Let the workers of the tea gardens die of hunger and starvation. Let the education system be dominated by the corporate bourgeoisie. Let the public health care system go to the dogs, and private nursing homes and hospitals hold sway. There is, however, a panacea for all; that is cricket. Cricket is the great leveler, and so Sachin Tendulkar is the national hero. He has received the title Bharat Ratna. India has caught up with the white men in cricket, if not in anything else. So is Tendulkar the Bharat Ratna. Cricket is a game played by few countries, compared with football and even hockey. But the media hardly bother about the fact that India, which played in four successive Olympic Games after the Second World War, now cannot cope with Nepal and even Afghanistan. They do not even mention that football is a relatively plebian game and it can be spread throughout the country at low costs. Otherwise excellent and socially sensitive young people are obsessed with cricket, and now the symbol of this obsession is Sachin Tendulkar. He is now regarded by many as the greatest phenomenon in cricket ever since Don Bradman, displaying their ignorance of Gary Sobers, the West Indian all-rounder whose batting averages alone stand significantly higher than those of Tendulkar. Some have gone so far as to call him a greater batsman than Bradman. This is patently a ridiculous suggestion, because of the fact that as a batsman Bradman stood far higher than other outstanding batsmen of his time, and that Tendulkar's differences with Brian Lara or Rahul Dravid are not that wide. It is interesting that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has begun to play its own game, and has demanded that the Bharat Ratna title be bestowed on Atal Behari Vajpayee also. Both champions of neo-liberalism are unconcerned about the deprived and the famished. Coming to the arena of sports once again, one may observe that the name of Dhyan Chand, acknowledged as the greatest player the game of hockey has produced, has so long been forgotten. Sachin Tendulkar is a multi-billionaire, but Dhyan Chand is not. It is in the tradition of the Indian bania press and other media that billionaires should be highlighted as prides of the nation. It is not a small measure of their success that this culture has penetrated into every corner of the country. But the people, however, do not live on charisma, and their destitution will in the final analysis engulf those that are engaged in picnics while sitting on volcanoes.
Vol. 46, No. 23, Dec 15 -21, 2013
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