March 22, 2011

“Dharmaraj” Tendulkar ‘walks’; makes the nation proud!



By H Natarajan

The great Barry Richards once said: “The Australians will walk only when they run out of gas!”


His reference was to the Australian batsmen and their philosophy that it’s not for them to walk if the umpire has given them not out, even if they know they are out. While the romantics would believe that winning is not everything, the Aussies believe that winning is the only thing.

Rewind to the 1981 Benson & Hedges World Series Cup at Melbourne Cricket Ground, Australian captain Greg Chappell ordered his kid brother Trevor to bowl underarm to prevent Brian McKechnie from hitting a six off the last ball and tying the game.


Flashback to 2007-08 series against India when Ricky Ponting raised a ruckus after Michael Clarke caught the ball that obviously came off the ground. Ponting came up with Oscar-winning histrionics to hoodwink the umpire into giving a decision against Sourav Ganguly. It was another chapter in the history of ‘Ugly Australian” image.


But one Australian who was an anachronism of his times was Adam Gilchrist - the epitome of honesty. He was the last of the dinosaurs who played his cricket the way it was in the pristine past when it was a gentleman’s game.


One of the finest examples of Gilchrist’s honesty came in the 2003 World Cup semi-final against Sri Lanka when he “walked”. Yes, in the semi-final of a World Cup! Here was a true gentleman who knew he had to obey the dictates of his conscience, no matter how big the theatre. If something was not right, it was not right. Period. Integrity cannot be circumstantial. By the way, the appeal against Gilchrist was turned down by umpire Rudi Koertzen.


I don’t know how much Gilchrist was appreciated in an Australian team that was brought up with values that was Polar opposite to that of his own, but it did not matter to him what anybody in the world thought of his actions. It was in the fitness of things that Gilchrist’s nickname is “Church”!


One sportsperson who enjoys divine status is Sachin Tendulkar. Here is a man who, in an international career spanning three decades, has reached dizzying heights. While his head is lost high somewhere in the clouds, his feet are firmly planted on terra firma. The middle-class values that have been inculcated in him by his humble family are still intact despite the surreal trappings of fame and money that can so easily set astray mere mortals. But Tendulkar is anointed as “God” by an adoring nation. And God cannot be seen doing something that is wrong.


He gave an exemplary account of his status when he walked after nicking Ravi Rampaul, even as the umpire was nodding his head sideways to turn down the West Indies’ appeal. Even if the matter was referred to the third umpire, the replays would have been inconclusive - in the absence of Hot Spot and Snickometer – and the challenge would have only resulted in the benefit of the doubt going to the batsman. But Tendulkar’s high integrity ensured that the matter did not have to go that route.


Tendulkar’s act on Sunday in the 2011 World Cup was in sharp contrast to Ponting’s, less than 24 hours earlier in the game against Pakistan. The Australian captain refused to leave, despite knowing full well he was out. It needed technology to issue him an undignified exit.


Some people may say that it was an inconsequential game and hence Tendulkar walked. They are wrong. These are the cynics who would also say that Tendulkar is self-centered and is obsessed with his own records. Yes, this was an inconsequential game. By that token, here was a fantastic opportunity for him to score without any pressure and chalk up hundred that would have given him an incredible hundred centuries in international (Tests + ODIs) cricket. Chennai’s Chidambaram Stadium is one of his favourite, high-scoring venues, and here was a game in which West Indies did not have Kemar Roach – their lynchpin.


People like Tendulkar are made of a different mettle. They will simply not cheat. In that sense he is like the great GR Viswanath, who recalled Bob Taylor in that 1978-79 Jubilee Test – a gesture that cost India the match. Ask GRV if he regretted that generosity and he would tell you that he would do that every time! The outcome is incidental; what matters is the intent.


Tendulkar has been a victim of many wrong decisions in his career. That is only to be expected as umpires are humans as well. Many batsmen around the world justify not walking by saying that “these things even out” over a period of time because they have been wrongly given out at other times in their careers.Tendulkar does not cater to such thinking.


And that’s incredible because in an era where corruption in thought and action has become a way of life in India, where the Radias, Rajas and Kalmadis show the way to impressionable minds that there is no percentage in ethical behaviour, where the nation’s fabric and soul is destroyed by politicians who are systematically destroying the country, Tendulkar stands as a paragon of virtue.


To all those who unfairly indict him of being selfish, here was an act to show that he is like a lotus in a filthy pond. In my book, he emerged a bigger hero today. He showed a generation of young people that there is place for honesty in a dog-eat-dog world of cut-throat professionalism where anybody can be ethical – if he wants to.


Tendulkar made India proud - yet again! And how!


( H Natarajan is the Executive Editor of www.cricketcountry.com )

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Has ST walked always? I dunno...however I dont think so. I am not maligning the man...but I do not know if it something he has always done. If it is a change of heart now, he'll have to do it consistently henceforth. Its great if he does. He'll really be an inspiration in one more way than he already is. :)

 
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