Anadi Naik

As Sachin Tenulkar, the 40-year –old cricket icon of India played his last game as a professional player the entire country took it to heart and felt a great loss. For the last twenty four years Tendulkar has been entertaining and inspiring the country with flawless performance in games. A country whose population is 60% under 30 years old has gotten comfortably used to his prowess in the game of cricket. For an entire generation Sachin Tendulkar has dominated the scene. For many he has become not only a hero but an icon. Naturally, his retirement hurts his millions of fans emotionally.

The retirement of a 40 year old athlete from a game that is his is not unusual. Andre Agassi of Tennis, Michael Jordan of basketball and Ray Lewis of football along with a host of other athletes can attest to that. However, Sachin Tendulkar is not just a player. He is an icon. Therefore, his retirement generates such a high emotion. Like his fellow players Imran Khan of Pakistan and David Bekham of the UK he has become more than just a player. For example Imran Khan in Pakistan has become a crusader against corruption in the government. Now he heads his own political Party. In India, some of the people affiliated with cricket players, owners and promoters have been accused of all kinds of misbehavior. However Tendulkar has maintained a clean image. Such a thing speaks for itself.

Unlike chess or kabadi, cricket is a foreign game introduced to India by the British. That is why nationalist Indians picketed against this game and its players in the heyday of the struggle for freedom. As more and more Indians attended English medium schools in a free country and accepted Western values and ideas the game of cricket became increasingly popular. Today, in remote villages children play cricket with anything they can put their hands on. They cannot afford a real bat. So the stem of a palm leaf which is flat and long becomes the substitute. They cannot buy a cricket ball. So a ball of cotton or cloth does the job. These children, the future sports stars of India, want to follow Sachin in remote villages, city slums and in well to do families. All of them want to excel in cricket. Some of them even wear a tee shirt that says “Cricket is my religion and Sachin is my God”. Indian mythology worships every living thing such as snakes, pigs and conch cells, et cetera. Therefore, the youth of modern India accepting Sachin as a new God should not surprise anyone. Yet, such emotional identification could at times backfire. He is just another human being but good at what he does. Now, cricket has become India’s national pastime and in the process has become as Indian as the English language. Ever since India won the World Cup, Sachin with his clean image has remained the darling of the entire nation. The President has nominated him to the Parliament and he is a member of the Rajya Sabha. The Parliamentary election is in 2014 which is around the corner. All political Parties consider him a prize catch. Each of them will try to woo him. Politics being the last resort of the scoundrel, how good a politician Sachin Tedulkar will be is hard to tell. But he is sought after because he is a popular sports figure. In recent years many of India’s film stars and matinee idols have joined politics. States like Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh have benefited from their popularities. They have carried the trust of the people with them. People trusted them because of the roles they played on screen. Film stars who became members of the Parliament have so far proven to be good to mediocre in politics.

In many ways Sachin Tendulkar represents the India of 2013 – a youthful, rapidly urbanizing country of 1.2 billion people which in its march toward liberalization has ceded all inhibitions toward Westernization. The popularity of cricket says volumes to that. Nobody stays on top forever. Tiger Wood and Vijay Amritraj are examples. In the retirement of Sachin Tendulkar the search begins for that someone who can someday outshine the icon’s record and popularity.

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