SACHIN TENDULKAR has arrived. He is in the real big league now. One is not talking about his world record century in one-day cricket, nor his one-on-one meeting with Sir Donald Bradman. The focus now is he is being held solely responsible - if one goes by various media reports - for India's poor showing in cricket in the Commonwealth Games at Kuala Lumpur.
Sure, the captain of the team for the Games, Ajay Jadeja, does get the odd mention here and there, but it is Sachin who is blamed squarely for the fiasco at Kuala Lumpur, while there's hardly any mention of the other players in the squad. The target of criticism was Sachin, whether it was from the nudge nudge, wink wink kind practicing IOA or from the other sportspersons who had won medals or from the wordsmiths who do not have the courage of naming directly or from, of course, the Mahatmas of the nation's conscience, the letter writers. When the credit for any victory is shared by the team, here the blame for the defeat is heaped on one player. So Sachin has entered a rarefied league, where very few people can get in. When financial reasons are given for non-performance then yes, the person, however wealthy he may be, has well and truly arrived in the dock of blame, of Indian sport.
That the little champion had to issue a statement before he left for Zimbabwe was an indication of how far this has bothered him. The comments had disturbed the temperament of a player who is utterly unflappable on the field of play and who always ignore the taunts of the opposition. He would rather allow his bat to do the talking. It is sad, really sad. Here is a cricketer, made specially by the Almighty to play the game and entertain the public and who has given every ounce of his effort for the country, is being pilloried simply because he was part of the team that lost pathetically.
Of course, the expectations are high when he turns up to play, but did not Sir Don Bradman fail to score the four runs that he needed in his last Test innings that would have given him an average of 100 in Test cricket? If the Greatest could fail, why cannot our Little Champion? There are those who say that he and the other regulars in the team, who were picked for the Commonwealth Games, were miffed at missing out on the moolah they would have made, playing at Toronto. Some said that with his millions Sachin could buy plenty of gold medals that the others had won in the Games. If that be the case, why would the little champion chose a piffling amount of Rs. 4-1/2 lakhs. After all, he is earning in crores so why would he try and spoil his team's chances and his own reputation for a mere Rs. 2 lakhs, which he would have got for the final matches in Toronto.
It simply does not make sense and in the general disappointment at the cricket team's performance, the critics had not put on their thinking caps or if they had, they did not put them on properly. The Indian team to the Commonwealth Games was a young team not very experienced and it is impossible to forge a winning combination in the short time they had at their disposal. Further, at Kuala Lumpur the weather was bad and the practice facilities were below par and there was hardly any time to get acclimatised. And then the match pitches! The less said about them the better.
Rajeev Bhatt adds : Sachin Tendulkar enjoying his food, at the Games Village cafeteria, along with his mates. The batting maestro bore the brunt of criticism for the Indian cricket team's debacle in Kuala Lumpur. With the cricket team failing to qualify for the knock-out stage, the game's bashers got just the ammunition they wanted, so stories began to emanate with hardly any corroboration, one might add. Like how the cricketers used to five star comforts were finding it difficult to cope with living in the Games Village, where there was no room service, no telephones in the rooms, doing their own laundry and walking to catch the team bus..... Mind you there was not a word from the cricketers.
In fact, the facilities, in some of the Ranji and Duleep Trophy venues and hotels where our top cricketers had stayed or the venues of the benefit and charity matches where they had played were much below par. And the players know that the accommodations at some of these venues are basic. But then we in India are champions at reading other people's minds and imagining what the other person must be thinking. We are champion know alls. Was there any complaint officially or otherwise from the cricketers? Then why has this conclusion being arrived at, unless those using this reasoning are mind readers or know alls.
Then there was criticism that the cricketers did not mix and did not go to cheer the other Indian teams' performances. Did not Anil Kumble go to the hockey match? And once again was there any complaint from the other sportspersons that the cricketers refused to mix? And talking of cheering, some Indian sportspersons from other disciplines asked me how many other athletes from other sports were cheering the cricket team? After all cricket was introduced for the first time in the Commonwealth Games and the other experienced athletes should have been there to guide and encourage the cricketers. Isn't so? No sir, it's totally unfair to attribute motives to our cricketers and especially to someone as committed and dedicated as Sachin Tendulkar. In sport you win some, you lose some and in any case it is not as if India produces sporting champions at the snap of the fingers.
So why this huge disappointment? To those who brought glory to our country in the Commonwealth Games, my hearty congratulations. Well done and hope you will bring more glory to the country. You deserve the accolades, the adulation, the admiration of the country, but in your hour of glory please do not badmouth the game of cricket or the cricketers. The cricketers have never badmouthed you or your sports even during your worst moments and today when they have not done well they would be happy not to be badmouthed by fellow sportspersons. Enjoy your glory, push ahead for excellence but do it without abusing cricket.