The hat that doesn't fit

Tendulkar may have over-reached by agreeing to become a Member of Parliament.


A good doctor needn’t necessarily be a good homemaker (no prizes for deducing as much). Likewise, a good batsman needn’t necessarily be a good bowler, leave alone an able administrator. Which is why the very human tendency to project persons successful in one field into roles unsuited to them bases itself on the questionable premise that excellence in a specialised area implies all-round ability across disciplines.

A direct outcome of this trait is the nomination to posts – honorary or otherwise – of deified popular figures when the realistic chances of them contributing to the unrelated enterprises are flimsy. In most cases nominations are based on factors other than the suitability of the nominee to the post. Thus you have celebrity parliamentarians playing truant from the House, napping during sessions and exhibiting a general disinterest in proceedings. Not everybody has the social sensibilities of Shabana Azmi.

Sachin Tendulkar’s nomination to the Rajya Sabha appears to be a case where the ends of all involved parties are being met to perfection, even though the soundness of the move remains in doubt. The 12 Rajya Sabha members that are chosen by the President include those who’ve excelled in the arts, sciences or literature and who are expected to enrich the political discourse with their eclectic inputs.

Now imagine Tendulkar attending a session – provided he’s able to tear himself away from cricket commitments, which he soon shall be considering a Rajya Sabha tenure is six long years – with all the experience of over 20 years spent in a privileged vacuum. Would a lifetime in the fast lane leave someone grounded enough to remain aware of the issues that need discussion and redress? Surely, the cricketer cannot fare worse than the other passive nominees he’s likely to rub shoulders with.

But Tendulkar, irrespective of his intellectual or social leanings, has rarely been one to voice his say even on matters that directly concerned him and his vocation. Agreed, he went out on a limb in his defence of Harbhajan Singh during Monkeygate, but the stony silence that is his hallmark on matters such as match fixing, the Ferrari custom duty scandal, and even commonplace tribulations of the general public has solidified his clean, non-controversial image.

Sachin did once blast the selectors for giving him, as skipper, a “B grade team”, way back in 1997, but the tumult that followed ensured that he has been watchful with his words since. The last time something close to controversial emanated from his mouth was when, surprisingly, he took on the Shiv Sena on the ownership rights over Mumbai – something that caused an avalanche of support for the cricketer on online social forums.

It is this ability of Tendulkar to mobilise and unify the masses that the Congress has sought to capitalise on, pointedly so in a turbid political environment progressively soiled by rampant allegations of corruption. One can’t blame Tendulkar for giving in to the temptation of joining the upper house – it is indeed a great honour, and one would have to be a saint to refuse such a proposal.

The question remains: how and when will Sachin contribute in his new role? Will his depleting frequency of active match days translate into more fruitful sessions in the house? Will he do what Govinda did (not) at the Lok Sabha and make sporadic appearances as and when he feels like? Will he reinvent himself into a role that most feel he has limited credentials of filling? Or, will he demonstrate the perfect on drive to eminent fans with walking sticks and creaking joints?

Maybe, the Bharat Ratna would have been a better idea. You wouldn’t, after all, entrust your reliable family physician with redesigning your house, however good he is at saving lives.

Related articles:

Ayaz Memon, MP Tendulkar must aid his franchise first:

A former cricketer I know was concerned that Tendulkar had accepted the government’s offer to be an MP. “Politics is a different ball game. It’s not played with a straight bat. How will he cope?” he argued.

It’s a rhetorical question to which there is no immediate answer. But I am not sure I share the former player’s concern entirely. Tendulkar’s nomination is under the special category, which is essentially a testimonial to a high achiever in public life, not for influencing the nuts and bolts of political discourse.

Lokendra Pratap Sahi of The Telegraph interviews Jacques Kallis:

What was your reaction when you heard that Sachin would soon become a Member of Parliament?

I found it interesting... We need a life after cricket and, obviously, Sachin must be having an interest (in politics). Good luck to him.

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