Monday, November 16, 2009

When Thackeray holds Sach ka Saamna with Sachin Tendulkar

By John Cheeran
All his life, Bal Thackeray has played only one stroke, though his brush strokes were brilliant and varied when he used to be a cartoonist with mordant wit during the great days of Free Press Journal.
Thackeray has perfected the daring hook shot of identity politics into the Marathi Manoos gallery, giving excitement to his diehard followers, and in the process, terribly fraying the many-coloured national fabric.
On the other hand, Sachin Tendulkar, one of India's finest cricketers, has dominated international cricket for the last 20 years precisely because he can play more than one stroke to any given ball. Tendulkar is a many-splendoured wonder.
So it does not come as a surprise that Bal Thackeray has censured Tendulkar for saying "I'm extremely proud to be a Marathi, but an Indian first," at a press conference last week in Bombay.
To a certain degree, the great PR exercise unleashed by Tendulkar's image consultants on the occasion of the batsman having completed 20 years of international cricket has been quite unnerving. At least, for me.
And, now comes this jarring note from his home turf. Tendulkar's spin doctors would not have expected such a googly from Thackeray when Shiv Sena is licking its electoral wounds.
Indian cricketers, though when it is convenient for them remind us that they are greatly honoured to serve the nation, always sidestep political bouncers. Remember, Sunil Gavaskar kept his mouth shut when Shiv Sainiks vandalised the Bombay office of Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
The problem with Tendulkar is that he is too naive to understand the many layers of sub-nationalism in India, though Ranji Trophy matches should have been a primer in such matters.
Well, now that Tendulkar has put his Marathi Manoos behind the Idea of India, though unwittingly, I stand with him. People all over India embraced The Idea of Tendulkar, precisely because it has been pan-Indian in its appeal. And quite importantly, Tendulkar did not play for a generation that shed blood for the formation of linguistic states. Tendulkar has played his cricket for a young republic, disdainful towards chauvinism and regional boundaries.
It is important to note in this context that Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) chairman Mukesh Ambani was advised by his image consultants to brand his Indian Premier League (IPL) team as Mumbai Indians, and that was a step in the right direction.
It would be interesting to know how Tendulkar would react to Thackeray's uncalled for jibe.
Most certainly, with a forward defensive stroke.

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