They spoke volumes about his batting feats and sportsmanship over the past week. But the Indian sports fraternity would rather keep mum when it comes to supporting master blaster Sachin Tendulkar in a new controversy he finds himself embroiled in. “… I am a Maharashtrian and I am extremely proud of that but I am an Indian first,” is what Tendulkar had said attending a celebration to mark the completion of his blistering 20-year-career last week.
But the comment didn’t go down well with Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray, who of course, wants him to be a Maratha Manoos first and anything else later. “By making these remarks, you have got run-out on the pitch of Marathi psyche. You were not even born when the ‘Marathi Manoos’ got Mumbai and 105 Marathi people sacrificed their lives to get Mumbai,” Thackeray wrote in the Sena mouthpiece, Saamna.
Cricketers, past and present, who basked in the celebratory limelight waxing eloquent about Tendulkar in the past week, chose to shy away and remain ‘politically correct’ when asked to comment on Thackeray’s remark. Most cricketers HT City tried to contact, to ask if it was right to criticise Tendulkar, preferred to just cut short the conversation with a “not interested” sign off, while some wanted to “remained anonymous”. Thankfully, those with no onus to remain ‘in the good books’ spoke out. “Sachin is a national heritage and an international icon,” said cricketer Akash Chopra. “He wears patriotism on his heart and doesn’t need to be told by anyone what’s right.”
Boxing champion Vijender Singh said, “If someone says I’m an Indian, there’s nothing political about it. For a sportsman, his nationality comes first, everything else later.”
Fans, however, did lash out at the politicos. “It’s unfortunate that we don’t have dedicated ppl like Sachin in politics… you [Thackeray] rule Maharashtra 10 yrs what have you done for Marathi ppl?” wrote NJ on Sachin’s fan community on Orkut. Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites also saw a downpour of messages. “Bal Thackeray n his nephew in the name of Maharashtra are insulting great sons of mother India,” wrote blogger Anil.