July 5, 2014

The Sharapova lesson

Andrew Hughes
He even comes to Wimbledon. How can she not have noticed him?  © Getty Images

Every now and then you come across an example of such startling human ignorance that you have to sit down, wipe your face with a handkerchief, and pour yourself a stiff drink. Brace yourselves readers, for this is one of those moments

Maria Sharapova has never heard of Sachin Tendulkar.

Who exactly is Maria Sharapova, you might ask, petulantly, but you're only pretending. You know who Maria Sharapova is. Yet of the world's greatest living batsman, the man who built monumental peaks of batting stats and then built some more on top of those, one of only two living cricketers entitled to use the world "Master" in his nickname; of him, Maria is entirely, blissfully ignorant. It is enough to make you weep.

Or, if you are of a particular cast of mind, it is enough to make you log on to Twitter and spew your ire in 140 characters or fewer. The militant wing of the Sachinistas has indulged in an online outrage orgy, an explosion of righteous indignation and patriotic silliness rarely seen outside the Republican National Convention.

And the world being what it is (a collection of squabbling states continually waving their dog-eared lists of petty grievances and uncorrected wrongs at one another) this Tendulkrage provoked an anti-Tendulkrage from those who took delight in the fact that Sachin had gone unrecognised among the Russian tennis-playing fraternity, and who were able to assert with ill-found confidence that although Maria might not have heard of Sachin, she has almost certainly heard of Imran Khan.

That may or may not be true, but if a cricketer has to form his own political party in order to become famous, then perhaps cricket has an image problem. And if Maria hasn't heard of Sachin, despite last year's farewell Sachin extravaganza and the 24 years of Sachin-ness that preceded it, you can be sure that she remains entirely unaware of Ian Botham, Viv Richards, Don Bradman, little Davie Warner, Kane Williamson, and Derek Pringle and of all their varied exploits.

Why is this so, and more importantly, why are we so surprised? Could it be that we have an inflated sense of cricket's place in the world? I can't be sure, but I'd be willing to bet Stuart Broad's next fine on the fact that Maria has heard of Cristiano Ronaldo, that he has heard of her, and that both of them have heard of Tiger Woods, Usain Bolt and Kobe Bryant.

Cricket is a minor league sport and apparently content to remain so. It is only played fully in ten countries around the world and there is regular moaning and griping that two of those ten are not pulling their weight. We grudgingly allow a handful of other nations to play, but only in the shorter formats, and then we complain about them cluttering up the World Cup.

The ICC can't even bring itself to put cricket forward for the next Olympics. It was announced this week by the new ICC president that such a step would dilute the value of the game. I can't see many other international organisations taking this approach. Imagine the board of a multi-national fast-food concern debating whether to buy advertising time during the football World Cup. On the one hand, it would expose their brand to a prime-time global audience of billions. On the other hand, if everyone in the world bought their burgers, they'd be just that little bit less special.

You might think that increasing the sport's exposure could in turn increase its global popularity, boost ICC revenue and even help regenerate Test cricket, as entire new nations discovered the beauty of the game. But to your average ICC official that sounds like yawningly hard work. And who wants a lot of riff-raff cluttering up our nice, tidy, modestly sized sport. Obscure is beautiful, as they never say in tennis, football, golf, athletics, rugby union, rugby league and basketball.


Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England. He tweets here

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Posted by   on (July 7, 2014, 6:47 GMT)

Bunch of excellent observations. Cricket is popular in India and among Indians and noone else matters. Am I getting that about right?

Posted by   on (July 7, 2014, 6:37 GMT)

A minor correction: Tendulkar is one of only three* living cricketers entitled to use the world "Master" in his nickname. Other two being Sunny and Hanif.

Also, pardon my ignorance but I didn't know who Kobe Bryant was before reading this piece.

Posted by Marcel_Ci on (July 7, 2014, 6:22 GMT)

phoenix1989...... thanks to enlighten us... u r so witty

Posted by phoenix1989 on (July 7, 2014, 5:53 GMT)

Some people love to live in their own little world and ignore what's happening outside of it. Though 20% of the world population may live in South Asia, the truth is very few people know about cricket outside of it and this can never be a good thing for a sports. Look at world cup football or Wimbledon tennis, look at the amount of excitement it stirs all over the world. We are missing these moments by trying to remain exclusive(in our little world) and ignored(by outer world).

Posted by   on (July 7, 2014, 3:34 GMT)

Andrew, while your article is very funny as usual, cricket is not so obscure as you seem to think. Here is a stat: the population of India by itself is the equal of the population of all Europe and north America combined. South Asia accounts for a quarter of the world population, and almost every one of them are cricket fans. Something like Tennis is only famous in Europe, and Europeans have many sports to choose from. Cricket may sound obscure looking at it from England because most other Europeans don't play it, but it really is a big game in the world - only soccer would beat it. So it is OK if Maria hasn't heard of Sachin, but more people in the world have heard of him than about her, Bolt, Woods and Bryant combined (honestly even I dont know who the last one is :) )

Posted by Marcel_Ci on (July 7, 2014, 3:30 GMT)

sharapova is not an ordinary lady... she is a sportsperson.... she should be knowing about sachin or may be other famous players from all the games.... i don't think that she knows anyone barring tennis? I don't know sharapova & not interested in knowing now... she deserves criticism....

Posted by Nadeem1976 on (July 7, 2014, 3:28 GMT)

Why would Maria know about Sachin. Sachin was a superstar when she was not even born. So she is just a kid and we do not relate to kids in Cricket.

Posted by Starvybz on (July 7, 2014, 2:38 GMT)

sharapova doesn't speak for the world

Posted by pestonji on (July 6, 2014, 17:53 GMT)

Right on the money Andrew. If cricket does Not think big it will be relegated to a minor sport. Ironically tennis has been masterful at raising its profile despite having the reputation of being a boring game. It's all about marketing and cricket is still woefully behind.

Posted by Winchester666 on (July 6, 2014, 15:50 GMT)

Have you guys actually seen the extent of the abuse Sharapova is getting? She's received as many as 50,000 comments on a single facebook post & many, many more on other posts.

Not an exaggeration...

Posted by IndiaNumeroUno on (July 6, 2014, 8:32 GMT)

Sorry... I really don't follow tennis (it's a girls game right?)... and who exactly is Sherapova?i

Posted by enigma77543 on (July 6, 2014, 6:11 GMT)

I've been an avid reader of Andrew's articles over the years & I do really like his kind of humor but I don't completely agree with him here. I don't mind Cricket being a minor sport nor am I (an Indian Cricket-lover) offended by the fact that Sharapova didn't know who Sachin is. As some have said already, there may be many Cricket-lovers around, who might not know the most famous players in other sports & why should it matter? Life goes on. While I don't disagree that the chaps at the ICC have never been that wise, I don't disagree with their apprehensions about diluting Cricket by having many countries play Cricket - of substandard quality. Yes, it would be great to have more countries playing it but ONLY if they can demonstrate the capability to sustain the quality of it. I don't understand why some Cricket-lovers care about how many countries play Cricket, would it change how much you love it? Would you find your gf/wife more attractive if many more men found her attractive?

Posted by jgoogly on (July 6, 2014, 1:37 GMT)

When Sobers visitedAaustralia for the first time Sir Don Bradman happened to talk to him about Cricket. Sobers said to DON you seem to know a little bit of cricket.

Posted by TheBigBoodha on (July 5, 2014, 23:31 GMT)

Cricket and nationalism are far too closely aligned in India. Australia has had to deal with this unsavoury combination on more than one occasion, and there are massive trails of less than magnanimous, expletive-laden posts still scattered across Australian web sites that bear testament to this rather immature psychological state. Nationalists should bear in mind that when they begin to rant like an enraged three year old on the Internet, that post is likely to stay there for a long, long time - bringing shame on your country and inviting ridicule.

Posted by glen1 on (July 5, 2014, 19:21 GMT)

Could it be that a Usain Bolt, Kobe Bryant are known well because of their bankability for the sponsors and the western media (read US), or is it the other way around, that the media and the sponsors carefully pick who and which sports to promote? Could it be that Tendulkar is bankable for the Indian sponsors and media as they like to promote cricket? Sharapova, an outsider in every sense,walked into this trap that also exposes the sensitivities of a large part of the World's population; in that sense Andrew is wrong, cricket should stay the way it is and not look to promote in areas with no following or promotion.

Posted by   on (July 5, 2014, 19:03 GMT)

Another brilliant piece by AH.

Posted by chapathishot on (July 5, 2014, 14:39 GMT)

I am sure Maria Knows Rajnikanth

Posted by ThatsJustCricket on (July 5, 2014, 12:35 GMT)

@JJJake, that's the most sensible comment on all this meaningless hoopla. Besides, this actually shows us how little popularity and name cricket has as a sport on the global stage. It's a glorified game in tiny group of nations and we are mighty reluctant to even attempt to change it. Putting cricket on the Olympics would have given the game a global name and allowed a lot countries to know and experience what it's all about. But, no, our pompous little bureaucrats don't think that's a good thing.

Posted by   on (July 5, 2014, 12:13 GMT)

Ask any Indian cricketer who Babe Ruth is or who Magic Johnson is...they will say they don't know ..cricket USA is like baseball or basketball to us..so its natural that someone who lives in USA not to know about sachin

Posted by SagirParkar on (July 5, 2014, 11:27 GMT)

@Aman >>

that statement you refer to is called satire... and if you need to be explained that, then perhaps you need not be reading Page 2 articles..

Mr Hughes, a wonderfully written article as usual..

@Jake >> very well said mate... sadly most of the Sachinistas dont realise or understand that.. so blind is their 'devotion'..

Posted by Biggus on (July 5, 2014, 11:26 GMT)

The rest of us have been putting up with this for years and have been subject to every form of expletive and insult:- Haters, Racists, Jealous, Mentally ill (how ironic!) and all that stuff you know I can't (and wouldn't wish to) specify here as it's so offensive. Now the rest of the world knows. Had an unfriendly government cooked up a scheme to discredit India they could have barely dreamed it might be as successful and the efforts of these Sachin fascists to do it themselves. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot!

If such a scenario were part of a comedy film the plot would seem surreal, but it's existence in the real world is unfortunately disturbing and ominous.

Posted by   on (July 5, 2014, 11:02 GMT)

I enjoy Andrew's blogs and while the main intent is to amuse, there is sometimes a message as here. However (aside from agreeing that the ICC are the worst possible stewards of cricket; an opinion held by all right-thinking people), not sure I agree with all the rest. I had to google Kobe Bryant for example, was dimmly aware that he was big in some US sport, but was thinking baseball to be honest. I'm not making the normal tired point about US sports being inward-looking BTW, a Steelers fan here, but I don't really have any interest in basketball, so is it odd that a very lauded exponent of it doesn't immediately ring a bell with me. As for rugby - another sport I have played and like alongside cricket - is Owen Farrell really a global celebrity? I like athletics as well, but people tend to only know the names of people (Bolt aside) once every four years. I don't think that these examples support the case. However agree that cricket would benefit from a more global outlook.

Posted by CricStraightTalker on (July 5, 2014, 10:43 GMT)

@JJJake - Bingo !! The most sensible comment I have heard yet. I cannot understand the big hype here. All those Sachin fans with an exaggerated sense of the importance of cricket in the global scheme of things are utterly mistaken. There are tons of sports out there with mass followings in a select few countries and they may have their own legends of the game. Would any of us here know all that? If not, why would you expect people of countries where cricket is hardly played to know about cricket players? Height of foolishness and ignorance ! Rabid fans, please develop a more holistic world view.

Posted by ramli on (July 5, 2014, 8:29 GMT)

It is ridiculous on the part of Sachin fans to react in this manner ... if one does not know another, what is wrong? Just educate her if you can or keep your mouth shut! What has Sachin lost by Sharapova's ignorance. NOTHING. So why this ire? One must be sportive to appreciate sports. Sadly, that is not the case, nowadays.

Posted by   on (July 5, 2014, 7:23 GMT)

I cried when Sachin retired & that farewell speech, took me to those glorious days which was closely knit with our school and college days. But when these self proclaimed Sachin fans and pseudo nationalists poured outrage on Sharapovas facebook page, it made us hurt. Sharapova didn't knew Sachin, if we think wisely, Sharapova was ignorant not to have looked at the sporting world around her, but that doesn't mean she is wrong, people are varied in their attitude and tastes. Now why Sharapova wasn't aware of Sachin rests with the illpractices of ICC and the BCCI. They haven't done enough to popularize cricket across the world. Cricket still attracts sponsors is largely due to the billions of Indian fans and SL and Bangladesh. If South Asia is not there cricket will die prematurely. So the onus is on with ICC to promote and expand the game. The main reason cricket is still attractive is that IND, SL, PAK or BAN aren't that much stronger in other sports and wen dat hapns cricket wil die

Posted by aman15 on (July 5, 2014, 6:39 GMT)

How is Sharapova not aware of who tendulkar is a moment of startling human ignorance ? Global appeal of tennis far surpasses that of cricket, as has been rightly pointed out by the writer that cricket is played fully only in ten countries. Another case in point is this year's ongoing wimbledon championships. The top ten in women's tennis are represented by ten different countries and the championship may well be won by a canadian (Bouchard) who is the highest ranked canadian at no. 13 in the world.

Posted by JJJake on (July 5, 2014, 6:33 GMT)

Most Russians wouldn't know much about cricket, like I know nothing about ice hockey or figure skating. I can't see what's all the fuss about.

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Andrew Hughes
Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73

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