By Amrut Thobbi
Things could not have been more hostile in the Sialkot Test in the winter of 1989. Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Imran Khan were as menacing as any in the history of Test cricket. Four of India’s top order batsmen – Krishnamachari Srikkanth, Sanjay Manjrekar, Mohammad Azharuddin and Ravi Shastri – were dismissed for 3, 4, 4 and 0 with just 38 on the board. It was in this unmistakable crisis that 16-year old Sachin Tendulkar came out to join Navjot Sidhu in the middle – looking every inch like a schoolboy who has strayed into the middle of a coliseum among blood-thirsty gladiators.
The second ball he faced was a vicious bouncer from Waqar Younis. It hit Tendulkar on his bang on the nose. As Sidhu narrated the incident, the kid fell like a sack of potatoes, blood gushing out of his nose.
As the five-foot five inch batsman stood up, a squeaky voice from beneath the helmet was heard by the non-striker, ”Main khelega … main khelega” (I will play … I will play). The little boy went on to score 57 runs – an innings of defiance, an innings which defined Sachin Tendulkar’s character.
As one hears the rising decibel level against Tendulkar’s nomination to the Rajya Sabha – and subsequent acceptance by him, one is forced to recall that incident when Tendulkar was still a prodigious kid, making heads shake in disbelief around the world. What the man has achieved in 22 years of blood, sweat and glory is unparalleled in sports history. Yet, critics have been quick to express their doubts Tendulkar’s ability to do justice to his new role.
There is no denying that politics – especially in scam-ridden India – and politicians do not have a good image. There is a sense of disbelief how Tendulkar could align himself with a party that has been seen as most corrupt in post-Independence. But then the lotus exists in a cesspool. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh can be accused of inaction, indecisiveness and even indifference, but even his most trenchant critic does not accuse the man of having gained monetarily via dubious means from holding the high office. Tendulkar, too, has had a squeaky-clean reputation and there is no reason why he cannot remain one, despite being in the cesspool of politics. Of course, there will be plenty of political landmines that he has to watch out, but he has shown right through his fabulous career that he can take the heat of the battle and the opposition and emerge a winner.
People in Indian sports have welcomed the nomination because they see a ray of hope in a powerful voice representing them in the corridors of power. Tendulkar is used to carrying a mountain of responsibility and his track record deserves that we show belief in his ability to do good for Indian sports.
The man has not even taken guard. Let’s not rush and pass judgment on him. Ronald Reagan, many believe, became a better President than he was as a successful actor. APJ Abdul Kalam was a well-renowned scientist who became India’s visionary president.
“Politics is the last resort of the scoundrel,” opined George Bernard Shaw. Maybe, Shaw would have had done a rethink had he lived to see a respected man from the world of cricket entering the Indian Parliament.
(Amrut Thobbi, an engineering graduate now pursuing Masters in journalism, is an ardent cricket fan. His passion for writing inspired him to give up a sales and marketing job, which he does not regret. By writing on cricket, he wants to relive his dream of becoming a cricketer. He has also worked as a freelance writer in education and technology sectors)