OK, Sachin Tendulkar is the most popular player in the history of Indian cricket. Period.
He has the highest number of records in the history of world cricket. Period.
Nobody even comes close to disputing that.
However for every sport that is played in the world, the primary goal is to win and not make records or build up player popularity.
Using that lens, you may look at any player in a totally different light.
There are always two sides of any coin and Sachin has had his failings.
It is not a crime to discuss them.
Sachin fans should probably stop reading now itself for the simple reason that for every negative article on him, there are thousands and thousands praising him to the skies.
If you can’t even take “miniscule and rare criticism”, then what’s the whole point of debate in a free society?
So here’s looking at the failure of “God” both on and off the field…
1. Captaincy: This is a Grade 1 disaster. Many people say that a captain is as good as his team, but how is it that the captains before and after him have been so successful? Just before Tendulkar, Mohammed Azharuddin was statistically the most successful Indian captain of all time (at that time).
Just after Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly is still considered the best captain by many. In the last 30 years, Kapil Dev won the World Cup, Sunil Gavaskar won the mini World Cup, while Rahul Dravid won Test series overseas and had 17 record chases in ODIs.
And of course there’s MS Dhoni.
What about IPL? Sachin couldn’t lead Mumbai Indians to a single tournament victory. When Harbhajan temporarily took over captaincy he won the Champions League. When Rohit Sharma took over, he won both the IPL and Champions League.
It seems that almost anyone can lead India and Mumbai Indians to victory except Sachin.
2. Choking and selfishness: How many times has the team relied on Tendulkar only for him to let them down? How many times has Sachin got out while chasing yet another umpteenth milestone when he should have been looking at the team’s score?
How many times have you been shocked to see Sachin take a single off the first ball of a fearsome fast bowler to totally expose a tail-ender? The rate has been much higher than many Indian greats, forget international ones.
Sachin has been no game-changer like Steve Waugh and even Virender Sehwag, but has merely happened to be an accumulator.
The best example is the fact that he has played two World Cup finals and failed to score even a quarter-century in either of them. Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman have been our biggest match-winners in Tests while MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli have already paled him in victory knocks in
ODIs even though their careers are far from over.
3. Leadership: India is one of the rare cricketing countries in the world which doesn’t have player unions. When asked of this, Ian Chappell answered: That’s because the BCCI knows that it just has to satisfy the likes of Tendulkar and not bother about the rest.
Sachin never took the lead in players’ rights and even when all the match-fixing scandals took place and preferred to maintain a low profile rather than re-assuring the fans.
Sachin has always got extra special treatment and in the latter half of his career has been able to pick and choose whatever matches he wanted. He may have even have got a farewell with the West Indies at the cost of two less matches of a very important South Africa tour.
4. Retirement Timing: At the beginning of 2011, Sachin scored a brilliant century on South African soil and then we won the World Cup. That was the best time for Sachin to retire but he refused to do so.
Since then in Tests, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan have made sensational Test debuts. Virat Kohli cemented his place in the team. Murli Vijay led the run-getters in a rate whitewash. Cheteshwar Pujara averages 65.5 after 15 Tests. How many more?
India is clearly bursting at the seams with talent and Sachin has blocked a place for 1.5 years.
The ODI scene has been even more sensational and we won the ICC Champions Trophy this year.
5. 2011-13 batting: There are many who say that Sachin should have played as long as he wanted which is a silly logic because performance is the only thing that matters.
In January 2011, Sachin scored a brilliant century in Cape Town and while going he hit a fluent 74. In between has been 2011-13 has been the leanest phase in Sachin’s life spanning more than 20 Tests where he wasn’t even among the Top 5 batsman of the side in some of the series!
After the World Cup in ODIs he was even more lacklustre and scored just one slow century which not only cost us the match with a lowly team like Bangladesh and also the Asia Cup.
6. 0-8: The 0-8 overseas debacle is a big blot on the career of seniors and Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman did decide to call it a day. Not so Sachin who continued playing with plummeting form.
One point of note is that while 0-4 and 0-5 happened regularly till the 1960s, not even one happened in the Sunil Gavaskar era who some think is even a greater Test batsman than Sachin.
When the chips were totally down, Gavaskar could down the shutters and draw a match.
That Sachin couldn’t even draw a single Test is a blot on him if you want to call him the “Greatest”.
7. IAF Brand Ambassador: After a lot of fanfare, Sachin was dropped as the tie-up with IAF “failed to yield the desired results”. Of course you won’t find many details on this because negative stories on Sachin are generally downplayed.
In 1999 it was claimed that Tendulkar called Bal Thackeray to get the story of a road accident he was involved in suppressed. In 2001, he was at the centre of ball-tampering allegations in South Africa.
In 2002, he received a Ferrari for free and still wanted import duty waived on it and in the end he sold the car for a tidy profit! In 2008 he was at the centre of Monkeygate.
It’s not that Sachin has not been involved in controversies. It’s that media treated him with kid gloves whenever one happened.
No Test triple: A personal score of 300 or more has been scored more than 25 times in Tests.
Sachin is not part of that list and that’s got to rankle. To make matters worse, he’s not even in the Top 5 individual Test scores for Indians.
Politics: The Rajya Sabha nomination is usually a tame affair and none of the MPs who take that route end up doing anything. Sachin is no different. He missed the initial swearing in and was absent during key House discussions.
He even said after becoming a politician that cricket came first, but as a Rajya Sabha MP, he averages a paltry 26: A case of doing badly in both!
International T20s: In 2007, we were told either Sachin opted out of international T20s or was dropped by the board. Either way he played only one game. That was strange because he has played IPL from 2008-13. Is domestic T20 more important than international T20?
The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.
He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/