x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Let's not forget Bradman and Lara

Mozart, Beethoven or Bach are all equally pleasing to the ear; only the cacophonous would try to drown the music out through a noisy debate about one's excellence over the other.

I know Clayton Murzello discussed Sachin Tendulkar's double hundred in these pages yesterday, but it was such a momentous feat that it warrants further analysis. From the day the Little Master played that magnificent innings in Gwalior against South Africa there has been an explosion of jingoism in cricketing circles. The debate has raged around whether Tendulkar is better than Brian Lara or even Sir Don Bradman. Forgive me, but I find the whole discourse a bit unpalatable and I am sure the Mumbai Maestro himself finds it tasteless.

Now, I am an Indian and admire Tendulkar as much as the Taj, but I have enough sense not to claim Shahjahan's monument to love is greater than the pyramids of Giza or the relics of Greece and Rome. Or that the majestic Himalayas are better than the Alps and the Ganges is purer than the Amazon. This not to say they are inferior in any way. Mozart, Beethoven or Bach are all equally pleasing to the connoisseur's ear; only the cacophonous would try to drown the music out through a noisy debate about one's excellence over the other.

The same goes for Bradman, Lara or Tendulkar. Our love and respect is due for all three. The trio, to use musical vernacular, have all composed the greatest of cricketing symphonies between the wickets. With a Test average of 99.94, Bradman must deserves all the reverence, but a flippant few claim he usually played against only a few of the current Test playing nations. Was that his fault? Should he have travelled to Zimbabwe and Bangladesh when those nations were not even born?

Imagine his average if he had. Or if he had the protective gear that batsmen wear today or the meaty willows they use. Remember the Bodyline series? Today's bowlers are not even allowed to bowl more than two bouncers an over and pitches have to be "fair", which usually means in favour of batsmen. Moving to the present, has the game seen a greater accumulator of runs than Lara? The record top score of 501 in first-class cricket and the Test equivalent of 400 both belong to the Prince of Trinidad. He had few peers when it came to style.

True, neither player had to carry the weight of expectations as Tendulkar does or face constant scrutiny from a nation of more than a billion. But calling him god is taking it too far. He is great only because he is human - a mortal who raises himself through superhuman feats, who has immortalised himself through sheer endeavour. Why else would we be in awe? Tendulkar's first words after crossing the magical milestone in Gwalior point aptly towards that. He was more pleased about batting through 50 overs than being the first in history to score 200.

Remember Ramakant Achrekar, the coach who shaped Tendulkar's genius, always believed his school chum Vinod Kambli was the more talented of the two. Where's Kambli now? Yet Tendulkar goes on and on. So let us not place him on hollow pedestals. Comparisons will not add to the tally of his scores or centuries, neither in numbers nor quality. Let us just celebrate Tendulkar for what he is - a master of his art, a genius, an inspiration and a once-in-a-generation sportsman.

He is god's gift to cricket. Tendulkar probably would not have been playing the game if not for his habit of climbing trees, and then falling out of them, during summer vacations, prompting his older brother Ajit to take him to cricket practice to keep him out of trouble. But then, what do they say of destiny? @Email:arizvi@thenationaal.ae