation of a God in your midst -- do you? Then how did I?

But at the same time, I have been reading and watching his interviews all these years, and what strikes me consistently is that there can't be a better behaved cricketer than him. He speaks like a statesman: not a word or thought out of place. He is the good boy of cricket: a student every teacher or principal would like to have. Which is why he did not want to be the captain: he preferred to be the statesman than a politician.

Good boy of cricket, then how come the psyche of a lay, non-fanatic spectator such as mine did not register his cricketing feats: X number of matches, Y number of runs, Z number of centuries and so on? Maybe because all of Sachin's milestones were his personal: they never really had anything to do with India's chances in an international tournament. Sachin did not intend it that way, of course, but his personal success has rarely been directly proportional to India's success in crucial tournaments. Then why call him God?

In crucial tournaments, it has always been a lesser mortal who steered India to victory. But the same lesser mortal, once he went out of form, got kicked out of the team. He was never given the numerous chances that Sachin has been in his 24-year-old career. Each time Sachin went out of form, the general view, including that of the BCCI, was, "Wait and watch, he will bounce back." As a result, he went on to play for 24 years, a quarter of a century, and went on to achieve those milestones.

One wonders if Tendulkar would have lasted his long had he chosen to remain the captain of Indian team -- the post he held only briefly in the mid-1990s. Sachin was wise enough to realise, very quickly, that a captain's job is a dirty job and had given it up. He had wanted to remain clean and focus on his batting, something he did very well over the decades  and in the process achieved several personal milestones.

Tendulkar is the good boy of cricket. The brightest boy in the classroom. But to call him the God of cricket is highly inappropriate.


Anubhuti said...

I can trust you to come up with that.

Soumya said...

'God' - created entirely by the media...

Anonymous said...

why rama is treated as god then?
He went forest on HIS fathers word, killed wali seeking War help which HE had to do.. fought ravana for HIS wife...where in the hell he did anything for others..some of the indian people who did that also doing the same with sachin..

Anonymous said...

See this for a different perspective.

chitraa thiayagarajan Iyer said...

you are right sir..

Anonymous said...

without any statistics attached makes this entire piece your opinion, just like me considering sairaj bahatule the biggrest spinner to play for India an opinion as well. However calling it right or wrong with arguing through numbers is illogical.

Megha Bansal said...

Sachin gave up captaincy because his game was suffering, not every one can lead and play well. Infact how many batsmen are there who have managed to play well while being a captain? And how many give up captaincy and return to being a batsmen, most just give up.

I think it is unfair to say that Sachin was given innumerable chances, was Gavaskar ever on the benches? Was Dhoni ever? Sachin was when he had problems, being out of form is different from not giving your best. Even BCCI knows that Sachin's heart is in the game.

If the accomplishments of Sachin have passed you by, I truly think it is your loss. Not everyone can be his fan, but even his critics agree that his technique and placing of ball is what makes him the best batsmen.
If you don't remember Sachin and Ganguly playing or Azhar and him, or Sehwag and his partnerships then really you don't remember much.

Sepiamniac said...

After all, us cricket lovers made him the god, placed him on a pedestal, went on a freeze mode when he played and cried when he walked back to the pavillion for a duck. While, Sachin only played to the best of his ability (which was a phenomenal career by chance), displayed a great spirit as a sportsman, inspired many to take up the game and triggered many namesakes in the generation that saw him play. I have never been his ardent fan, but having seen the craziness in the form of fans, admirers and well-wishers, I would say, 'please spare the man, he is certainly a genius'. A genius whose success cannot be limited by a Bharat Ratna (that has a list of all and sundry names, who never deserved it, or the honour it brings along)

Unknown said...

I think it is unfair to say that Sachin was given innumerable chances, was Gavaskar ever on the benches? Was Dhoni ever? Sachin was when he had problems, being out of form is different from not giving your best. Even BCCI knows that Sachin's heart is in the game create gmail account

Abhishek said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Abhishek said...

You have rightly mentioned that ,I suppose, everyone has missed while talking about Sachin’s contribution to Indian Cricket Team. This is really an eye opener for all his devotees.