An open letter to Sachin Tendulkar
Dear Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar
Let me at the outset say that I look at myself as one of your biggest fans, just like the rest of the 121 crore people in India and many more across the cricketing globe. Since your debut in 1989, I have followed your career very, very closely. I am a part of a generation that has taken great pride in sometimes being called Tendulkar-Generation. Simply because like you grew in age and cricket, we too grew in life! I have considered every achievement of yours as my own. Every hundred, Every crucial knock, your decimation of Shane Warne in 1998, your top edged six of Shoaib Akhtar in Johanseburg in 2003 world cup semi final, Last year's double ton in Gwalior in a one day against South Africa, your milestones were our milestones. Yet, today, as I see the political class welcoming your move from the 22 yard cricket pitch to parliament's pitch in the Rajya Sabha, I do not share the sense of elation, which I gather you are currently enjoying.
When the likes of Craig Mcdermott, Curtly Ambrose, Wasim Akram hurled a bouncer at you, it was a lesson for wannabe cricketers in how to leave the ball. That slight bend on your knees, head swaying ever so gently, literally watching the ball go thudding into the keepers gloves. When Mutthiah Murlidharan, Shane Warne, Saqlain Mushtaq bowled their googlies, your perfect foot work would send the ball to all corners of the ground. When Glen Mcgrath bowled toe crushing yorkers, your backfoot punch made the ball literally kiss the already bent bowlers hands before crashing into boundary ropes. You are the master of the game of cricket. There can never be an iota of doubt on that. However, when you give up your bat and enter the great temple of Indian democracy, may I humbly remind you that you may find yourself in the midst of a game about which you may know very little.
I do understand that you are being nominated to the Rajya Sabha as a citizen who has achieved great glory in your sphere. After all, how many cricketers can claim to have their styles compared to the legendary Don Bradman. But in the great game called politics, you actually often don't get to see the ball. You may not even know who the bowler is and who is your partner. For all you know, the person sitting next to you, and claiming to be your partner at the other end, may actually be an opposition bowler. He may end up clean bowling you without you even realising that you have been bowled. Those who have known of you for far longer than the political class are asking you to be sure of your political play technique. The likes of Harsha Bhogle who has seen you as a kid, your Mumbai and former India team mate Sanjay Manjrekar believe that maybe some of your other play mates may be better off in politics. I think they are spot on. You yourself have said so many times in interviews over the past 2 decades that there is nothing you have ever thought off other than cricket. So what is it that's now propelling you to the political ground?
I see that you have associated yourself with many social ventures. You have participated in campaigns that have raised money for orphaned children. But at a time when the credibility of our political class is at its lowest, are you sure that the weight of your hundred hundreds will be a good enough firewall for you? Not for a moment am I doubting your ability to negotiate through crisis moments! You are the king of managing crisis situations. There are many who say that your hundreds have often not led to a victory. But then, that can't be your fault, after all there are ten other players who are there as well. In politics though, I am afraid you will not only be often held accountable for what you say or don't say, but also for what some of your other parliamentary colleagues do or don't do. Let me give you an example. If you were in Parliament on the fateful date of 27th December 2011, what would be your position on the specific question of Rajya Sabha chairman acting as a Congress stooge? What would you have said to a Rajneeti Prasad of the RJD who famously tore apart the Lokpal bill? Even your most recent hundred against Bangladesh (thank almighty you finally got that) failed to galvanise India to a victory. The headlines next day though saluted you for your effort. That equation may end up being totally reversed for Sachin, the parliamentarian from Sachin, the batsman.
Politics for sure is about ideas, but it's also about ability to deliver on those ideas. How will the country see Sachin Tendulkar as a parliamentarian? Will you vouch for transparency in sports? Let me remind you, the same government which has nominated you to the Rajya Sabha has a sports minister who is bitterly opposed to the functioning of BCCI. He wants to take away the autonomy of BCCI. Your first challenge may well be to take a position on the very body which you have benefited from over the past two decades. Will you speak in favour of BCCI or against it? You are perhaps the biggest sporting icon that we have ever produced in our country. But do you look at yourself as an ambassador of cricket or do you believe you can fight for the entire sporting spectrum? Can you ensure that hockey players also get to travel by air, just like you have done all your life, and are paid half as well as you and some of your other cricket colleagues are? I am told that you are brilliant at practically every sport you play. But cricket is your forte, so would you be better off trying to change the conspiratorial nature of cricket administration in our country? You could for sure make a start by cleaning up Mumbai cricket association? Maybe travel to all districts of your own home state with an eye for future talent?
I am sure you heard the marvellous speech made by your long term colleague Rahul Dravid just before the start of the disastrous tour down under. At the Bradman lecture, it was vintage Dravid. He spoke just like he bats. With grace and that rare silken touch. He spoke about the challenges for cricket administrators across the world. Ian Chappel went to the extent of saying that Dravid will be the International Cricket Council President in ten years time. Do you want to be the chief minister of Maharashtra in ten years time? I remember you very proudly wore an air force officer's uniform sometime back. Would you mind telling us what have you done about the air force since donning their uniform? Just last month, at a press conference you said that you may probably even play the next world cup. Bingo, that's exactly what we want from you. To be on the cricketing field, continue to mesmerise us with your batsmanship. I would be the happiest if you were to rise as an eminent parliamentarian as well, But I don't think you have got your timing right on this one. We want to see the flick of your wrists, your leg glance, bring on that hook shot again. Don't create a situation where your cricket gets overshadowed or dominated by politics. Already there are politicians of all hues who are openly asking if a Saurav Ganguly or a Kapil Dev too shouldn't have been accorded similar honour. You don't have to give up your honour for them, but be sure of what are your positions in life before taking up this political responsibility.
A cricket ground has finite positions. A political ground has infinite. Hope you come through this agnee pareeksha that you have chosen to ask for your oneself
A Sachin fan
More about Bhupendra Chaubey
Bhupendra Chaubey has been a TV journalist for the past 12 years starting his career with NDTV. As a political journalist travelling across the length and breadth of the country, he has that unique ability to grasp things at a micro level and then present it on a macro level. A graduate in Mathematics and post graduate in films, Bhupendra has been among the finest political journalists of his generation having covered two general elections and assembly elections of all states. He is amongst those journalists who depend more on their ground political awareness supplementing it with academic awareness of issues that confront the nation. Bhupendra often hosts the very popular and award winning news show face the nation on CNN-IBN. He wants to be associated with the process of understanding the ever changing face of India. He lives in the national capital with his family.