Sachin Tendulkar is among the greatest cricketers the world has ever seen. Not many, if any, will contest this statement. But if someone is to say, Tendulkar is the greatest human being, a role model for everything ethical, moral and humane, what a society should aspire for, he would face a barrage of criticism. As we discover today, he is not even a responsible Member of Parliament. Tendulkar is so indifferent to its existence that he does not even attend its sittings.
A section of the media is outraged and so are the MPs. The “God” of cricket is as fallible and vulnerable as them. Judging by the angry, disappointed reactions, the MPs are shocked.
This leads to a bigger question. Is a person immune to the laws of nature, if he has achieved perfection and excellence in his chosen field, especially if that arena happens to be a sports field? Obviously not, would be the general refrain. However, the image of an achiever is so cleverly crafted into being “great” in all spheres of life by his brand managers, agents and the advertising world, that the gullible consumer starts believing in it.
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This image-building exercise is so powerful that a stage comes when the performer becomes the flag-bearer of the nation and his achievements are linked to the overall ‘greatness” of the state itself.
Once in a while, this image of “moral infallibility” comes crashing down. Remember Tiger Woods’ predatory sex escapades or the drug-cheating of the legendary cyclist champion Lance Armstrong. The irony is that the same industry which had built them as great role models, takes no time in disowning these ‘disgraced’ athletes. These “crimes” are dubbed as aberrations of an individual and they are immediately replaced on billboards with sportspersons with “clean” images.
In this vicious cycle of greatness and disgrace, we forget that all our sportspersons are young and since riches and fame accost them much earlier than people in other fields, they are more susceptible to the rich temptations this world has to offer.
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In Tendulkar’s case, it was a folly to have nominated him to the Rajya Sabha while he was still playing. In the cricket world of today, driven purely by commercial interests, a sportsman, especially of Tendulkar’s stature, can’t be expected to be “pristine pure” like the whites he used to wear in Test cricket. His agents would want to milk his fame and so would he, as the world has a short memory and who knows when Tendulkar will be replaced by another “Tendulkar” in the nation’s imagination.
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The mistake he and his advisors probably made is to accept this membership as if it was one more of the many honours and awards bestowed on him. No one would be more aghast and heart broken than his young fans once they realise their “God” prefers to attend a commercial event and endorse a brand than attend Parliament.
Tendulkar must be realising the hard way that the oft-repeated platitudes of “the country comes first” has a different resonance on a sports field than it does in public life. If you are a Parliamentarian, you will be expected to translate your “love for the nation” into meaningful action by raising issues that help the neglected sporting fraternity of this country. Earlier, he could “serve the country” by scoring a century, today that past is behind him and the sooner he realises that the better it would be for him as well as a legion of fans who adore him.