It was another day and another accolade in the life of Sachin Tendulkar. The latest coming from Australia – the nation that has probably suffered the most on the cricketing field at the hands of the Little Master.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced conferring upon Tendulkar the Order of Australia – an award that recognises outstanding achievement in a particular field of activity. While it’s mainly bestowed upon Australian citizens who’ve made invaluable contributions, there have been rare cases of the honour being conferred upon stalwarts outside of Australia.
The Order of Australia was established on February 14, 1975 by Queen Elizabeth II. This award recognises the achievements of Australian citizens and other persons, and according to the Australian Honours website, there are over 240,000 entries of people who have been honoured since federation through to the present day. Tendulkar was awarded an AM (Member of the Order), which is one of the four levels in the Order of Australia. Although he is the second Indian after Soli Sorabjee to be bestowed with this honour, it makes Tendulkar the first Indian cricketer to win this award.
A few carping critics, however, can’t digest Tendukar getting the rare honour. While the duo of Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds have long forgotten the ugly scandal that masked the face of cricket back in 2007-08 during the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, the Monkeygate incident still seems to be fresh in the minds of a few prominent cricket journalists in Australia. As a reason, they’ve quite openly expressed their displeasure on social networking websites at Tendulkar receiving the prestigious award, primarily because he sided with Harbhajan during the incident.
“Great batsman he may be, as the Prime Minister pointed out in New Delhi yesterday with exquisite timing, but sections of the Australian cricket community still remember the central role he played in the Andrew Symonds scandal. Tendulkar lied to an International Cricket Council (ICC) appeal following the suspension of Harbhajan Singh for racially abusing Andrew Symonds during the Sydney Test in 2008 to save face for his country and his team mate, who was a serial offender,” wrote noted Australian columnist Malcolm Conn.
It’s surprising that an issue has been made out of this, especially when the involved protagonists, Symonds and Harbhajan, were on amicable terms with each other while playing for the same franchise in the form of Mumbai Indians during the Indian Premier League (IPL). In fact, the duo appreciated each other’s spirit, with Symonds’ manager going on to state, “The way Andrew describes it, they are actually pretty similar animals. They are very, very competitive cricketers and when you put them on different teams, there was bound to be a flare-up.”
If the Monkeygate scandal is really as unpardonable as it’s made out to be, then Symonds would have refrained from playing for the Mumbai Indians in the first place - led by Tendulkar before Harbhajan took over the reins. When the hatchet has already been buried by the players themselves, it makes little sense to reopen old wounds, especially at this juncture. Brian Lara, too, was involved in several altercations against leading Australian players during his playing days – ones with Glenn McGrath and Steve Waugh jump readily to mind – but was awarded the Order of Australia for his inestimable contributions to the game.
The same is the case with Tendulkar. He has been honoured for his achievements in this field since the last 23 years and that has to be respected. To oppose such a gesture based on a one-off incident doesn’t augur well. Moreover, to castigate his role in something he wasn’t even directly associated with is baffling to say the least.
If anything, this move by Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard will only strengthen the bond between these two cricketing nations, and there is little doubt that among contemporary cricketers, if there’s anyone who deserves such an honour at all, it’s Sachin Tendulkar.
(Karthik Parimal, a Correspondent with CricketCountry, is a cricket aficionado and a worshipper of the game. He idolises Steve Waugh and can give up anything, absolutely anything, just to watch a Kumar Sangakkara cover drive. He can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/