Monday, October 28, 2013

Economist on Sachin Tendulkar

The Banyan column in the Economist seeks to unravel the Sachin mystique. It's not just about Sachin being a great cricketer- the column suggests that Gavaskar was, perhaps, a better player and contributed more in a weaker Indian team.

It's about what Sachin represents, the transformation of India from a poor country into a relatively better off country. In the process, many have become richer, including Sachin himself. Now, a new set of players are knocking at the doors of good fortune in cricket. Unlike Sachin, however, they are brash and ostentatious. Sachin, with his low-key persona, good manners and devotion to family represents what India would like to see in the successful.

Well, nothing new here, I guess that's what Indians have always wanted to see in the successful. They would like politicians to sport khadi, they don't much like industrialists who own jets and yachts, and bureaucrats still go around in half-sleeved shirts and sandals. Even in Bollywood, the sober and soft-spoken Amitabh Bachchan is more revered than the flashier types. As the article points out, however, this applies to only to the older India (those above 35); with the younger crowd, ostentation may be going down well.

The column's point about Sachin overstaying in the team is a stronger one. All of us know how difficult it was for the board and the selection committee to ask him to leave. Sachin, the column points out, illustrated the bane of Indian society: the "impunity enjoyed by all India's rich and powerful". In not wanting to leave, again, Sachin, alas, represented something that is all too common in Indian politics, the corporate world, the bureaucracy and the cinema.

Perhaps, it is for politicians to give the lead: I read somewhere that Jairam Ramesh has suggested a retirement age for politicians. There should also be a generally accepted upper limit for people who assume high office, say, the prime ministership. It happens in the UK and the US. It should happen here as well. Once it happens in politics, hopefully the message will go out to other sections of society: for god's sake and ours, quit and find something else to do in life.

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