Dilawar Singh Being Dilawar/ Tools/

I am interested in greatness, not in damn dots.

-- John Arlott, writing on W. G. Grace

It is said that cricket chauvinism runs across two axes, those of nation and generation. So when Steve Waugh came to the crease in the first test of the 1998-9 Ashes, A fellow countryman Bill Lawry welcomed him on television thus : ‘Here is the best batsman in the world’. Waugh himself quickly disavowed this title given by a fellow countryman. Earlier that year, Waugh had fielded in Sharjah where 4 centuries was hit against Australia by a rival, two scored in a test match played in India, two in two ODI’s played in Sarjah. At the end of it all he shook his head and remarked, ‘There is no one who bats like this guy - but I did not see Don Bradman.’ Steve was judging Sachin Tendulkar. [1] National pride is known to promote excess and cricket goes hand in hand with national pride in India. So with a billion plus fans, Sachin Tendulkar is conveniently labelled the greatest batsman by his followers/lovers/fans/worshipers alike. For some of them even Bradman is not great enough. According to ‘damn dots’, Sachin is the best batsman produced by the city of Mumbai, and by extension, by India and perhaps by this world too (whose fault is it if Bradman did not play enough tests?). But if statistics are the measure of greatness then ‘what you will say about Jacques Kallis’, asks Mukul Kesavan, ‘who after 16 years at the top has a Test batting average higher than Tendulkar’s. He also has 271 Test wickets to Tendulkar’s 45, and 169 catches to Tendulkar’s 110’? If I was a ‘determined South African fan looking for numbers to prove that my man was the best, I could legitimately argue that you would need to merge Sachin Tendulkar with Zaheer Khan to come up with Jacques Kallis’ [2]. As commentators implies and his fans confidently assert, ‘is he greatest of all?’ Can he find his way into World-11 against the ‘monsters of Mars’? Indian batsmen, while excel at home, are notoriously fragile overseas. On bouncy wickets, they will fall quicker than you can spell ‘coalition government’. During his career whenever Sachin failed in those matches, he knew that his side would usually fail too. The Mumbai columnist C. P. Surendran has written evocatively of what Tendulkar meant to this nation of losers. In a country where a single cricket-match could make national newspapers to declare that ‘India has becomes a superpower’, it should not be easy for him to walk to the wicket for so much pressure to win. Whenever he went on to play, ‘a whole nation, tetters and all, marches with him to the battle arena. A pauper people pleading for relief, remission from the life-long anxiety of being Indian … seeking a moment’s liberation from their India-bondage through the exhilarating grace of one accidental bat.‘  What do you expect from a single cricketer who has so fully represented the hopes of so many cricket-obsessed junkies? The greatness of his lies in the fact that he had carried it all of these burden, calmly with an unmatched temperament. If I were to judge, I would say that he may be a great player but not the greatest of all. He is a remarkable player nonetheless and there are many other who are equally remarkable. But none of them had to answer to their one billion hero-worshippers and had to carry the weight of their completely unfair expectation. Just imagine afresh how would you react to a child who wails at night; or to an examination paper which has to be answered 7 O’clock in next morning? He is perhaps one of the greatest player. Quality of his cricket can be judged from the fact that Englishmen, who are otherwise parsimonious in praise of their opponent, have bent to Tendulkar. ‘When Sachin batted at Headingley in the Test match of 1990, Sir Leonard Hutton told Freddie Trueman that he could not remember when he had seen such quick and sure footwork’. According to Ramachandra Guha, this is ‘the only known occasion on which either of those Yorkshire-man is known to paid a compliment to an Indian’. The next year he was contracted to Yorkshire. A little brown boy had found his way into the hearts and cheque-books of the most insular and tight-fisted community in the universe. [1] It is rightly said that longevity is the gold standard of greatness and perhaps more so in India where a cricket fan is quick to worship and quicker to demand player head. It must take a singular individual to survive that long even with strokes of luck. So how about a place in World-eleven against the ‘monsters of Mars’. I would not bet on him in a single match. But if series is going to last of few months then he certainly going to show his class, at least by scoring centuries if not by winning match for his side. Notes: [1] An anthropologists among the Marxists and other essays, Ramachandra Guha. [2] http://www.espncricinfo.com/magazine/content/story/543468.html – Dilawar