On Sachin and the Bharat Ratna

52 Comments

SRTOne would have thought, at least I certainly did, that people would at least wait till the tears dried on the cheeks after Sachin’s heart-wrenching final moments on a cricket field before starting the snark and the snap, now that contentious issues like whether he should retire (which I believe he should have in 2011) are no longer germane.

I was wrong.

When I heard that they were giving Sachin the Bharat Ratna, I felt “Finally. Someone who deserves it. I am sure everyone will agree this time a government award is most appropriate.”

I was, once again, wrong.

Apparently, Sachin Tendulkar, we are being told does not deserve the Bharat Ratna. No not because Rajiv Gandhi and Morarji Desai have won it and we wouldn’t want Sachin to be in the same list.

No. It is because Sachin Tendulkar somehow does not make the cut. Qualitywise.

Because he is 29th on some ranking prepared by ICC. Or because his career average, is less than Kumar Sangakkara.

Yes.

It kind of rankled when I read somewhere Sachin being compared to Sangakkara (who I admit I am not a big fan of) because Sangakkara has a career average of 57 to Sachin’s 54. So I did a random experiment. I checked out Sachin and Sangy’s average (since we are supposed to put much value to them) in overseas tours to South Africa and Australia, since for sub-continental batsmen, they are usually the most challenging. Against South Africa, Sangy did a very modest 36 in 8 whereas Sachin did 46 over 14.  Against Australia, Sangy does 60 while Sachin does 53. Wow. And then you look a bit deeper and you see Sangy has averaged 60 over a mere 5 Tests while Sachin has done 53 over 20. Which tells you a bit more about their respective performances in Australia, than if you just looked at averages. Dig a bit deeper and you see Sangy’s average spiking due to a 2 test series where he has an average of 125.

Here is the point where you tell me “But let’s look at [insert batsman name here] and apply the same technique. See his average against South Africa and Australia is much better than Sachin’s.” Which is why this “spreadsheet” approach is all wrong, especially when you are trying to understand the greatness of a cricketer.

It’s like this. Do you evaluate the quality of sex through the number of strokes or the most esoteric-sounding ratio of strokes to moans? No. You evaluate it through intimacy, connection and other unquantifiables.

Same with sport, particularly one like cricket.

There are greats like Miandad, Kallis, McGrath and, sigh, Sangakkara.

And then there are “greats” like Akram, Gilchrist, Warne, Lara, Richards.

And Tendulkar.

But even here, it does not matter whether Sachin is a greater batsman than Lara or Viv. What matters is his influence in India, on Indians.

Because that’s what I see Bharat Ratna to be.

One that recognizes the achievements of those very very few, exceptional Indians who  through their craft, have left an indelible mark on Indians.

Those that are not just names, but metaphors for excellence in their chosen field.

Sing like Lata. Bat like Sachin.

You know what I am saying?

There is another school which says that Sachin should not be given a Bharat Ratna because of the Ferrari incident. Because he did that. Because he did not do this.

Here is the deal. Bharat Ratna is not an award for being the “ideal person”, or for being a “gold standard for character.” In any case, what Sachin has done at worst is what every other Indian would do, try to find a loophole to prevent paying money to the government and for those getting all holier-than-thou, all I want to say is “Puleeeze”.

So yes sure Sachin isn’t perfect. He doesn’t need to be.

Sure Sachin isn’t God. He cannot be.

But he definitely is a Bharat Ratna. And I just don’t see it any other way.

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52 thoughts on “On Sachin and the Bharat Ratna

  1. Thank god some one wrote about it just like it is. There can be debate whether sportsmen deserve Bharat Ratna or not. But pointing out absurd reasons to say Sachin doesn’t deserve Bharat Ratna is foolish. As the name suggests, the award is for a person of Indian origin who is the best in his field and thereby inspires other Indians. If sports is a field eligible (which I believe it is) to be considered for Bharat Ratna, then no doubt Sachin makes the cut.

  2. There are greats like Miandad, Kallis, McGrath and, sigh, Sangakkara.

    And then there are “greats” like Akram, Gilchrist, Warne, Lara, Richards.

    And Tendulkar. Spot on.

  3. “Sachin’s influence on India..” is decidedly less than someone like a Varghese Kurian. At one phase of his career, like a gladiator, he entertained the Indian nation through his sports performances like none before him. We were satiated and nostalgic for those performances because we are similar to a bunch of ignorant masses baying for blood. We essentially gave him a Bharat Ratna because he fulfilled our craving for achievers on the cricket field at a historical juncture in cricket and later sustained for years with an average performance with some dignity, eventually helping himself to personal milestones, that we somehow imagine as having a meaning for our lives.

    Govts are elected by people to act with wisdom. They also have to respond to will of the public. Sachin’s Bharat Ratna shows that Indian masses can be swayed more easily by the entertainment on TVs than by any meaningful change in their lives and unsurprisingly leaders are willing to do stupid things if it pleases the public. I guess such people deserve their leaders they get as much as their Bharat Ratnas. No wonder V. Ramakrishnan & H. Khorana have left this country.

    • I am amused to read your comment that Sachin is an ‘entertainment om TV’. You definitely need to visit a rehabilitation centre, my friend 🙂

      • You misread and mistyped, which doesn’t say highly of your cognitive abilities.

        Sometimes communication media amplify a social phenomena – NTR & MGR as demi gods would exist only at a time when people emotionally invested in their screen persona. Tendulkar grew as a demigod in an era when satellite and cable TV spread to nook and corners, allowing cricket to be watched all over India. In this age of the IPL, even someone as prolific like Virat Kohli, no longer evokes the same awe despite a better cricketing record and average at the same point in a career.

        But seriously, why do you watch/ follow cricket, if not to be entertained? Just to troll & indulge in such stupid banter?

  4. One that recognizes the achievements of those very very few, exceptional Indians who through their craft, have left an indelible mark on Indians.

    Here is the deal. Bharat Ratna is not an award for being the “ideal person”, or for being a “gold standard for character.”

    Why not Khans, in that case? or at least the two less talented ones.

  5. Spot on. Harsha Bhogle, while commentating on Tendulkar’s last day in Test cricket, repeatedly urged us to “look beyond the numbers” while evaluating Sachin Tendulkar.

    Another thing… people are now claiming Bharat Ratna for Vajpayee and Dhyan Chand. If these people are eligible for Bharat Ratna, why did they not should for them last year? For God’s sake, Dhyan Chand retired 65 years back (died 34 years back)… and the fools waited for this long before speaking out? Why did they not hold a rally last year if Dhyan Chand was so eligible… why did they have to wait till Tendulkar is awarded?

  6. I am all for Sachin being awarded highest honours. But for a moment, zara socho – ‘Us din yaar kaisa lagega jab ek Bharat Ratna tv pe coca-cola bechega!’

    • It’s same as saying that Lata Mangeshkar sang “Chadti Jawani”. People do a lot of stuffs to earn money; And doing an advertisement for a product is certainly legal! It’s even better than the empty promises done by politicians for whom many are asking for Bharat Ratna!

  7. Agree. But (though I seriously do not follow other sports), Tendulkar should not be the FIRST Indian sportsperson to have received it. He should have been preceded by Dhyan Chand, Geet Sethi, Prakash Padukone, and maybe Anand (for whom, I guess, they may wait till his retirement).

    • Sir, you’ve just hit the nail on its head. If Dhyan Chand, Geet Sethi and Prakash Padukone were so great, did anyone raise a demand for Bharat Ratna to be awarded to them? As far as I can remember, the first clamour for Dhyan Chand came around 2010, as a response to the proposal that Sachin Tendulkar be awarded the prize. Where were the intellectuals all these years? Why did they not lobby for these greats earlier… Dhyan Chand died ten years before Tendulkar made his Test debut.

      And you NEED NOT wait for someone’s retirement before awarding the Bharat Ratna.

      • Sports personalities were made eligible for Bharat Ratna only in 2011.. in fact Dec 2011, I believe..and it almost looks like it was done keeping in mind Sachin has to be given one ‘soon’, and it almost seems like a plan by a certain political party – offer him Rajya Sabha seat and Bharat Ratna, before it loses power at the Center. Not to say Sachin doesn’t deserve one, but just saying many events seem like part of a “bigger plan”

  8. Bharat Ratna is not the prize but the price congress has paid to buy Sachin to campaign for it in the oncoming election. He has already sold his soul to this God of scams government. It is too naive to think / believe otherwise.

  9. Just a week ago I came to know about the actual facts of the Ferrari issue & why this is not even a controversy. Import duty, 120% of the MRP, applies to good bought from outside. It also applies to gifts & favors but NOT to prizes. Thus, if Sachin had won that Ferrari as Man of Series, there would be no question of Import duty becoz its not applicable. Since it was a gift, it was applicable. Consider this, Ferrari gave a gift to Sachin, but for Sachin to bring this car into India, he would have to pay the MRP+20% of the Ferrari price(that’s as good as buying it no?). That’s just ridiculous. When Ferrari came to know of this law, will they let Sachin pay the money for a gift given by them. That’s just ridiculous. So, money was never Sachin’s to give. I m not sure but considering the situation & the embarrassment the Govt will be infront of Sachin & Ferrari gift giving, the minister amended the law. For Sachin, yes. Did Sachin use his prowess into making the law kneel before him. Figuratively yes, literally no. The law amended itself out of embarrassment. I’ve heard such waivers in import duty for gifts were a common thing for eminent people earlier. So Sachin was never saving his money. His money was never on the line. A few years after, some guy filed a PIL & Fiat decided to pay the duty & settle the issue for good. So from Sachin’s perspective, its a non-issue.

    • You are wrong. Fiat/Sachin tried to pass it off as an “award” for having crossed 29 test centuries. How can one get a tax-free “award” from the company with whom one has a commercial contract (which Sachin had with Fiat)? Why not I ask my employers to “award” me a Maruti (instead of me buying one from my take-home salary)? The whole thing was a shameful tax evading charade.

  10. “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” When will people look beyond statistics and see the larger picture?! Sachin’s influence as you mention is beyond stats (stats are incredible for sure). Good one Arnab.

  11. A couple of years back, I read in the newspaper that Sachin got the Polly Umrigar award. I had to actually go to wikipedia to see who this Polly Umrigar was. (Apparently Polly was a really good batsman from Bombay ..he even got a Padma Shri). But Polly Umrigar award to Sachin?? What’s next? Polly Umrigar award to God? next after that? Venkatapathy Raju award for Sachin?? Ok…thoda zyada ho gaya.
    On a serious note, I don’t think Sachin requires Bharat Ratna award from the government. Everyone already knows that he is a Bharat Ratna.

    • I am one of those who believes he doesn’t deserve a Bharat Ratna for excelling in a sport virtually unknown in North America, South America, Africa (except for 1 or 2 countries), continental Europe, the Islamic world (except one country), Russia, China and the Far east. But let’s for argument’s sake agree with Greatbong that he deserves it. One thing which is non-negotiable, is he has to stop appearing in 30 sec films where he reads out scripted lines telling the people of the country to drink a certain cola only because he has been roped in at a humongous rate to say so. If he monetises the Bharat Ratna thus, that might have well been the death of the award. It is incumbent upon the awardee to maintain a certain gravitas of the award, otherwise he can just politely decline it and carry on doing endorsements.

  12. @xyz: I read an article a couple of years back when the issue of giving Sachin the Bharat Ratna was first raised. The author of the article made a very plausible case that Salman Khan was also very deserving of the Bharat Ratna, if the standard was a personality who had made it to the pinnacle of his/her field, other considerations being unimportant. After all, Salman has given a record number of hits in recent years, has provided top quality entertainment to the masses and allowed countless people to forget their cares and troubles for a few hours when they have “savored” his movies. Of course, like in the case of Dhyan Chand now, if Sallu was given the BR, there would then be a clamor for Amitabh to also be given the Bharat Ratna, and maybe Dilip Kumar as well. Indeed, come to think of it, why not Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand, Shammi Kapoor as well? And if Lata makes the cut, why not Rafi, Kishore Kumar and Manna Dey?

    Giving the BR to someone whose primary role was/is that of an entertainer is a bit of a slippery slope, if you ask me. As Madhusudan Nalwade pointed out above, I think the day is not far off when SRT’s mug will grace TV screens with slogans like “Boost piyo, Bharat Ratn jeeto” or “Manappuram Gold Loan: Bharat ke Ratnon ke liye”.

  13. Bit off topic.. but its a bit juvenile and annoying to read your blog titles just starting with the word ‘ON’ most of the time. Are you too lazy to think of something better (wittier/punnier) or if you haven’t noticed here’s what i see..

    On Sachin and the Bharat Ratna
    On Modi Becoming BJP’s PM Candidate
    On the News Hour Tonight
    On Kai Po Che !

    On this note i will conclude my rant. 😀

  14. Yes. It would be odd to see Bharat Ratna selling Boost or pepsodent, or parroting BCCI line in TV like other greats or holding BCCI office and doing same old dirty tricks of VIPism or campaign for a party or be a hotelier organizing rave party etc.
    When we say there are greats like Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Kumble, Dravid AND Sachin. He can’t have the same career options or choices henceforth as well atleast morally.
    While individual freedom of speech or action can’t be questioned, a BR is a great responsibility. Hope Sachin is able to hold it with dignity over a longer period of time. The question is what he has done in last 24 years wholly deserves but what he will do in next 40 years will also be a scrutiny point considering unlike a scientist or singer he will be doing completely different stuff hence..

  15. Tendulkar doesnt desrve the BR.Currently Anand is the only possible BR in sport&games,as Dhyan Chand was way back and should have been awarded earlier if at all.Really, what Anand has done is way greater than Tendya by every metric possible;just that the UPA wants to play on the sentiments and gather a few extra votes.
    As for Tendulkar’s average and “performance in 90’s,it was because no one else could bat.This sort of romanticizing about elegance and talent,but losing heavily is one of the ills of our nation which the current govt. keeps promoting.
    Whereas anand has been at the very top for ages till recently,and has played in multiple generations.In addition,even after the chess revolution in India,there is hardly anyone close to anand. Most of Anand’s rivals consider him to be one of the greatest talents in chess ever,in a game which is cumulative and changes much lesser with time than cricket. Tendulkar never faced really great bowlers(do name a few if avail) on challenging pitches,and thats why he appeared so dominant and also protective material which helps you to get away with it had appeared by then. Anand had none of this;he had to face,without support and the deep preparation, the world of chess where no asian had gone before.Except for the very few,top players he dominated the rest as only a wizard can,and was called the lightning kid by other Grandmasters whom he defeated at blitz speed. No way Tendulkar has ever matched this.
    Your assertion that the hopes of the people were with him and “democratic” feelings make him a BR are hogwash. A Ratna(a non political one such as this) in my opinion should be a real gem, both in rarity and excellence, and is to be held up to the world for its objective excellence,and as an evidence of the high standards and expectations that we must have.Mollycoddling the laity should be the last thing on our minds when it comes such an honour as it sends signals of idiocy and non seriousness to the rest of the world.Hard headed Chinese,Japanese and even the English and whites must be laughing their asses off at this award to “beloved” tendya who shouldnt be in consideration even if sport were included(i dont support sports BR’s).

    • I will answer a few of your questions:

      1. Tendulkar did not face any great bowlers: The ESPNcricinfo World XI has four bowlers, Lillee, Marshall, Akram and Warne. Tendulkar faced three of them, with considerable success.

      2. No one could bat in the 90’s: You have just earned yourself a few brickbats from your fellow Tendulkar bashers. Most of them seem to believe that Lara, Ponting and Dravid were better batsmen… all of them played during the 90’s.

      3. You do not support sports BRs: Whats a BR? Bull’s Redrag? You started your rant by claiming that you think Anand and Dhyan Chand deserve Bharat Ratna more than Tendulkar.

      4. You seem to believe that Tendulkar was not respected by his fellow cricketers, Indian and foreign: Please do read some newspapers. The respect was all over the place last week.

      5. Hard headed Chinese, Japanese, English and whites are laughing: As if they told you. And as if we care about their validation of our award. Just for info, Tendulkar was awarded the Order of Australia. Australia, when I last heard about it, was a predominantly white country. And I hate people who categorize the human population on the basis of skin colour.

      You Sir, are entitled to have your own opinion, and no one can take that right away from you. And so am I also entitled to my opinion. And my personal opinion about you is that the world would be a much better place if you could go to hell sometime soon.

      • Tendulkar never played Lillee in tests. Tendulkar never played Marshall in tests. Tendulkar vs. Akram averaged only 32 in 7 tests, could never win us a series against Pakistan (while Dravid & Ganguly delivered us series wins against Pakistan). Tendulkar vs Warne, agree, successful, but so was Laxman.

        And Order of Australia award for Tendulkar was Member level, which is the 4th lowest category out of 5 (highest is knighthood). Roughly equal/lower to a Padmashri. Maharaja of Vizianagaram was given a knighthood with a test average of 8 🙂

      • Yours answers are tangential and miss the point being raised.

        1) Sachin has not even faced,let alone succeded against real pace which Gavaskar(for all his crimes & follies) has managed.The world eleven team is unlikely to fare well as bowling and batting attacks are team work and just having the best in each dept, doesnt work.

        2) Irrelevant
        3) You missed the small “in sports&games”,thanks to your reading skills.
        4)Most of the praise is vacuous and for handouts from the BCCI or even the UPA! Very low on specifics like his great innings or his capacity to bat in difficulty and all emotional nonsense
        5) They laugh behind your back,and not in front of foolish indians who can be appeased with a bit of flattery. Our image takes a beating every time we do something transparently stupid and tells the world about our capabilities and preparedness.They do throw a few scraps every now and then.
        People are divided on many bases and no one is going to change that reality,and we have every right to look out for our own.As for going to hell,a certain eastern state is likely to impose sharia soon enough under its didi and take all its people to hell right here on earth,and that too before death.As I am far away from that land,your wish is not going to be fulfilled at least on earth.

  16. Could someone pls direct me to the article that says Sachin doesn’t deserve the BR because his average is less than Sangakkara’s or because of his ranking on ICC list etc. Despite repeated searches I couldn’t find any. Though I did find a few where the protest was that he is a current member of Rajya Sabha so it probably becomes political and also Dhyanchand should have been honoured with the BR before him. I am disappointed that Greatbong didn’t address these issues. There is no doubt that Sachin is the greatest cricketer ever despite statistics (most definitely not in any Indian’s mind).
    .

  17. Of all the arguments as to why Sachin does not deserve the BR, the author seems to have found the least defensible, wildest, and most obscure cock-and-bull theory floating around the internet (Sangakara average) and zeroed in on it to make his point. Well played sir.

    • The theory I am trying to counter is that there are there many batsmen better than Sachin, as measured by their averages or ICC rankings and that he really is not *that* great. Which is not an obscure line of reasoning at all and stands to apparent reason. Among the batsmen whose averages (since that is the metric being used here) are higher than him, why there is even Sangakkara. I show how averages tell you basically nothing.

      As to the argument before about Dhyanchand, I fail to see how because someone else (now dead) has not won the Bharat Ratna and deserved to, should have any effect on Sachin. This is about as brilliant a logic as saying Nelson Mandela should not win the Nobel prize for peace because Gandhi should have won it before him.

      As to your disrespectful tone, I choose to not dignify it with a response in kind, since I know, having seen the way you comment previously also, this is exactly the way you roll

      • The argument on Dhyanchand is because sports was not a category for BR earlier. Sports opened up for the first time in 2011. Then the sports ministry itself recommended Dhyanchand and not Sachin. Yet Dhyanchand was set aside and Sachin won it, magically, on the day of retirement. It raises questions on the process.

      • cricket doesnt mean test cricket..it includes oneday internationals also..check the numbers of sangakara and sachin..sachin’s average is 45 and strike rate is 86.remember he played for 24 years and scored 18500 runs still his strike rate is 86..apart from jayasuriya no other person in 10000 club dont have 80+ strike rate(jayasuriya’s average is just 32 oly)..when compared both use both test and ODI’s..using one parameter is disgusting

  18. There is nothing stupid than comparing two sportsman by using the spreadsheet approach which most of the “experts” seem to be doing with so much moaning.

    These kind of metrics make a lot of sense where those metrics have an inherent value. For example number of papers published in a top journal by a researcher would matter a lot more because eventually that is what makes “research” “research”.

    In sports scoring runs or taking wickets is not the real thing. The real thing is eyeballs and hearts that the game can attract. I remember the sleepless and tensed moments that I had while Sachin batted. I give a damn to Dhoni and his cohorts now and prefer to change channels. I remember the only time I prayed to God that hard which Rahul Dravid was battling Pakistani bowling in the independence cup.

    When it comes to eyeballs and hearts no other player can hold a candle to Sachin. Sachin has been lot more to all of us than just a man with wooden plank in hand.

    Our love for Sachin is not same as our love for Modi, Sonia, Shahrukh or Salman. It is more like our love for Puranpoli, Basundi, Samosa and Mishti Doi.

    Very few people you see get into that category while being nationally relevant. Sachin that is why gets a Bharat Ratna but then there is nothing painful than him getting to the likes of Morarji Desai and Rajiv Gandhi.

  19. Hi Arnab-Bharat Ratna for me personally should be given to someone who has made a significant contribution to the upliftment of society

    This means MS Swaminathan/ V Kurien etc should have got it- not someone like Sachin or MS Subbulakshmi or Bhimsen Joshi/Ustad Bismillah

    They were entertainers-thats it.Did they help Indian economy or Indian people?

    Anyways looks like Government looks at popularity as the reason for Bharat Ratna- By that yardstick, why Sachin- why not AR Rahman?

    • “They were entertainers-thats it. Did they help Indian economy or Indian people?”

      Entertainment art and culture are important parts of our national identity. Saudi Arabia might be a rich country … well you see what I mean.

      • I didnt say anything about being a rich country- All I said is people who have made a difference to the lives of people should get it.MS Swaminathan for instance was the one who was the pioneer of Green revolution who helped poor farmers and helped in Food productivity.I believe people like him are more deserving than someone who just brings happiness. This award to Sachin is basically a decision made from the heart instead of the mind

  20. greatbong – for a change, you seem to have missed the point. Yes, there was an article about the 29th ranking, but a far more general opinion was along the lines of “if sportspeople can be now eligible for BR, then shouldn’t the GoI have given it to the other deserving dudes (anand, dhyanchand) as well, along with SRT?” The fingers (at least mine) were pointing at the government, not at sachin. I personally think that he deserves it. He (and Anand) brought honour to the nation – something even his closest drinking and driving buddies can’t claim for sallu bhai 🙂

    • @Aditya Nath Jha: If bringing honour to the nation was a prerequisite, Nelson Mandela would not have been qualified to receive it at all. According to the rules of awarding BR, it is “awarded in recognition of exceptional service/performance of the highest order in any field of human endeavour”. Notice the “service/performance” part. So, based on the criteria specified, I don’t see how Sallu Bhai does not deserve the BR.

  21. sex analogy was the strongest and best analogy given to understand the greatness of this cricketer, everything cant be measured in statistics unless you want to show how gujarat is faring badly

  22. You missed a point of view – There were other sportsmen who deserved it more before Sachin (not that Sachin does not deserve it).
    E.g., Dhyanchand who was a master at his sport with far fewer facilities in those times and NO sponsorship.
    Even Milkha broke a world record in athletics !! (I’m sure it is more difficult to excel in a class with 500 students than 5, point being the difference between number of countries participating in cricket vs those in athletics)
    The point is the timing and choice of Sachin smacks of politics (elections coming and Sachin being an RS member appointed by the ruling party)
    I think you’ll agree that politics should not be associated with Bharatratnas though unfortunately this isn’t the first case.

  23. Lalit Modi for Bharat Ratna!
    He made a unprecedented impact on the form of cricket, entertainment and touched peoples’ and players’ lives.
    -Apurbo

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