This is not about cricket. This is about a man who bats at number 4 for India in test cricket. “ಅಬ್ಧಿಯುಂ ಒರ್ಮೆ ಕಾಲವಶದಿಂ ಫ಼ಾರ್ಮ್ ಕಳೆದುಕೊಳ್ಳದೇ”*
Should I issue a blank page obituary of test cricket in India? These are gloomy hours as Indian cricket team goes through a torrid time at home against England (after a zero-eight humiliation abroad, see Four-Nil). I am trying hard not to get bogged down by what merely is a game. Some believe that it is a stupid game, a colonial hangover that has made many like me waste precious youthful hours of our life time following it.
I give a selection of my comments in reaction to various people some of whom have been implicitly asking Sachin Tendulkar to retire from cricket since the World cup last year.
@ all Tendulkar critics…(some time after the Australia tour of India earlier this year…there was a lot of banter on cricinfo’s commentary section especially by non-Indians)
…He is one of the greatest ever and most of you cannot stand that fact because he does not allow other players (from other countries) to come even close… Those of you who are craving for team players do not understand cricket. I agree that the 100th hundred (although it is meaningless) is weighing heavily on Tendulkar. You should remember that he is not the only batsman who has to bat for India. He has carried the mantle for 15 years (leaving first 6 years where he was still the junior in the team) and he is still the best in the business.
@ Mukul Kesavan (Cricket Historian writing in the Telegraph), Tendulkar’s twilight, 8/4/2012
…I started reading your article by nodding (top down) after I saw the title and the two liner. I agree that Tendulkar’s press conferences and the celebrations by obscure corporates did not represent any of the real Tendulkar phenomena we have known over the years. However, your entire argument seem to stand on meaningless numbers, which are at best partial indicators. Dravid would have retired from international cricket even if had scored 8 centuries in 8 innings against Australia. His average might have been 47 since England but his form in Australia suggested that (and in his mind) he was averaging below 4.7 (not 47). Cricketers only survive on averages and they triumph only when they are in form. While an avg of 33 does not fit Tendulkar’s bill, his form has been sublime. In his press conferences Tendulkar tended to be pompous at times but as the cliche goes we should give him some benefit of the doubt since he is a (the) batsman…
@ Harsha Bhogle (One of the finest cricket commentators and he is not an unfair critic of Tendulkar), Tendulkar and the burden of the 100th, 23/03/2012
There is no doubt Harsha, for us, the Indians an individual’s achievement is far greater than that of a team. It is in the sense part of our DNA, hence in RNA and also in proteins, if you like. If a gene for individualism exists it is double dominant in an Indian genome. It is always expressed and in large quantities. We should celebrate the fact that we respect individuals and sometimes it is at the cost of the collective. I don’t think it is a bad thing because greatest individual achievers have a lot of memetic value (which is not quantifiable) and it helps the society in the long run. You, as an admirer of some ‘good’ aspects of the West, tend to ponder over these things a lot more than an average Indian, who is consumed by his worshipping insticts almost all the time. We are argumentative (as Prof Sen says) and we are eternal worshippers of talent (you rate work ethic more). It is a costly and inefficient business model (I am no MBA) and it will continue to survive in India.
@Harsha Bhogle (India’s selectors need to take the tough calls now, 26/10/2012)
I just want to make one point. Reading Harsha say “While we don’t yet know…Sachin Tendulkar (1001 runs in his last 14 Tests at 40) and…his future”, for a moment I thought Harsha was referring to Tendulkar’s age. He will be 40 come April 2013. Then I checked the link and saw that his batting average off late has been 40. It is ironical how numbers show up in cricket. No other game has this character. All said and done, Tendulkar has to carry on until South Africa 2013 and then he (and only he) can take a call.
@ an Australian journalist who was not so chuffed for Tendulkar receiving the Australian honour (Nov 2012)
While I agree partly with the proposition that honouring Tendulkar amounts to political pragmatism, the author has succumbed to his ill-conceived bias against the Tendulkar testimony during the “Monkey gate” (‘maa ki’ to be precise). Australian cricketers are no saints. Aussie commentators and critics can’t be touchy about these matters. One woeful test match doesn’t mean that all the cricket that has been played between the two great cricketing nations need to be worthless and that is why Tendulkar’s contribution cannot be narrowed down to specifics. When Tendulkar bats for India, a whole nation prays for him. By honouring him, Australia has honoured the aspirations of 1.2 billion people. When he plays against Australia, he puts Australia on the map vis a vis India. He is not bigger than a nation, but he does symbolize a lot of good things for most Indians. The author is right in recognizing the political wisdom in honouring Tendulkar but the rest of his article is just hand-waving.
@ Satish Acharya, the resident cartoonist on espncricinfo (sometime last month)
…Singling Tendulkar out and blaming every failure of this dismal Indian team on his shortcomings shows a pervert mindset. As much as we (the majority of Indians) like to love Tendulkar, there are a handful of noisy people who are part of cottage industry and want to run him down. Tendulkar symbolises success and personal triumph and he is still the last man standing for India. When Tendulkar fails, many of those who are criticizing him today feel their own below average/empty achievements in their bones. They can’t handle failure. Tendulkar can. You will see. Sidharth Monga (on espncricinfo) in his article said it right. Let us allow (who are we?) Tendulkar his struggle. He might be 40 but still he is the best batsman in that Indian line up.
I applaud Bishan Singh Bedi (former left arm spinner) who disqualified himself from talking about Tendulkar’s retirement saying that he had not played 150 test matches. I have learnt to sympathise with players when the team as a whole fails. When some of the so called experts and the worst cricket commentators (many not even qualified to talk about garden cricket) are screaming for Tendulkar’s retirement, I for one still believe that Tendulkar has a lot left in him. Many would not care about what an unimportant person has to say. They would certainly dismiss my opinion saying that I live in cuckoo land and that I am in denial. Let them say so. Indian team has many dispensable players and Tendulkar is not one of them. His presence matters. The team is failing and because of that Tendulkar’s failures are glaring everyone in the face. Because he is so big, his lack of form has been overshadowing every other failure of gigantic proportions. If anyone wants to say something about Tendulkar, they can only do so as a fan and not as some “expert”. When the time is right, Tendulkar will know.
After sharing this with all of you, I feel as though I am struggling. I think I am trying to give myself a chance to struggle through the struggle of my childhood star fighting the odds. Let me allow my struggle. To each their own struggle.