Sachin Tendulkar mania: Irrational Indian cricket fans must learn to put the team above the maestro

The moment every cricketing venue in India wait for — the emergence of Sachin Tendulkar from the pavilion to take his place at the wicket © Getty Images

By Siddhesh Aghashe

At the outset let me make it clear that I am a Sachin Tendulkar fan. I have absolutely loved watching him play over the years and have admired him all my life. However, I do not consider him God. Neither, in my humble opinion, he has is the best player of our generation. It’s merely a personal opinion without a hidden agenda. But thanks to the above opinions, I’m considered a trenchant Tendulkar critic by his ‘fans’ who bracket me alongside those who are perennially opposed to the maestro. 

In April last year I wrote a spoof on how a man was forced to attempt suicide for making anti-Tendulkar comments on Facebook. Anybody with a passing knowledge of Indian cricket and Tendulkar will agree that portions of the spoof were, in fact, a reality. 

I must confess that I’m scared to say anything against Tendulkar as I did not want to respond to ridiculous comments. But what happened in the Delhi Test against Australia on Saturday incensed me so much that I feel compelled to write about it. When Cheteshwar Pujara got out, the crowd excitedly started chanting, “Sachin, Sachin“. Initially, I was extremely amused at the lack of knowledge of these ‘fans’ because Tendulkar almost never comes out at No 3. The amusement soon turned to anger when Virat Kohli got out. There was huge celebration in the entire ground at the fall of an Indian wicket — that too of the local boy! The match situation itself had turned precarious. Nathan Lyon was in the middle of a very decent spell on a seriously dodgy wicket. Australia was coming back in the Test match, and one more wicket would have turned the game on its head. But no one seemed to care. All they cared about was Tendulkar coming out to bat. The Indian team’s position was secondary to them. When Tendulkar was still on nought, Murali Vijay completed a very well-compiled 50. The fans, however, did not seem to notice. Everyone was concentrating on Tendulkar getting his first run. Why the hell was his first run so important? It only adds up one run to the team total. I wanted to shout at the top of my voice and ask the unruly spectators a few questions. Had I not feared getting lynched by Tendulkar fans, I would have asked them: 

If you want had to chose between “a” and “b” below, what will you choose? 

a. India winning and Tendulkar scoring a 0 

b. India losing and Tendulkar scoring a 100 

When asked in isolation most people will say “a”. But many of these would also have celebrated Tendulkar’s 100th international century in the Asia Cup match which India lost to Bangladesh. Those answering “b” can be pardoned because they are not cricket fans in the first place and watch the game only for Tendulkar. . 

This irrational fascination with individuals and records is perhaps the reason why India does don’t do well in other team sports. Cricket is probably the only team sport where individual contribution is so unequivocally honored. Thanks to cricket’s popularity, India have produced some of the finest cricketers in the world over the past five decades. Yet, India have not been able to dominate world cricket as a team for long stretches of time. Had the emphasis of cricket fans been more on the team winning rather than individual milestones and records, India would have been a major force in world cricket.

To end on a lighter note, I can imagine a very young right-back growing up in India being hounded with questions like: “You a footballer? How many goals have you scored?” The poor kid would find it extremely difficult to explain to people that despite being a footballer his primary responsibility is not scoring a goal. He would probably end up becoming a pathetic striker in a C grade team instead of a world class right back in an A grade team.
 
(Siddhesh Agashe is one of those innumerable MBA+Engineer types who genuinely believe their talent is made for some other world than the one they reside in. He blogs at http://siddheshagashe.blogspot.com/ and is a part-time writer for faking news.com)