I watched Sachin’s media conference in Pune where he spoke about being a parliamentarian and a sportsman. I thought it was a fitting response to critics who felt that Sachin would be a misfit in the house of the elders given that he has rarely spoken out on even cricketing issues, much less social.
True, Sachin has been disappointingly mum on various matters concerning cricket and has rarely expressed his opinion. Even when he did, his statements were carefully couched in diplomacy. The only time he said anything original was to suggest breaking up of the 50-over format into two innings of 25 for each team, but expectedly, the ICC rejected the idea.
However, at the Pune media interaction, we saw a different side of Sachin. Fluent in Marathi and looking very relaxed, he expressed his views freely and his assertion that he was nominated for Rajya Sabha because of his cricketing achievements and that he is a sportsperson, not a politician, evoked loud applause and whistles.
Also, for the first time, Sachin publicly spoke of his charity work, including supporting some 400 under-privileged children. We have also heard of his other charitable work that is otherwise rarely spoken about because of his unwillingness to trumpet his social projects.
The point is why hold Sachin at gun point when it was the government that made the offer? It could be that the beleaguered NDA hoped to win some brownie points by nominating Sachin, undoubtedly one of the biggest icons in India. Whatever the reasoning or justification, it was not of the maestro’s bidding that he received the offer.
Perhaps, we haven’t seen a side of Sachin that I suspect might surface once he retires from cricket. At the moment, he lacks the sophistication and polish, something I am sure his wife Anjali is working on. After all, Sachin himself has admitted that his public persona has much to do with his wife’s loving guidance (as is with most of us men!).
Under the circumstances, it wouldn’t be wrong to believe that Sachin is set to play a different type of innings and given his determination, might succeed. As they say, it is a folly to judge a book by its cover. Rather, it is best that we wait and watch rather than jump the gun.
Sachin is not the first sportsperson or a celebrity to be nominated to Rajya Sabha. There have been others, but sadly, none really made a mark or impact. This time around, Sachin has hockey legend Dilip Tirkey for company, though the full-back was actually "elected" unopposed from Orissa.
If and when Sachin gets time to attend Parliament, it would be interesting to see how he deals with the politicians and more importantly, the politics. He has seen enough and more of politics in Indian cricket that has had a fair share of hardcore politicians who govern the sport.
Perhaps, the major hurdle for the likes of Sachin and fellow-celebrities is the ability to grasp the complexities of politics that at the best of times, even baffle veteran politicians! Initially, there will be much fanfare when Sachin enters Parliament, but once the gloss wears off, the reality will sink in. One has to hope that the maestro will deal with it with assurance just like he did with the best bowlers in the world who never stopped plotting his dismissal.
I am sure that Sachin has started to think about his post-retirement life. The acceptance of a Rajya Sabha nomination is probably a pointer to him preparing for the "day after". Business is always an option, but I feel that he would like to contribute in a more meaningful way and he would be testing the waters in Parliament before making a decisive move.
The post-retirement life for celebrity sportspersons is never easy as they step outside the arc lights and the fan following dwindles as a new generation rises with new stars. Given Sachin’s iconic status, he has the option to leverage his position and make an impact. Of course, it is early days yet, but the least that Sachin deserves is a run before we pronounce definitive judgment.
For the moment, one can only wish Sachin the very best and hope he will make a difference to our ordinary lives as a Parliamentarian in the same way that he has done over the past two decades with his cricketing exploits.More columns