We could soon be seeing Sachin Tendulkar in the Bharat Ratna hall of fame. Justice Katju has called the recent move to award the Bharat Ratna to cricketers and film stars a mockery of the award. In this post, Dr. Ramesh Grandhi comments on the recent clamour for broadening the ambit of the Bharat Ratna.
All of India is agog with the news that the criteria for awarding our most prestigious civilian award have been changed to allow sportsmen to receive it. On the face of it, no one should have any misgivings about this decision, however, I feel the clamour we see in the print and electronic media for Sachin to receive it is a bit unseemly. Sachin, to his everlasting credit, has handled himself in a highly dignified manner and it needs to be seen if there will be a backlash of public opinion that will actually prevent him from getting this award because of the clamour.
I, for my personal edification, wanted to find out if Sachin really does deserve the Bharat Ratna. Are his achievements in cricket so great that he can stand tall in the company of past Presidents, Prime Ministers, Nobel Laureates, incredibly gifted musicians, freedom fighters, and activists who have given their very lives for reforming the social and cultural fabric of our nation? The jury is still out on this, but let us quantify his achievements and try and come to a conclusion.
They say statistics don’t lie, and Sachin Tendulkar’s stats paint an incredibly pretty picture. There is no gainsaying the fact that his consistent scores over the last two decades are unmatched in recent times. Only Ponting and Dravid have even a modicum of a chance to come near him, but looking at their ages and current form in Ponting’s case, it can safely be said Sachin’s records will last a few decades. But, is he the very best cricketer who has ever lived? The Don might have said that he saw glimpses of himself in Sachin, but there is still a quite a huge gap between the two of them—a gap that Sachin can never fill. There have been other cricketers like Vivian Richards and Brian Lara from the West Indies and our own unsung hero Rahul Dravid who have performed as well as Sachin.
The adulation that India has for him has fetched him quite a rich bounty, I don’t think any other sportsman in this country can live as lavishly as he does. No one begrudges him his earnings—they have been rightfully earned, but when we consider his eligibility for the Bharat Ratna all these factors need to be taken into account. Juxtapose him with Dhyan Chand, the greatest field hockey player of all time, an Olympic gold medalist thrice over, and a man who retired as a Major from the Army. Dhyan Chand’s exploits on the hockey field are still spoken of today with pride and respect, even though it has been 75 years since his last Olympic gold medal. He has been famously described as a “Magician on the hockey field” and not a mere player. I really do not want to be crass, but it needs to be mentioned that there were no BCCI bonanzas or advertisers lining up to pay tens of crores for ads in those days.
Who is more deserving? Dhyan Chand or Sachin Tendulkar. All of us are entitled to our opinions, but in my humble one Dhyan Chand deserves it much more than Sachin. I would have no hesitation in having him join the pantheon of previous awardees. I, unfortunately, cannot say the same thing about Sachin.
Mine, I am sure, will be a minority opinion but I just cannot see Sachin sitting alongside the likes of Nehru, Raman, Visvesvarayya, Babu Rajendra Prasad, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Kalam, Lata Mangeshkar and Ravishankar.