x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Little Master is sworn in as MP, but cricket comes before politics says Tendulkar

The cricketer vows to put his on-field performance before any political activity after his appointment to the Rajya Sabha, the the upper house of Indian parliament.

Sachin Tendulkar, the Indian cricketer, 39, arrives at the Indian parliament with his wife Anjali to take his oath as a member of Rajya Sabha, the country's upper house, in New Delhi today.
Sachin Tendulkar, the Indian cricketer, 39, arrives at the Indian parliament with his wife Anjali to take his oath as a member of Rajya Sabha, the country's upper house, in New Delhi today.

NEW DELHI // The cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar was sworn in as a member of the upper house of parliament today, vowing to put his on-field performance before any political activity.

Mr Tendulkar, who is worshipped by millions of avid cricket fans in India, was appointed to the Rajya Sabha for a seat theoretically reserved for people who distinguish themselves in the fields of arts, science or social service.

"It is an honour which I accept with full respect but I am here because of my cricketing career," he said after the low-key ceremony. "I cannot take any focus away from my cricket because that is where it all started for me."

Mr Tendulkar, 39, has retired from international Twenty20 cricket but is still one of the world's leading one-day international (ODI) and Test players and he competed in the recent Indian Premier League season.

He is the first active sportsman to serve in India's upper house and yesterday he repeated that he had no immediate plans to retire.

"I am in a better position not only to help cricket but also other sports in the country," he said. "I would be happy if I am remembered (as) someone who has contributed to all sports in India rather than just my cricket statistics."

Mr Tendulkar has previously been careful to steer well clear of India's often bitter political world, and it remains unclear how much he will participate in parliament after his playing days are over.

When he was nominated in April, the Times of India said the gesture made "little sense" while some opposition lawmakers accused the government of crass populist politics.

Om Mathur, a member of parliament for the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, said at the time that Mr Tendulkar was being used by the ruling Congress party to boost its support in the cricketer's home state of Maharashtra.

Mr Tendulkar is the world's highest run-scorer in both Test and ODIs and in March became the first batsman to make 100 international centuries - 51 in Tests and 49 in ODIs.

The cricketing world first took notice of the child prodigy when, at 17 and playing only his ninth Test, he hit a match-saving 119 not out against England at Old Trafford in 1990.

Since then he has been revered in India as a demigod and has lived with the intense pressure of the cricket-obsessed public believing that every time he comes in to bat he will win the game for his team.

Despite such challenges, the "Little Master" has retained a reputation as an honest and humble family man who is involved in a variety of charity work.

His only weakness is said to be an insatiable love of fast cars which he reportedly drives around the streets of Mumbai in the early hours to avoid attracting attention.

Mr Tendulkar was sworn in yesterday by Hamid Ansari, India's vice president and the chairman of the upper house, in presence of his wife Anjali and politicians who presented him with a yellow silk shawl after the ceremony.