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|May 10, 2000||
Keeping the faithHarsha Bhogle
I got an e-mail from someone I didn't know last week but it was one that I warmed to immediately. Some letters can do that if they are written with innocence and passion and this one implored me to tell him that Sachin Tendulkar wasn't involved in the bribery and match-fixing scandal. "If even Tendulkar is involved, then what is left," he asked and I could see that in a little heart, a little wound had opened up.
It tells us a little bit about our cricket audiences and about their faith. It tells us about their need and about their quest for heroes. That is what so much of our cricket is about; adolescent minds looking for heroes whose deeds they can be proud of, which they can emulate even if in their own wonderful unreal world. They want their heroes around them, they want to touch them, they donít want them to exist in distant worlds they cannot relate to.
There is now a new breed of dotcom heroes and thank god for that because at least in urban India, there is an aspirational quality to dotcom success. But most of these heroes, though they have Indian names and look like you and me, really live elsewhere. They are too far away to represent India to most people.
But just as it is important for young men in India to have heroes, cricketing heroes, it is just as important for the stars to understand that they represent India to an impressionable audience. They are a symbol for what India can achieve and that holds even if they are away in England playing for Lancashire or Leicestershire.
At different levels, all of us represent India and I discovered that when I was in Australia a few months ago. I was doing the radio broadcast over the Australian Broadcasting Corporation as the Indian commentator and was amazed by some of the letters I got. They were clothed in different emotions but one aspect stood out and moved me enormously. Whether or not they thought I was a good commentator, they wanted me to stand for India in the commentary box; to stand up and defend an Indian point of view.
For all the filth in our public life, there is a very strong part of us that is proud of our Indianness. That is why those of us who have the honour of representing India, and in our own little way all of us do, need to be aware of the responsibility that we carry. It is an even greater responsibility when you reach a position where you can be loved and admired and that is why to be an Indian cricketer is not just an honour, but a commitment as well.
I am not in that category but I donít think it can be too difficult. That is why like my young friend, I am hoping that Tendulkar, who is but a symbol for the Indian cricketer isnít 'involved'. If any cricketer is, like so many others, I will be disillusioned and angry. But more than anything else, I will feel cheated because my affection was pure and it was spurned.
And I am sure my friend will feel a void because he thought this display of Indianness was pure. There is too much crass nationalism going on; there are too many words going around without any feelings attached to them. You donít need them, all you need is to go out and achieve in a global environment. When you can show that you are as good as anyone else, you score a run for India and it is critical that many many more of us do that because it is so important for our 14 year olds.
In a figurative sense, we need more people to bat for India but we need that in a literal sense as well. This is something that should be drilled into the minds of every young man who either plays for India or aspires to. They need to make a living, as all of us need to, but luckily our affection has such a strong commercial value to it that making a good living isnít too difficult. But they need to do so with honour. The value of that innings, especially in these murky times, will far outweigh all the runs they make.
But who is to tell them that? In most countries the controlling bodies, who are very conscious of the image of their sport, tell their cricketers what is expected of them. But our cricket administration doesnít think its image is important because people flock to cricket grounds anyway. So, maybe they just need to choose good parents !
Or maybe they need a strong personality to emulate. And to so many of them, Sachin Tendulkar is that personality, the right combination of intensity and nationalism. They have faith in him and hence the fear 'If even Tendulkar is involved, then what is left!'
'If even Tendulkar'... what a scary thought. But, itís just a thought ! And thoughts can pass.
Mail Prem Panicker
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