Sunday, December 28, 2008

Champion of our Hearts

The recent shenanigans by our politicians, most notably Minority Affairs Minister A R Antulay and BJP leaders asking for his resignation, only suggests that tea stall opinions about our political class hold water. At a time like this, when the whole nation is willing to stand behind our netas and support them in whatever hard decisions needed to be made, they simply cannot find it in themselves to show any sense of purpose in their political discourse or even the barest levels of civility. It truly is demoralizing. No wonder then that for years together now, no politician figures in any list of Indians of the Year, drawn up by the various media outlets.

However one man who does figure routinely is Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. The little maestro has consistently done himself and his nation proud for nearly two decades. And yet our appreciation for his efforts and his astounding decency has not been anywhere near as consistent as he has been on the field. An incident that happened while I was watching the final overs of the recent test match against England at Chennai illustrates aptly what I am trying to say. While the match was heading towards a famous Indian victory a small crowd had gathered around the television in the lobby where we were watching the match. Inevitably to a man/woman everyone wanted to see if Sachin would manage to score yet another century. However the reactions varied between “Even if India loses from here I hope Sachin scores a century” to “Whether or not India wins, Sachin will ensure that he scores a century”!!

There is a very curious dichotomy in the way Tendulkar affects the average Indian. All of us love him and yet somehow quite a few of us also hate him at the same time. This curious canard about a selfish man who plays for personal glory and his place in the record books should simply not be entertained. Any attempt to use his statistics to prove the man’s ability or his dedication is akin to holding a candle to the sun. To put it simply, Sachin Tendulkar is a champion. He has proved his mettle time and again on the field and is accepted as a legend among his peers. And he has lived his life, under unmatched scrutiny, with the utmost humility and dignity.

His efforts in the recent Chennai test illustrate his dedication to his team and to his  nation. It was apparent to anyone watching how much this victory meant to him and also how clearly he understood what it would mean to a grieving nation. With this match-winning century he not only exorcised the trauma of the loss to Pakistan at the same ground in ’99, but also staked his claim to a title that should rightly have been his ages ago. In a cricket obsessed nation, he truly is the Champion of our hearts.

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