Three In The Gentlemen’s Game Take To The Crooked Game
Sachin Tendulkar is the most adorable of sportsmen and indeed Indian sportsmen we have seen .
He is certainly an international superstar and a cricketing god. India has thousands of gods and Sachin is among the latest and the most evoked of gods particularly when the Indian Cricket team is in dire straits. Little wonder when the ‘Little Master’ was appointed to India’s Upper House, The Times of India headlined: God has a new House.
His batting prowess needs no encomiums from cricketing ignoramuses like us. The great Don Bradman who saw him play during his last years said that Sachin was the greatest of batsmen alive. But what strikes us most about him is his modesty – his absolute professionalism. Even on scoring a brilliant century to the applause of his countrymen and opponents there are no theatrics about him. There is his look towards the heavens, perhaps conveying his thanks to those above him and of course the traditional salute of his bat to the cheering crowds. Considering his performance in 188 tests and 463 One Day Internationals (ODIs) – he recently completed his 100th Century – 51 in Tests and 49 in the ODIs, those above in the clouds must certainly be liking him.
Absence of gesticulations, arguing with umpires, raucous appeals and throwing his bat in disgust has never been associated with this cricketing genius. Off the field commenting about a game, Tendulkar in his original Mumbai accent – no attempt to imitate MCC accents like some do – gives a factual account of the game commending his colleagues – Not ‘I, Me, Myself and Me who won the game’. His cricketing genius needs no such egoistic boosts.
But why oh why did this cricketing genius, the King of the Gentlemen’s Game decide to move on to the game of Crooks or the Crooked Game of politics? Will it ruin the finest of cricketing records?
In Sri Lanka too we have two great cricketers – Arjuna Ranatunga and Sanath Jayasuriya who have moved from the Gentlemen’s Game to the Crooked Game and we can gauge the difference that has come about. But let’s continue with the Indian reaction to the move of their cricketing god.
News of Tendulkar’s appointment to the Upper House was not well received by some cricketers. Sanjay Manjerekar a former Indian cricketer now turned commentator said he was at a loss for words. Sachin he said was not a man of words. Harsha Bhogle the well known cricket commentator said: A cynical ploy to gain political mileage. Sachin has rarely, if ever, spoken on political issues or had professed political affiliations. Chetan Chauhan former Opener for India and now MP said: The minute he associates himself with a party, the public perception of him will change. The comments of other MPs in the Lok Sabha: Mohamed Azharuddin, Kirti Azad and Navjot Siddhu were not known.
Opposition politicians were supportive of Tendulkar but viewed his appointment as a political ploy by the ruling Congress led by Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to save the party that is assailed with massive corruption scandals. Bal Thackeray the Supremo of the Hindu extremist party the Shiv Sena called it the ‘dirtiest ploy of the Congress’ and said that Sachin should have been awarded instead the Bharatha Ratna – the highest Indian award. Yoga Guru Babu Randev said the appointment was ‘a ploy to detract public attention from the sinking Congress ship’.
39-year- old Sachin Tendulkar was appointed to the Rajya Sabha by the President of India on the recommendation of Premier Manmohan Singh. He is one of the 12 MPs nominated to the 250 member house of which 238 are elected.
Politician or Sportsman?
Tendulkar before accepting the appointment, accompanied by his wife, called on Sonia Gandhi at her official residence in New Delhi. It led to accusations that it was a political appointment. On accepting the appointment he had declared that he would always remain a sportsman and not a politician. He would do his best to improve the standards of all sports, he had promised.
But questions were being asked how he could be in the Rajya Sabha and not play politics. How Sachin Tendulkar would conduct himself as a sportsman and not a politician is to be seen in times to come.
Sri Lanka duo
In Sri Lanka two outstanding cricketers – Arjuna Ranatunga and Sanath Jayasuriya – members of the World Cup winning Sri Lankan team are now neck deep in politics.
Arjuna is as volatile a politician as he was on and off the cricket field. He did not play ball with the establishment in cricket then and now with established political parties. He was willing to kick sacred cows as he did on Boxing Day before a packed crowd at the MCG when he challenged umpire Darrel Hair for no balling Muttiah Muralitheran and threatened to walk off the field with his team. It is widely believed that the fiery spirit he infused into his cricket team helped them to emerge as winners of the World Cup. In politics he started off sedately with the well established SLFP as an MP but it was all too comfortable for him. He is now in a minority party fighting for the release of his leader the former Army Commander Gen. Sarath Fonseka.
As a politician Ranatunga is still seen as an independent character not going down on his knees to any political master and daring to challenge the mightiest in the land. Many do not agree with his politics but his image as an outstanding and fearless Sri Lankan cricket captain remains and his fearless opposition to the high and mighty in politics is making him a hero even to those not in agreement with his politics.
The Matara Mauler
Sanath Jayasuriya, the Matara Mauler was the toast of all Sri Lanka as he and his partner Romesh Kaluvitharane (Little Kaloo) battered the mighty pacemen from all five continents to change the face of ODI cricket. It is all to well known to be repeated. Jayasuriya on the eve of his retirement contested his native South on the ruling party ticket and was appointed MP with a huge majority. But the polarisation of politics in this country is such that he fell from grace in the eyes of thousands of his former supporters who were not with the ruling party. His decision to continue playing for the country despite his failing form added to his popularity woes. Tendulkar’s circumstances may be different to those of his two Sri Lankan colleagues because he is theoretically independent of party affiliations. But can he or anyone in his position maintain independence when it comes to a crunch? Does the principle of ‘There is nothing called a free drink’ apply to politics of the Rajya Sabha?