Tendulkar needs to be saved from the suffocating 'Sachin mania'

Sachin Tendulkar walks back after being dismissed on 91 during the final day of the fourth Test against England at the Oval © Getty Images

 

By Madan Mohan

 

A status message H. Natarajan had posted on his Facebook account with regard to Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid prompted me to write this piece. Ms Sohini Mitter responded to the status message by saying that her office colleagues celebrated when Tendulkar was dismissed before he got to his century. I was shocked to read that comment. I know some people on the internet are irritated by “Sachin mania” and I share their sentiment, but I had no idea it had spread outside in the ‘real’ world too. I am sure such reactions are isolated, but several people expressed relief that Tendulkar could not make his 100th international century as it allowed Rahul Dravid to bask in the limelight – for a change.

 

It is a sad state of affairs when we give vent to such feelings about the achievements of one of the greats of the game. Make no mistake, I felt relieved too, relieved that the front page wouldn’t gloss over India’s thorough humiliation and spare some words for Dravid’s application. And I have since wondered why on earth I was relieved at all! Surely, when you think of it, you want Tendulkar — one of the mainstays of the Indian batting line- up – to make as many as he possibly can. More runs are always good for the team.

 

After a career of more than two decades, people have grown tired of “Sachin mania”. Many of those who counted themselves among the maniacs have gradually begun to cringe at the sheer clutter of “Sachin-mania”. And things became positively surreal when Tendulkar became the butt of Rajnikanth and Chuck Norris jokes and when column inches were devoted to best wishes from fans for his World Cup campaign. My own threshold of tolerance was breached at that point.

 

The unadulterated joy of watching him bat, the very thing that drew me to cricket, is now a distant memory because the baggage of media overkill is omnipresent. We barely get to watch Tendulkar exert himself a little more on the field without odes to his commitment being sung in the commentary box. You cannot escape his presence even on general television via endorsement of various products. If you are Indian and clued into cricket, Tendulkar is part of your daily life. We are thus forced to consider all things Tendulkar with a pinch of jaded cynicism. So many runs, so many centuries, heck, who gives a damn anymore!

 

For all practical purposes, Tendulkar has been reduced to the Michael Jackson of cricket. And that is so wrong. Not what the great man deserves. Tendulkar has conducted himself with grace and dignity in the midst of unprecedented media glare, adulation and expectations. Not for him the paranoia and the urge to morph his identity of that flawed popstar. And yet, I wonder if people only acknowledge Tendulkar anymore out of obligation than true regard and reverence. A sort of “can’t argue with his stats, but he is just a hype balloon” view. Just like how you can’t argue with the album sales of “Thriller”.

 

Look no further than Scyld Berry’s shockingly misinformed piece on Tendulkar entitled “Sachin’s limitations have been exposed on this England tour” for proof that I am not exaggerating. I don’t believe that Mr. Berry would not be educated about Tendulkar’s achievements, so I have to conclude that the piece is written out of spite and resentment. Only 10 years ago or so, the cricket world universally and unconditionally adored the Little Champion, as Sunil Gavaskar refers to him, and devoted reams to paper to the celebration of his legend. Today, the favoured style is to quip that they know who he is and they’d like to see what’s he got because he has ‘never’ won matches for India (that’s a myth that’s been punctured before and not the focus of this piece).

 

A few months back, I had written that BCCI and India Inc. would leave no stoned unturned to keep Brand Sachin alive. Now I feel they must be careful not to kill the golden goose in their overzealousness. These are the first signs of, well, brand fatigue that I have seen with regard to Tendulkar. People, we know all about Tendulkar, so there’s no need anymore to shout about it from the rooftops and we are sincerely sorry if you only learnt of his existence today.

 

If Tendulkar’s legacy is to be preserved beyond just the numbers and he is to be remembered, rightly, as an all time great, we need to first save Tendulkar from “Sachin mania”. Else, beware the force of trendy revisionism! When he hangs up his boots, it may well become the norm to dismiss Tendulkar as a mere accumulator, as Mr. Berry has already condescended to. And I will point, hopefully not in vain, to Sharjah 1998, Chennai 1999 and Centurion 2003 and point to a master of his craft.

 

(Madan Mohan, a 25-year old CA from Mumbai, is passionate about writing, music and cricket. Writing on cricket is like the icing on the cake)