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November 17, 2013

Not a Sachin article

Jarrod Kimber
Any attack on cricket's future is an attack on Sachin  © BCCI
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I think we can all agree the problem of recent times is a lack of Sachin Tendulkar articles. But this is not a Sachin Tendulkar article.

Not because I couldn't retell my story about the day I almost saw him bat at the MCG in front of 300 people, any anecdote involving him and Jesse Ryder sharing the same field, or even how a woman once told me that Sachin doesn't much care for cheese. It's just that if there is an angle on Sachin Tendulkar, I am sure by now it has been covered. Here's an interesting fact: the story of Tendulkar driving his sports car late at night to avoid Mumbai traffic has now been told ten million times more than he ever actually drove late at night.

But this is not a Sachin Tendulkar article.

This is an article about Sachin Tendulkar fans. Those who believe he gave Indians something to be proud of. Those who love the visual aesthetic of short men who can on-drive. Those who love legends. Statisticians who like to purr over the creation of previously unthought-of landmarks. And fans of athletes who represent not just a sponsor or team but a people coming of age. They are everywhere, these people. They have thanked Sachin with a consistency and proficiency that even Sachin would have been proud to produce. Eden Gardens did roses, songs and wax. David Cameron signed a picture of Sachin. Companies used ads to thank him.

Now you may think it's over the top, or way off the mark, or not enough, but who are you, or I, to tell people how to idolise their heroes? The interesting thing is what happens next.

These people won't cease to exist now that Sachin has gone. They will continue to eat breakfast cereals and watch TV. Never watching cricket again or committing mass ritual suicide would be far too extreme. But where do they put their energy, their love, and their very reason for being?

It's quite clear I wouldn't have asked that unless I was going to give my own answer. One that will be ignored almost instantly by a billion Little Master fans. But one that seemed valid as my plane flew over India while Sachin played out his career.

They should now love cricket the way they loved Sachin.

Without cricket, Sachin wouldn't be Sachin. The same way Johnny Cash could never have been Belgian, Sachin would never have come from any other sport. Not football, basketball, tiddlywinks, handball, hockey or synchronised diving. Without cricket, Sachin could never have been the man he was for India. He was the right man in the right sport in the right country at the right time.

Sachin needed cricket as much as cricket needs India and India needed Sachin.

If someone writes a piece about Sachin that in any way shows him in negative light, the comment threads light up. But when his sport, the sport that made him what he is, gets damaged by yet another self-interested, political, short-sighted financial decision, it's tumbleweeds from most cricket fans

Therefore, fans with nothing to do as Sachin leaves the game should do everything in their power to protect and support cricket the way they once did with Sachin. It won't be cheating on him, as cricket is Sachin. It will actually be honouring him in the best way possible.

Because if something doesn't happen to cricket soon, Sachin's records won't mean much. If Test cricket continues to be eaten away at, Sachin's legacy will diminish. If nation v nation cricket becomes little more than the odd friendly before a global tournament, why will it matter if Sachin scored a hundred international hundreds? If the T20 leagues of the world finally take over, will new fans look at Sachin's T20 career and wonder what the fuss is about? If World Cups aren't played anymore, who cares if he won one?

Now, this is all looking at the darkest possible days, days that may never exist. But not days that couldn't exist. These are days that, given the current trends and mismanagement, self-interest and general shortsightedness of cricket administrators, could definitely happen. If Australia, England and India continue to play each other more often than Gilligan's Island repeats, how can the other countries finance their cricket? If only Australia, England and India host international tournaments, how will other countries grow their markets? If the ten Test-playing nations continue to prioritise domestic T20 leagues, where will international cricket fit in? And if they continue to not just ignore the outside world but actively try to block it from getting any pieces of their pie, only the Commonwealth will ever truly understand the brilliance of Sachin.

If my whole life was about Sachin, his legacy would matter to me. And any attempt at eating away at the sport he played would hurt me. I'd do everything in my power (angry comments, letters to editors, snarky tweets, endless petitions) to make sure it did not happen.

If someone writes a piece about Sachin that in any way shows him in negative light, the comment threads light up. But when his sport, the sport that made him what he is, gets damaged by yet another self-interested, political, short-sighted financial decision, it's tumbleweeds from most cricket fans.

Any attack on cricket's future is an attack on Sachin. Any time the game is treated poorly, it's Sachin's game that is treated poorly. Now that Sachin has said his final goodbyes, touched the pitch and started his own chant, all the attention and zealotry from these amazing cricket fans can finally start having an impact on the leaders of cricket.

Sachin was lucky to have cricket. Cricket was lucky to have Sachin. We were lucky to have both. Until there is an apocalypse or massive change in the way we live life, cricket will continue to be played. But how important it is, and the health of it, no one knows.

Whether you're a Sachinista, Trumpeter or a Bob Blairite, these are your legends and this is your game. And the game needs all its fans holding the administrators to account.

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Posted by   on (November 22, 2013, 10:28 GMT)

We should agree with the concept of Mr.Kimber's article, try find the way to save CRICKET...

Posted by   on (November 19, 2013, 23:56 GMT)

While I understand the intent of the article and completely agree on the fact that game is bigger than one player, even if that player happens to be Sachin - I disagree with certain aspects of author's point of view. There's a complete generation that has grown up watching Sachin and it's hard to get those memories back. This is just like my dad is fond of Gavaskar, Kalicharan etc. Every generation needs a role model or hero they look up to and similarly they have a contemporary who is celebrated through their life time. Also, to make generic statements about Sachin fans would mount to doubting the cricketing IQ of many Indians. Indians love tendulkar as he was the best in his times and he earned the respect of an entire country by staying above greed and standing up for country that went through worst saga of match fixing. So it's almost fitting that the country feels the retirement of such a hero.

Posted by   on (November 19, 2013, 12:11 GMT)

Good point Mr. Kimber. But then my take is its not just the fans responsibility to keep the sport alive! As rightly pointed out by Anand, test matches ending in 3 days, batsmen smashing everything coming to them and teams getting recklessly out within a day, youngsters loosing interest in being bowlers for the fear of getting whacked due to batsman friendly rules and pitches, is not, what I would say even Sachin wants! Neither would his fans! I do understand the evolution of the game. In 80s, it wasn't the way it was in 60s and in 2000, it wasn't like it was in 80s and so on. But if the game has to be alive, it needs to be competitive, full of variety and dedicated servants of the game like a Sachin or a McGrath. Sachin's greatness is the way he dominated three generations of world's best bowlers. People like me started loving cricket due to those contests. So my take is, Sachin would want the councils, boards and players to keep the sport alive. Fans would automatically follow!

Posted by simon_w on (November 18, 2013, 17:40 GMT)

Bravo, Jarrod, great piece. What concerns me is the fear (would love to be wrong!) that the majority of adoration Sachin receives is more about Indian nationalism than about cricket. And it is that national pride which will (continue to) be prioritized over cricket. @yujilop spoke of a number (perhaps a majority) of fans who put "Sachin first and cricket second," and as he also pointed out, this is not what the Little Master himself would advocate or want. I suspect he must feel the same way about the already entrenched mantra "India first and cricket second."

Posted by KishorKumar25 on (November 18, 2013, 7:17 GMT)

@Naru123, How many people watch cricket for the joy of it? How many watch an old match highlights from, say, the 90's???

I DO.

Posted by Anachronist on (November 18, 2013, 3:26 GMT)

@Yujilop - well said.

In this age of instant gratification, people don't have the patience to watch an ODI, let alone 5 days of test match. It's all about showing the world that you are watching cricket, or you are a Sachin admirer, or posting your ticket photos on FB. How many people watch cricket for the joy of it? How many watch an old match highlights from, say, the 90's?

The best way to "save" test cricket seems to be day/night test matches. But even then, you have a lot to do to attract spectators. And I'm afraid its going to be something inelegant (like cheerleaders)

Cricket will no longer be the way it was.

Posted by   on (November 17, 2013, 19:19 GMT)

Non-sequitur argument this ! We love Robin Hood and Arjun who were great archers. They are still relevant today and several of us are still fans - without necessarily being glued to archery at the Olympics or insisting that our troops battle with swords, spears and bows/arrows. Face it - Test Cricket is just increasingly anachronistic ! It's just a matter of time that it goes the way of the dodo, unless it gets decorated with some serious changes to make it march with the times.

Ah - the turns and twists you say ! Well, cosmic events are fantastically bizarre and beautiful too - but the problem is that they happen on cosmic time scales, if they occurred at human time scales, more of us would be astrophysicists and cosmologists.

Matter of fact, that may be contributing in some measure to this hysteria - Sachin although versatile, predominantly played Test Cricket and he is perhaps one of the last luminaries of this dying art/sport.

Posted by   on (November 17, 2013, 18:38 GMT)

This article is not off the mark that much. If it was not for Sachin, there would hardly be any interest in this series and the way Windies capitulated in 3 days is pretty alarming for cricket although we'd like to think of it as an abberation. This is all leading to an inevitable situation of having 2 tiers in test cricket to make every test more purposeful and maybe let T20 proliferate the rest of the world in the meantime.

Posted by   on (November 17, 2013, 18:34 GMT)

Absolutely a need of the hour article. praiseworthy visionary you are Mr Kimber.

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