Sachin Tendulkar: the God of eight nations, with domicile in India. Blessed must we be! But then does our God have feet of clay?
One way to find a true worth of a batsman is by one statistic: his batting average in the second innings in Test matches abroad. To be sure, this has not been given much publicity in our God-fearing nation. In one analysis of 21 Tests lost abroad, Tendulkar’s second innings average was just 29.76, while Sunil Gavaskar in the same number of Tests lost abroad was 50.21. Tendulkar has scored 51 Test centuries. But of these centuries, none came in the second innings when India had won a Test abroad. In contrast, Rahul Dravid had four such centuries, while VVS Laxman had three. So, Tendulkar may not have been all that reliable when the chips were down for India. Was he really more of a master laster? In some ways, a struggling nation has hung on to Tendulkar and cricket as affirmation of ` world power’ status. But the fact is that cricket is played by a handful of nations, mostly the British and their former colonial minions.
In the hype engulfing Tendulkar, few will recall the obnoxious manner in which he exercised his clout with the establishment and got import duties of Rs 1.13 crore waived from his free/sponsored Ferrari, which he sold later. Moreover, Chinese golfer Liang Wen-Chong last week donated half his winnings of $1,35,000 at the Resorts World Manila Masters to the Philippines typhoon hit. Steve Waugh comes from Australia to help Indian kids. But charity on Tendulkar’s part is pale in comparison with what he could have done.
One can say that Tendulkar’s cricketing abilities would have been admired more if his 200th Test match was against the West Indies in Port of Spain with the likes of Michael Holding, Andy Roberts, Malcom Marshall and Joel Garner launching a blitzkrieg of bouncers on a hard track. Or alternatively at Perth with Denis Lillee, Jeff Thomson etc having a go at the master blaster. But alas, Tendulkar didn’t have the power to choose his era or his opponents. In the end, it had to be against this lameduck West Indies team, much like the other milestones he achieved in Dhaka some years back.
News breaks of the Union Government altering the Bharat Ratna criterion in 2011 in anticipation of Tendulkar’s inclusion. The timing of Tendulkar’s Ratna has raised eyebrows, with the season for polls coming up. In fact, the parallel Ratna for Prof CNR Rao may prove to be the fig-leaf for the politics underlying Tendulkar’s Ratna. The cricketer may be well advised to stay away from politics or it will lead to the degeneration of the Ratna in coming years to another rat race of the influential.
What a minority of opinion has argued is that Tendulkar was ultimately a man devoted to himself, not necessarily to the team. The award of the Ratna then appears a deification of what Indians do best: worship individuals and personalities above institutions. Not to mention the cynical pursuit of `` each man for himself ’’ that afflicts the national ethos.