All his life, Sachin Tendulkar has remained an inscrutable creature and all we know about him is what he does on the cricket field. Whether by design or accident, he has never allowed outsiders to peep into his personal life, cultivating for himself an aura befitting his achievements.
He has been untouched by any controversy and remains till date the most adored public figure the country has ever known. His on-field achievements may be stupendous but no less is his feat of straddling the cricketing world for more than two decades without creating any enemies or “unhealthy” rivalries, or making even a stray comment that could stoke strife.
He is today the unblemished middle class hero, who gets much love, affection, space and time, whether in the media or in public discourse. It won’t be an exaggeration to say we as a country seem to have a Tendulkar obsession.
This obsession showed when he was approaching his century-of-centuries milestone. The longer it took him, the greater the media agonised over it.
Today, his nomination to the Rajya Sabha has created a piquant situation that could well expose the man to the vagaries of the real world and reveal to us the “real” persona behind the batting genius.
The world of politics is governed by a different set of rules, where anything goes as long as it benefits a party or an individual.
So, the question is not whether Congress’ cynical exploitation of Tendulkar’s popular image was the reason behind this nomination, but what made him accept this offer.
For a man who has not been very comfortable with a leadership role and prefers to mentor talent away from the public gaze, questions are bound to be raised whether this was the right course for him to take.
Since he is still an active cricketer and loathes even the idea of retirement being put to him, the question where will he find the time to do his “duty” as a Parliamentarian becomes even more relevant.
For the first time in his career, there are people – and the number is growing by the day – who are questioning the wisdom of his decision and are being harshly critical about it.
This is not something he is used to and he could be even “regretting” that moment when he gave in.
For any sportsman, the easier part is playing, his success on the field becoming a shield against the “slings and arrows” of the world. Once he steps out of the playing arena, a different battle begins, where runs scored or wickets taken are no guarantee to an “immortal” status.
For Tendulkar, being a Rajya Sabha member is an honour that comes with a price: it leaves him vulnerable to the dictates of an uncertain, fallible world of mortals.