One 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.
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.
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.