x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Sachin Tendulkar continues to divide opinion

The presence of the cricketing icon presence would bring a lot more attention to the legislative branch of government, which could mean more accountability, according to Ahmed Rizvi.

Sachin Tendulkar was criticised by some for the manner in which he scored his 100th hundred. Munir uz Zaman / AFP
Sachin Tendulkar was criticised by some for the manner in which he scored his 100th hundred. Munir uz Zaman / AFP

Sachin Tendulkar's nomination to the India's Upper House of Parliament and his acceptance, as expected, has led to a partisan debate in the country.

There is always an exaggerated response to everything the little man does, or does not do. While he struggled to reach his landmark of a century of centuries in international cricket for almost a year, Tendulkar was lampooned by critics, with the more preposterous among them suggesting it is time for the batsman to say farewell.

Yet, when he reached that milestone, there was universal celebration. Of course, a few inconsiderates thought his century was the primary cause of India's defeat to Bangladesh in that Asia Cup match and described the champion as selfish.

How often have we heard such ludicrous arguments against, statistically at least, the greatest batsman in the game after Sir Don Bradman? People peddle statistics about how Tendulkar's centuries have come in losing causes, or against weaker opponents. But is he not just doing his job, scoring as many runs as possible? Had he scored a half-century instead of a 100, would India have won those matches?

And is it really his fault that he plays in these times of Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, and not in the generation of the Thomsons, Lillees, Hadlees or the awesome West Indies pace quartet?

Damned if he does, and damned if he does not. He is a villain now among a minority for accepting the nomination to the Rajya Sabha. Had he turned it down, Tendulkar would have been described as selfish by the same critics.

The major opposition parties have refrained from criticising the nomination, made by the Congress party who lead the ruling coalition, and even welcomed it for obvious reasons. Nobody would want to alienate Tendulkar's millions of fans.

The right-wing commentators, however, have not been so happy and have launched a vitriolic campaign against Tendulkar on social media. On Twitter, their # Unfollow Sachin is trending high.

The criticisms range from questions over his ability to attend parliamentary sessions to his dignified silence over controversial issues – cricketing or non-cricketing – throughout his playing career. Others have accused him of selling out to the Congress party.

Sanjay Manjrekar, Tendulkar's former colleague in both the Mumbai and India dressing rooms, reckons the batting maestro may not have given "adequate consideration to the downside of accepting such an offer" and he has not "sufficiently spoken out on public issues".

What was Tendulkar supposed to do? Talk about Mumbai's civic issues after a day's cricket? Or use the press conferences to take sides in petty political bickering? And to suggest he has not given "adequate consideration" is to insult the intelligence of the man. Manjrekar should know better.

A man who claims to remember every single one of his dismissals and spends sleepless nights before matches planning his innings, would not take a blind leap into the murky world of politics. Tendulkar is not in need of power and pelf either.

At this point, it is safe to surmise he has a plan - just as he had a plan every time he walked out to bat against Wasim Akram, Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne or Muttiah Muralitharan. And he did not divulge those on the eve of matches.

Tendulkar, without a doubt, is an icon and his presence, if nothing else, would bring a lot more attention to the Indian parliament, which could mean more accountability. He has inspired a generation of cricketers and likewise could, as easily, encourage Indian youth to step into the world of politics.

In the late 1970s or early 1980s, who would have thought one of cricket's "playboys" would lead a political revolution in his country 30 years later. But Imran Khan is doing just that in Pakistan. So the jury needs to wait on Tendulkar.

arizvi@thenational.ae

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