I have been Sachin’s fan since I was old enough to understand cricket. I dragged my dad to the stadium long back in 2002 just to watch him play, even though the match was against Zimbabwe. We turned lucky, for he scored a beautiful century that day. I went to see him again, this time in a limited overs encounter with the Lankans at Jamtha. The stadium erupted as soon as it got a glimpse of Indian openers from the dressing room. I literally had to cover my ears, for the applause all around me was so loud. He got out cheaply, but still we cheered for him when he came to field at the boundary near our stands. The last time I saw him live in action was in India versus England test in December 2012.
Today, as the man hanged up his boots, millions had tears in their eyes. I am no different. Tears were bound to fall after listening to that speech and after the mobile guard of honour given by the team. Amidst all the emotions and the respect, I learned that he is being honoured with the highest civilian award. Immediately, I checked for the news. It said Prof CNR Rao and Sachin have been chosen by the government. As an avid fan, I should have burst out in joy. I did not.
Incidentally, I was following Anand-Carlsen Game that time. Though just an amateur player with a little competitive experience, joblessness and boredom over the weekend made me watch the game. I felt sorry for Vishy Anand, for the achievements of this man have not been short of the master; just he chose a less glamorous sport to play as an Indian.
FIDE, the world chess federation, currently has 143 countries as members. There have been as many as 160 countries that have been members of FIDE. There were 154 countries that played in the 2008 chess Olympiad. Anand has won the World Chess Championship five times and has been the undisputed World Champion since 2007. Imagine the determination to remain numero uno for such long time. Again, Anand was the first sportsperson to receive the second highest civilian award of India, Padma Vibhushan in 2007, a year before Sachin received. He has been the world champion since then, dominating a game played in over 150 countries. Cricket is played in 20 countries (trying to be very liberal here). Clearly, if one was to look at these stats, Anand should be the first to get a Bharat Ratna.
Let me be very clear here. I am in no way comparing these two legends. I am happy that sportspersons are included the list which consisted formerly of politicians, scientists, artists and social workers. What bothers me are the populist measures of the UPA government, firstly electing him as a member of Rajya Sabha while he still was playing for the country and now nominating him for the highest civilian honour just before a few months for general elections. A Bharat Ratna for him would be used for harnessing votes, diverting the attention of people from inflation, economic crisis, scams and what not. He definitely deserves the highest civilian award, but alongside or after some other greats (Dhyanchand, Anand to name a few).
Anyways, a big congratulations to the icon, one of my role models, Tendulkar Sachin Ramesh for being an exceptional cricketer and above that, an exceptional human being. We are honoured to live in the same era as you. We are blessed to watch you play! With a hope that the other sons of soil from playing other sports are also given the respect they deserve, I’ll sign off.