Only Sachin

BY Darius Nakhoonwala| IN Opinion | 12/10/2013
Edits-wise, did last week belong to Sachin Tendulkar or Jwala Gutta who faced a life ban? Or both?
DARIUS NAKHOONWALA takes a look. PIX: Shuttler Jwala Gutta

 You don’t say!
Darius Nakhoonwala

Edits-wise, did last week belong to Sachin Tendulkar or Jwala Gutta who faced a life ban? Or both? 

The key differentiator between Mr T and Ms G, I thought, was that whereas enough edits have been written about Mr T over his 24 year career, very little has been written about the various egotistic and political coteries that run Indian sports, and the way they persecute sportspersons. 

The BCCI apart, not a single newspaper bothers very much with these other sports. This, basically, is what allows the coteries to flourish and sportspersons to languish. 

In fact, sports coverage is one area where TV news, screaming anchors notwithstanding, does better than print. The difference, I think, is that unlike the print editors who think of themselves as part professors, part Cabinet Secretaries, and part National Security Advisors, TV anchors are happy to play the troglodyte role. That makes them effective instead of effete.

The BAI-Gutta affair provided an opportunity to print to make amends. Instead, we got the same old lack of application of mind that has become the hallmark of edits these days.

So as of last Saturday, only The Hindu thought it fit to comment on Ms Gutta's predicament. She was threatened by a life ban – now prevented by the High Court -- at the prime of her career because of some transgressions imagined by the Badminton Association of India (BAI). 

The indignation in the Hindu edit echoed the anger felt by the country over the way the BAI has treated the colourful Ms Gutta. The paper rightly accused BAI of "acting in a brazenly autocratic and undemocratic manner” and called the silence of the Sports Minister "baffling".

Mr T's trumpets

The rest of the papers were content to take the road more travelled by and say the same old tired things about Mr T. 

Some said it elegantly, like the Hindu, some said it soberly, like the Indian Express, Times of India (ToI) and Hindustan Times (HT). 

And one or two just wrote plain nonsense. The Pioneer provides the best example of this last. 

It wrote: "What connects millions of people to god? Just one word: Faith. Faith made Sachin Tendulkar the ‘god of cricket', not only in India but among cricket-loving audiences across the globe… Gods also fail, or at least they seem to, and that is why we read the rants of Bhakti poets who have in times of desperation berated the deity they have surrendered to." 

Yo, mama, shut up will you?. 

And Mint added to the rubbish when it said "Sachin Tendulkar began playing for India in a turbulent era of religious riots, caste conflicts and economic crisis. His decency, talent and dedication provided emotional stability to an unstable nation, an anchor in a rough sea… He has been a beacon of hope." Gosh! 

The Hindu said in a quiet but pedestrian murmur: "Indeed the essence of Tendulkar's greatness lies as much in his preternatural ability as in his handling the weight of being cricket's biggest icon… Tendulkar wore it with lightness and dignity, making brilliance commonplace, unremarkable." 

The Indian Express wrote a very long analytical piece (the heading was End of an Opus! Hahaha) but had nothing different to say. 

It did turn a very nice phrase, though. "In a debate so perforated by numbers, it is something as intangible as this that may settle the argument." Nice one that. The ‘this' in that sentence, by the way, referred to Mr T's experience and its value to the team.

HT and ToI wrote very nice appreciations, not getting carried away by the need to outcompete others in hyperventilation. But both said the same things. Calling Mr T the "grand old oak of Indian cricket under which younger players have flourished, the ToI put it nicely "Not only did Sachin capture the imagination of an entire generation, he also inspired an obsession with excellence." 



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