Tendulkar and the media
‘It’s over when I say it’s over,’ is arguably one of the biggest punchlines exclusively reserved for the biggest gangsters, protagonists and larger-than-life characters in Hollywood. In sports, this term cannot be used by biggest and the best sportsmen when it comes to retirement. All of us would love to see Roger Federer winning Wimbledon again and then utter that dialogue to the waiting ensemble of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray.
In a team sport, all of us would like a once great player to stand his turf and mutter to an upstart, ‘Listen kid, you can have all your scante. But I ain’t going nowhere. It’s over when I say it’s over.’ But sports stars generally have more class than that. They tend to be overwhelmed with emotion and bow out with the deepest gratitude to what the game has done to them. I don’t remember any contemporary great standing his or her line, getting into a good old no-holds barred ding dong before bowing out.
It has been immense fun reading the country’s cricket media over the last few months. Their views, polarised more often than not, has been fairly even across the board for Sachin Tendulkar. One of India’s most respected sports writers Suresh Menon, a nobody from DNA and one of India’s most respected cricket historians, Mukul Kesavan, have all weighed in with their two-pence vis-a-vis Tendulkar. One doesn’t need to read the piece to discern their thoughts. It’s all laid out bare in the headlines itself:
10 questions you wish somebody would ask Sachin
How not to close a great career
Tendulkar’s interests not same as India’s
Let me start with Menon’s piece as it’s the simplest to attack of the three. One would hope that Menon, his adroit fingers tapping on the keyboard, would do some secondary StatsGuru based research before attacking Tendulkar for ‘choosing’ the games. Tendulkar has been choosing his games for well over two years now and even skipped the 2010 Asia Cup so he could be in prime shape for the World Cup. Menon writes:
Instead he has been allowed to pick and choose his matches, and the BCCI, so firm and so decisive when it comes to fringe players, is pusillanimity itself when dealing with the seniors.
Mr. Menon. Let me give you some news. Tendulkar has been choosing his games right from the 2007 World Cup. And that most certainly played a part in India winning two key series in the next four years: Down Under against Australia and the World Cup.
Menon reveals the fallacy of his piece
Selectors must decide whether Tendulkar is sound investment for 2015, and if they feel he is not, he should be told gently.
You, yourself has accepted that the call has to made by the selectors so why even bother trying to paint an anti-Tendulkar stance. Tendulkar is not the selector. It’s the job of the selector to drop Tendulkar. It’s Tendulkar’s job/right to preserve his body for harsher challenges. It’s the selectors job to either force him to play every game, or drop him completely from the team.
Menon rips into Tendulkar’s perceived love for the IPL over international cricket.
With the IPL entering the equation, it is not just patriotism that must be satisfied but the bank balance too. It was unfair of Tendulkar to have pulled out of the West Indies tour, for example, to get fit after the IPL.
I have made the point before that Tendulkar is a creature controlled by his commercial interests – he is a cottage industry which supports the lives of many professionals, all of whom stand to lose if he stops playing. But clearly Tendulkar’s interests are no longer the same as the country’s, certainly not in one-day internationals.
Arm-chair research reveals that Tendulkar has played 64 games for Mumbai Indians in his IPL career. How does that figure represent when pitted against India’s other famous cricketers (and who have been active internationals). M.S. Dhoni has played 78 games for CSK, Suresh Raina has played 83 games for CSK, Rahul Dravid has played 71 games for RCB and RR, Virat Kohli has played 77 games for RCB, Gautam Gambhir has played 72 games for DD and KKR and Virender Sehwag has played 66 games for DD. (Even after giving Dhoni and Raina a headstart of 5 games because of having played in the latter stages of all IPLs, they come nowhere close to the limited time enjoyed in the middle by Tendulkar).
Tendulkar had been nursing injuries or recuperating in at least two seasons but he at least took the IPL to rest his bones instead of playing through the pain for Mumbai before shouting, ‘I am banjaxed’ when it comes to playing for India.
The media have been quick to point out that Tendulkar is a money-grabbing, bank-balance looking, unpatriotic man. These facts clearly say otherwise.
Coming to M. Kesavan’s very early piece for Cricinfo, I don’t even know where to begin. Let me begin with my favourite line from his piece
To appreciate the tin-eared narcissism of this, bear in mind that Tendulkar had averaged 35 in his last eight Test matches.
This writer here actually talks of narcissism. You know why I find that very funny. His twitter account shows about 1,700 ‘followers’ but ’0′ following. Ever come across a man who urges everyone to ‘eat to live’ but ends up ‘living to eat’ himself. That kind of a man is Kesavan.
Kesavan takes his time and builds up the tempo in his visceral attack of Tendulkar. He says the man is the greatest brand in India’s history (can safely say Dhoni has overtaken Tendulkar) and talks about how corporates wrung him out and rinsed out every last remaining iota of publicity through the man. While I may be way off my rocker here, I wonder whether Cricinfo allowed itself a silent tear or two when WaltDisney bought it in 2007. Or when Wisden bought it in 2003. You have a value for yourself in the market. You are associated with a brand and you are endorsing it. Why exactly does Kesavan talk about branding and advertising when he doesn’t even know what branding and advertising are? I would even go out on a limb and say Tendulkar has a moral obligation to companies to pose with commemorative packages brought out to celebrate Tendulkar’s legacy: make no mistake, the 100th 100 is a legacy.
For all the time that Kesavan spends talking of Tendulkar and his recent crass publicity, let me tell you about the cover of one of Kesavan’s books, ‘Men in White.’ It has Tendulkar, Sehwag and Dhoni featured on the cover.
The following is a comment I left in Sidvee’s piece when he wrote about Tendulkar’s landmark
The writer did have a lots of points wrt Tendulkar’s 100th century. But my bone of contention was the way in which he has aligned and used the semantics (right from the headline) to describe the said century and the landmark.
As someone who has been taught Norman Fairclough’s Discourse Analysis, the writing almost looks at Tendulkar’s achievements through the prism of that one 100 and belittles it in the process.
The headline (I don’t know whether the sub or the writer gave it) reads: “How not to close a great career”. It reads like one of those classic self-help DIY books like “Learn French to English in 30 days.” The word “close” tells me that the writer has had enough with Tendulkar and wants him to hang up his boots. The word “great” is a euphemism keeping in context the contents of the article.
The writer uses the first three paras to set up the pace and the ambience of the piece. The words “fading” and “faded” are used twice perhaps indicating in a subliminal fashion that Tendulkar has faded. He then proceeds to talk about Dravid and how he has graciously called it quits “acknowledging” his form hasn’t up to scratch.
The piece, which was till then, all about India’s struggles in overseas conditions suddenly switches gears and becomes a very polished, professional rant against Tendulkar.
“inaugurated a noisy celebration of himself,” is how the writer begins to address the feat of Tendulkar. Now was it a “celebration of himself” or was it a celebration to acknowledge that he had achieved something rather unique in international cricket which may never be done again? There’s a massive difference between the two.
The writer then goes on to talk about how Tendulkar did not spend time talking about how India had actually lost the match against Bangladesh. Why exactly will he talk about the loss (you could have at least mentioned somewhere in a corner that Tendulkar had acknowledged that it had been a struggle and had more or less enveloped him) when most of the pressers were arranged to celebrate the landmark. The people had come there to listen to him talk about the landmark. Not him making epiphanies and elegies.
After making his points known, the writer next trains his guns on the tour Down Under and Tendulkar’s part in it. He asks him why the man who suddenly began dominating air space in the aftermath of the 100th 100, couldn’t make a single presser. I think Tendulkar answered this in his earliest presser after the 100. He did say something on the lines of I couldn’t escape the talk of the 100. It was everywhere. So given the climate, anybody would have wanted to introspect and sit in their hotel room rather than face the camera and talk about the team’s losses. And knowing how the media works, I wonder whether the media would have even bothered to ask Tendulkar about the team’s dwindling fortunes. It would all been about his 100th 100 and why it wasn’t coming.
Then the writer proceeds to use the phrase “tin-eared narcissism” to describe Tendulkar’s quote on how if somebody is at the top, they shouldn’t retire. A bit hypocritic because the same writer uses a rather templated headline to come across as a career counsellor when he is merely filling out the top most section on a comment page on an international cricket website.
Then the writer talks about Tendulkar’s ad career as if ad companies had only noticed him after the 2011 World Cup. It has been going on for a very long time and Tendulkar has been pictured next to shiny posters and representatives of conglomerates before the noughties. And he will be pictured with them again.
Now to do a pictorial discoursement on the article, it’s pretty easy. The writer could have easily taken any number of Tendulkar getting out pictures over the last year. But no, that wouldn’t have been reverberated strongly with the piece. It had to be a picture from one of the promotional events. For then only, would it appear vulgar enough to people reading the opinion piece that here is a man who is more worried about his “brand” rather than “owning up” to India’s defeats. And interesting enough, there are a lot of words which you find in the business paper in the morning used here: “Brand”, “Crassness”, “Ownership”, “Publicity”, “Corporate”, “Gold” and so on.
While it may well have been co-incidental, it may well have been crowbarred in to the piece…..
Coming to the third piece, I have no idea who G. Sampath is. His picture reveals one who looks a bit constipated but wants to hide it by a very hesitant smile. Modern day hacks waste no time in getting their fingers in a twist while writing comment pieces.
Since I am in the enviable position of never having to call Sachin for a quote ever again
Dear, Sampathji. I know of at least 10 hacks inside the country who are in that position. What exactly is your point here?
The past week has seen newspapers excreting massive interviews with the selfish gene-cum-genius.
Ok. You call him selfish? But selfish for what? Selfish for accepting a Rajya Sabha seat? Selfish for having played for India for more than two decades? Selfish for coming back to a World Cup after his father’s death? You get the drift, right? I could keep at it all day long.
Q 1 – Tendulkar did actually confess to Pradeep Magazine that he heard rumours of match-fixing within the Indian camp but asked Magazine not to go ahead with the story as he they were unsubstantiated. Magazine went ahead with a piece for Pioneer about his experiences in the West Indies with a bookie and how he was offered a couple of lakhs and so on. You know what the BCCI did? They sent a fax to Tendulkar demanding why the ‘captain’ did not tell the board that he had been offered a couple of lakhs to throw a few games. That was our board then…..
Q 2 – Yes, Sampathji. Also you know other stuff like getting out also messes with averages and stuff. So why din’t he just talk the BCCI into outlawing getting out completely?
Q 3 – I would like to ask this question myself but I think I already know the answer.
Q 4, Q 5 – Allow the guy to enter house and let him settle before proceeding.
Q 6 – I started laughing when I first read it a few days back. I’m still laughing. I shall get back when I eventually link a connect with being a ‘nice guy’ and being a very effective captain.
Q 7 – Extensive research done elsewhere on this blog has proved that his strike rate for century plus knocks are greater than for strike rates when he has got out for below a 100.
Q 8 – It’s sadness that Ajit Agarkar’s role in Adelaide never gets mentioned. Tendulkar has played his part in a fair few match winning ones. The last being England at Chennai. This clearly explains why Tendulkar’s career needs more research (dies) before coming to conclusions about his records in match-winning contributions.
Q 9 – Lol.
Q 10 – Hahahahahahaha.