In praise of : Sachin Tendulkar

I am interested in greatness, not in damn dots.

— John Arlott, writing on W. G. Grace

It is said that cricket chauvinism runs across two axes, those of nation and generation. So when Steve Waugh came to the crease in the first test of the 1998-9 Ashes, A fellow countryman Bill Lawry welcomed him on television thus : ‘Here is the best batsman in the world’. Waugh himself quickly disavowed this title given by a fellow countryman. Earlier that year, Waugh had fielded in Sharjah where 4 centuries was hit against Australia by a rival, two scored in a test match played in India, two in two ODI’s played in Sarjah. At the end of it all he shook his head and remarked, ‘There is no one who bats like this guy – but I did not see Don Bradman.’ Steve was judging Sachin Tendulkar. [1]

National pride is known to promote excess and cricket goes hand in hand with national pride in India. So with a billion plus fans, Sachin Tendulkar is conveniently labelled the greatest batsman by his followers/lovers/fans/worshipers alike. For some of them even Bradman is not great enough.

According to ‘damn dots’, Sachin is the best batsman produced by the city of Mumbai, and by extension, by India and perhaps by this world too (whose fault is it if Bradman did not play enough tests?). But if statistics are the measure of greatness then ‘what you will say about Jacques Kallis’, asks Mukul Kesavan, ‘who after 16 years at the top has a Test batting average higher than Tendulkar’s. He also has 271 Test wickets to Tendulkar’s 45, and 169 catches to Tendulkar’s 110’? If I was a ‘determined South African fan looking for numbers to prove that my man was the best, I could legitimately argue that you would need to merge Sachin Tendulkar with Zaheer Khan to come up with Jacques Kallis’ [2]. As commentators implies and his fans confidently assert, ‘is he greatest of all?’ Can he find his way into World-11 against the ‘monsters of Mars’?

Indian batsmen, while excel at home, are notoriously fragile overseas. On bouncy wickets, they will fall quicker than you can spell ‘coalition government’. During his career whenever Sachin failed in those matches, he knew that his side would usually fail too. The Mumbai columnist C. P. Surendran has written evocatively of what Tendulkar meant to this nation of losers. In a country where a single cricket-match could make national newspapers to declare that ‘India has becomes a superpower’, it should not be easy for him to walk to the wicket for so much pressure to win. Whenever he went on to play, ‘a whole nation, tetters and all, marches with him to the battle arena. A pauper people pleading for relief, remission from the life-long anxiety of being Indian … seeking a moment’s liberation from their India-bondage through the exhilarating grace of one accidental bat.‘  What do you expect from a single cricketer who has so fully represented the hopes of so many cricket-obsessed junkies? The greatness of his lies in the fact that he had carried it all of these burden, calmly with an unmatched temperament.

If I were to judge, I would say that he may be a great player but not the greatest of all. He is a remarkable player nonetheless and there are many other who are equally remarkable. But none of them had to answer to their one billion hero-worshippers and had to carry the weight of their completely unfair expectation. Just imagine afresh how would you react to a child who wails at night; or to an examination paper which has to be answered 7 O’clock in next morning? He is perhaps one of the greatest player. Quality of his cricket can be judged from the fact that Englishmen, who are otherwise parsimonious in praise of their opponent, have bent to Tendulkar. ‘When Sachin batted at Headingley in the Test match of 1990, Sir Leonard Hutton told Freddie Trueman that he could not remember when he had seen such quick and sure footwork’. According to Ramachandra Guha, this is ‘the only known occasion on which either of those Yorkshire-man is known to paid a compliment to an Indian’. The next year he was contracted to Yorkshire. A little brown boy had found his way into the hearts and cheque-books of the most insular and tight-fisted community in the universe. [1]

It is rightly said that longevity is the gold standard of greatness and perhaps more so in India where a cricket fan is quick to worship and quicker to demand player head. It must take a singular individual to survive that long even with strokes of luck. So how about a place in World-eleven against the ‘monsters of Mars’. I would not bet on him in a single match. But if series is going to last of few months then he certainly going to show his class, at least by scoring centuries if not by winning match for his side.


[1] An anthropologists among the Marxists and other essays, Ramachandra Guha.


3 thoughts on “In praise of : Sachin Tendulkar

  1. i don't know why sachin is dragging his career when he is done with his game.sachin reminds me of sunil gavaskar who used to struggle to score runs in his late stage.i too like sachin a lot and used to keep alarm to wake up at 4am to see sachin bat hughes and mcdermot during benson and hedges a passionate cricketer in my school days ,i know the body language of a serious cricketer and technicalities of game unlike dumb indian cricket fans who support and criticise without knowing the game.sachin lost his instinct from early 2000 due to tremendous media attention who wants to make business using his name and popularity,he has lost himself in this media hype over years cuz i don't find that instinctive sachin anymore.more over the game cricket lost its beauty and credibility when cricket boards and match sponsors got into match fixing to mint money.i told people around me that india bought 2011 world cup a month before it commenced from the hype and cricketing experts body language and their comments all over media.its true that most of world cup matches were fixed by cricket boards and espn-star and other sponsors.if you don't believe ,you can ask any cricket expert like imran khan or sunil gavaskar or viv richards off the record.i don't know why sachin is playing fixed ipl matches for mumbai indians and when game cricket has become totally corrupt and lost it genuine beauty.a true cricketer can't be part of corrupt game cuz it doen't make sense.when we speak about greatness and comparision with world class cricketers,sachin is not technically ultimate when compared to likes of kallis,ponting,lara on green wicket.they played better than sachin.we had a english lesson in school called THE COUNTRY OF the country of blind ONE EYED GUY IS THE KING.sachin is famous for his consistency and for his number of fans irrespective of game technic.i always defended sachin from his critics cuz he used to give his hundred percent whenever he played in his first 15 years of i don't support sachin cuz he has lost himself to fame and commercial the end,for genuine and passionate cricketers, sachin will be another gavaskar who got retired after losing all his glory.

  2. Excellent read…it was nice to find somebody look at the complete picture instead of praising the so called 'God' of cricket. There is no doubt about the fact that he is one of the best – but he is not the best. You brought the point home my mentioning about Earth XI vs Mars XI. It's just that he has been playing for such a long time, that new records are bound to be created. But that does not make him equal to God or worthy of being in the team even after continued disastrous performance. For some time now, I've been feeling that he suffers from a sense of inflated self ego – and more than once- has played for himself than for the country. Just 2-3 days back, he had called a press conference to emphasize the point -"I will decide when I retire"!. This statement smells of exaggerated self importance- which he has begun to associate with himself. I am surprised that none of the major national dailies criticized Sachin for such a remark. He is undoubtedly a great player, but definitely not above the game or the nation.

  3. nicely written…though I'm not a big fan of comparing achievements of two great players who, under given circumstances performed better then the best of their contemporaries for a long period of time. If Kallis started his career 5 years ago, could anybody have imagined to break his record, if Sachin never recovered from tht injury could he achieve what he has !

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