While the great Sachin Tendulkar has his share of critics, there is one thing for which he shares absolutely no blame.
That he has eclipsed the achievements of the players around him and they have always lived in his shadow. If anyone shares the blame for that, then it is the sickeningly gushing commentators, the over the top sports writers who praise him 24X7 and maybe to some extent the BCCI.
This triumvirate has gone all out to make sure that only Sachin is praised at the cost of all other greats. It is not like greats like Anil Kumble, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman have lived in the shadow of Tendulkar (because they have all been greater match-winners in Tests at least), but the triumvirate have made sure that they were made to live under the shadow of Tendulkar. While the fans have been divided between following all of the greats, sports writing and commentary in India has made sure that it would only be Sachin all the way.
Let’s take it from the beginning. Once there was The Master. Yes, the legendary Don Bradman and that was his nickname. When Sunil Gavaskar burst on to the scene, he was such a run-making machine that he seemed to be the only person capable of going past Bradman’s record of Test centuries and he did just that. The world hailed him as the “Little Master”. That’s how we used to refer to him in the 1980s and the commentators called him that too.
While Gavaskar wowed people in Tests, the absolutely brutal Viv Richards started terrorizing bowlers in ODIs. He was conferred the title of “Master Blaster”.Then a curious thing happened. Indian sports writers who worshipped Tendulkar’s every deed started calling him both “Little Master” and “Master Blaster”.
They basically stripped the greats of that title and conferred it to Tendulkar.Very few people in today’s generation know that these titles originally belonged to Gavaskar and Richards!Then there was Navjot Singh Sidhu. I don’t know if you have seen him bat but it was an absolute delight in those days.
In the slog overs he used to come dancing down the tracks and hit the bowler for a 6. That was rare in those days when T20 didn’t exist and ODIs didn’t have regular big scores.
Legendary bowler Shane Warne declared that “Sidhu and Sachin” gave him nightmares. Yes you heard right. He mentioned Sidhu’s name first. While that is how it was reported initially, soon writers and commentators decided to edit out Sidhu’s name.
Why? Why it’s blasphemy of course! How can you put Sidhu and Sachin on the same pedestal? After that the fact that Sachin gave Warne nightmares was reported a thousand times. So much so that Warne finally declared that he was sick of it and had forgotten saying it! Poor Sidhu! (Just like poor Gavaskar and Richards?)
That Sachin is a God and the greatest is a phenomenon that exists in India only. You should read the foreign press. A majority of people do not consider Sachin to be the greatest. But it’s very simple strategy actually: If 90% say that Sachin is not the greatest, then they will be blacked out and the 10% that say he is will be played up.
Like when Aussie Ian Chappell once said that Virender Sehwag and Donald Bradman were in the same league. Blasphemy! The news was blacked out by Indian media. Once legendary West Indies all-rounder Gary Sobers once said that Sachin couldn’t be the greatest player of all time.
Why? Because he wasn’t even greater than Gavaskar! Blasphemy again! Like the time when I read reports that Nasser Hussain said that Sachin was a great as Bradman. On reading his column where he allegedly felt that, I found that all he said was that he could not compare the two and gave a link to an old all-time list he had made.
In that Bradman was 1st and Tendulkar was 11th! (After that Hussain made a second list of “contemporary greats” and put Sachin curiously at No. 1 ahead of many others in the old list.) Like once when all the channels reported that Steve Waugh said that Tendulkar was the second greatest player of all time after Bradman. I couldn’t believe my ears. I heard the interview for myself and all Waugh said was that there is no way in which Tendulkar could be No. 1.
He added: If at all, he could “compete” for the No. 2 slot like many other players. Then there was Multan. India had never ever won a single Test on Pakistani soil. No Indian had ever scored a triple century.
Virender Sehwag did both and all the commentators could blab non- stop was that he was lucky only because “he had Sachin at the other end.” After that there were more reports on how “Sachin missed his double century” (Dravid declared when Tendulkar was on 194) rather than “Sehwag scored a triple century.”
Then there’s Dravid himself. Post-2000 we have won only two Tests on Australian soil. Dravid scored a double century in the first and 93 in the second. We have won only one series on Pakistani soil and Dravid scored a double century in the deciding Test match.
He scored a century in a winning match in England and in the deciding matches in our only series victories on West Indies and New Zealand soil he hit fighting half-centuries.
As a match-winner Tendulkar is nowhere near him. Do we play to win or do we play to make records? Dravid has received fulsome praise, but few put him above Tendulkar. Then there’s Ricky Ponting. He has 3 World Cup wins. Sachin has 1. He has a World Cup final century. Tendulkar doesn’t even have a quarter century. Ponting has been involved in more Test and ODI wins than Sachin.
While you can still say that Sachin is greater than Ponting, whose shoes would you want to be in? Wouldn’t you want more wins? When Ajay Jadeja was asked who was greater, he started laughing and said that Ponting should consider himself lucky just to be considered next to Sachin!
The arrogance of it all is simply mind-blowing. Then there’s Muttiah Muralitharan.
With a whopping 1334 international wickets, if in the recess of his own mind he thinks he’s a greater player than Sachin has every right to.
Yet all the questions he gets asked in India are related to Sachin. You may remember that in one press conference he got up and threatened to walk off if any more Sachin questions were asked. That’s how most international players feel.
In fact all the questions are Sachin Sachin Sachin… If you ask the question “Who is the greatest player of all time?” you will get many answers. But the question always asked is: Do you think Sachin is the greatest player of all time? Now which poor brave soul will publicly deny that statement?
That’s how they claim that 100% people say that Sachin is the greatest. Even smaller players are not spared. Once in a match with Sri Lanka, we were chasing 240 when Dinesh Karthik came down at 169-3 and hit a decent 32(31) with a 6 towards the end and we won with 45 balls to spare.
However the commentators were not happy in something that was echoed by news reports. Sachin was stranded on 96 not out and it seems Karthik had denied God a century!
Recently in Kolkata after boring everyone to death with non-stop Sachin talk when it came to debutants Rohit Sharma and Mohammed Shami, the first thing that was said: They will always remember it for Sachin’s 199th first match!
Really won’t a player remember his first match for his first match? Incidentally, Rohit gave the second best Test debut for an Indian batsman of all time while Shami gave the best ever debut for an Indian fast bowler while Sachin could just muster up 10 runs.
“Will you win the World Cup for Sachin” in 2011 was met by a quip from another player: Really? I thought he was supposed to win it for us! The current Sachin “benefit” (a word disparagingly used by the blunt Bishan Singh Bedi) series with West Indies takes the cake.
199 kgs of rose petals? A specially chartered plane? This is not a cricket series, but a tamasha greater than even the IPL. While headlines were everywhere of how the whole city of Kolkata was going berserk over Sachin’s farewell, in the inside pages were tucked reports of how despite all the free tickets the stands weren’t full!
Why wasn’t Dravid given a farewell? Why wasn’t Laxman given a farewell? What is the status of the retirement of Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir? Is Sachin the only player that matters in this world? Even while going Sachin managed to eclipse a tour… We were hearing reports of a 4-Test series in South Africa.
Playing the world champions on green tops in a long series would have been a great experience for our youngsters and a baptism by fire. Then suddenly out of the blue it became 2 meaningless Tests with the West Indies and just 2 against South Africa.
Sachin is like the richest man in the world when it comes to coverage but someone who still requires more and more donations at the cost of other poor people. Call it the SRDF or Sachin Reality Distortion Field where Sachin is the only reality and every other player a mere distortion.
Sachin and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi are two unique case studies. The Sachin Industry contrasted with the Modi Industry. While the former can find no fault with their subject, the latter can find no good with theirs! Thank God Sachin is retiring! Now we can get back to some normal and sane cricket coverage!
The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.