October 28, 2013

Are we doing enough to honour Tendulkar? Alas, no

We must immortalise him in ways that ensure he remains etched in the minds of all those who never got to see him play

As a 34-year-old man speedily approaching the inevitable twilight of my frolicsome youth, many things scare me.

Will I develop male pattern baldness? Or will my head of hair remain luxurious and fabulous along with my toned calves? Will our savings last me and the missus through our forties and fifties and into our retirement? No? What if my wife mysteriously disappears after getting her bonus next year? Very good. Will nuclear war ever break out between Iran and the US? Will Murakami finally win the Nobel?

But most of all, especially as a cricket fan, I dread having to explain the greatest player to have ever played this game to the children of tomorrow.

Why the dread?

You fools, do you not have eyes to hear and ears to see?

How can I ever explain the great Sachin Tendulkar to my grandchildren when no attempt is being made whatsoever to capture his legacy in spectacular ways? Where are the statues? Where are the stadiums? Where are the commemorative stamps or coins? Where are the currency notes with his two faces? Where are the highways, bus terminuses, the hospitals, the express trains and artisanal beers?

I can see it now.

Me sitting in a comfy armchair, surrounded by a bevy of beautiful grandchildren, thanks to my numerous marriages to the female cast of Battlestar Galactica. I run my fingers through my luscious hair as one cherub-faced doll-child asks: "Who is Sachin Tendulkar, appapan? Was he a great man?"

I explode in anger: "Bloody you little !@#$ how dare you !@#$$$# ask me about one of the greatest !@#$$$ Indians of all time in this insolent @!@#$$ tone?"

(In our family it is traditional for elders to zone out during storytelling sessions with the kids and use grave abuse.)

"But we have never seen any statue of him! Have you ever met him? Was he a great cricketer? Why is he so forgotten, appapan?"

"Of course I have met him, my dumplings. One day, a long, long time ago, I met him in Sharjah during a dust storm… and told him how to play the Australians…"

(In my traditional Indian family we do not expect our elders to maintain factual accuracy whilst telling true stories to children.)

But this will be the case with all of us if we don't immediately do something to enshrine the memory of the great man. Within a couple of generations his memory will fade away, even as others such as Anil Kumble, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly are remembered in the form of Anil Kumble Circle, Rahul Dravid Institute for Handsomeness and International Likeability, and Paschim Sourav (The state formerly known as West Bengal).

There is no point in looking to the BCCI. Instead we must bear the yoke of memorialising Sachin ourselves. To kickstart this process I have some ideas:

1. Sachin Tendulkar should be named as the Eternal Number Four for India. Once he stops playing, this spot on the team will be left vacant in perpetuity. Scoreboards and scorecards will merely have the words "In Memoriam". India will always play with ten players after this retirement. For all team photographs a cardboard cutout of Sachin will be used.

2. Any time the number 200 is reached during a cricket match that takes place in India, everyone will stand and clap 16,400 times. This is once for each run he has scored in Test cricket. (We are assuming Tendulkar will score 563 runs in his remaining Test matches before retirement.)

3. In order to encourage young players, propagate the sport and perpetuate the legacy, any player with the first name Sachin playing for a state that has never won a Ranji Trophy will automatically be picked for the Indian team and be given at least 200 caps.

4. Once a year a Sachin Tendulkar Lottery will be held by the Department of Customs and Excise in Mumbai. A winner will be picked from a pot containing all customs duty violators in the preceding year. He/she will have all their fines and penalties waived.

5. In order to celebrate the achievements of individuals in a team sport, the government of India will establish a new civilian honour: the "Sachin Tendulkar Antarrashtriya Puraskar for Second-Best Cricketer of All Time". The first two recipients will be Brian Lara and Donald Bradman. This will also help build bonds across cricketing nations.

6. And finally Tendulkar's enduring bonds with the city of Mumbai must never be forgotten. A Museum of Sachin Tendulkar will be built on the current site of Shivaji Park. It will feature large exhibition halls, each dedicated to his childhood, development, personal achievements and cricketing records. And in order to complete the picture, visitors will be presented with a free, full colour four-page A6 booklet: "Tendulkar and great Indian team victories".

These are some small ideas to get the ball rolling. I sincerely hope cricketing fans will mull over this and make their own contributions. A talent like Tendulkar only comes and lingers once in a lifetime. Let us not commit him to the dustbin of forgotten greatness.

Sidin Vadukut is a columnist and editor with Mint, and the author of the Dork trilogy