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A case for booing Sachin

Those who don't stop singing when the voice is good usually court an ignominious exit.

March 28, 2006

Sachin Tendulkar bowled

Saint Sachin was given a "booing ovation" when he wasted half an hour of valuable batting time on the Wankhede pitch last week and strolled back with a run in his pocket. It convinced me that we are still a democracy, where people don't forgive non-performers just because they are celebrities.

I can see chappals and tomatoes coming my way, but I am completely in favour of booing Sachin Tendulkar. I think maximum performance marks of that day should go to the Wankhede stadium, who booed him all the way to the pavilion, and perhaps all the way back home. The Master Blaster's wife did not wait to see the rest of the wonderful game and got up to leave the stadium. That's what you call sportsman spirit.

Don't get me wrong. I am not writing this because of my personal dislike for Sachin Tendulkar. There are enough idiotic Sachin fans masquerading as sports editors and reporters who will sing Sachin's paeans long after he returns with half a run and the stadium empties out after the match. They will keep shouting hoarse that he should be kept in the team for ornamental value, and not for any actual contribution. The academic nature of their discussions on Sourav Ganguly's predicaments or Rahul Dravid's achievements turns into extremism and epilepsy when they froth at mouth over the 'insult' to Sachin.

The truth is that sports survives on fans, and some of them are more vocal like the Sachin fans. Fans cheer and go into orgasmic frenzies whenever their teams win. Sachin fans are denied such pleasure for long; hence their vitriol on peace-loving booers. When Sachin hits a record, they burst crackers, distribute sweets and paint the town red. They keep pictures of sports icons below their pillows, throng functions attended by them and queue up for their autographs. I strongly believe that if you graciously smile, accept accolades and mouth inanities for the cameras when you win, you must be equally prepared for the boos when you walk back with one-and-a-half run, tail firmly tucked between legs.

Half a run and one run are alternate ways of firmly stating that you have comprehensively failed your team, your nation, your spectators and yourself. The spectators realised it and booed. The crowd at Wankhede was more intelligent, intuitive and democratic than self-proclaimed sports veterans who will accept the sight of a Sachin Duck Fry with the magnanimity of Iranian militants accepting Prophet Mohammed cartoons.

The poet said that "poetry is a spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings." Booing also is. So, in stature, booing is on par with literary excellence. Booing is a tremendously powerful way of peacefully conveying your emotions without taking the law into your hands. The crowd did not throw eggs or tomatoes, they did not fling chappals, and they did not go on a riot. They waited patiently for half an hour, till they realised that this incompetence is of the unmentionable sort.

Booing should be inculcated as part of a civic society. Those who detested George Bush's visit should have come out on the streets and booed him. Those who felt that Jessica Lall's murderers got away scot-free should have roundly booed whoever they thought the villains were. When corrupt politicians who never visit their constituency come asking for votes once in five years, they should be booed without a stop. When BMC officials come to visit Mumbai's stingy slums weeks after people have drowned in floodwaters, they should be booed right, left and center. Wasn't Gavaskar booed in Mumbai? Yes, rightly so! Didn't Indianapolis F1 fans boo when two Ferraris raced with the minnows in 2005? Rightly so!

We all have a right to boo stupidity and non-performance, when those who live their lives and careers because of our faith in them miserably fail us. Our message to them should be: you are welcome to make your riches through soap and cola sponsorships, but don't expect us to take it lightly when you think that you can get away with one and half runs. If we can pull down governments for non-performance, we can surely pull you down from your shaky pedestal too.

Many of those who are 'pained' by the Sachin booing incident nurture hopes and even claims that one day he will return to his erstwhile great form, and "silence critics". So they say that Sachin should be given more and more chances to play and lose so that one day his fossilised brilliance can bail out the team once again. To them, I say: Bollocks! Sachin's days as the great cricketer are over. Master Blasters don't make unmentionable scores in their home territory. They don't have such long continued bad spells as Sachin has. The Triumphant Return Of Sachin is wishful thinking at its worst.

But is it fair to insult a player as great as Sachin? Correction, sir! Sachin is no longer a great player. He was. He stopped being great a long time ago, and started slipping into mediocrity and downright pathetic cricket. Now, the greatness of Sachin lives only in commentators' memories. Sachin had several glorious chances to stop singing when the voice was good. He could have left the field with dignity, head held high. He didn't. The selectors, BCCI, so-called cricket-lovers.. all are scared at the thought of sending Sachin packing. Sourav Ganguly, though, is a different matter. They are not scared - though he was playing far better cricket when he was unceremoniously shown the door.

By refusing a voluntary retirement, Sachin is forcing an ignominious one on himself. Some say that Sachin should be allowed to quit at his own leisure. I don't agree to that. Non-performers are usually sacked. They don't get to choose their method of exit in any professional set-up. In any case, Sachin has played umpteen lousy games in the last few years, which showed him up as a spent force. And he has never shown any inclination to quit either. I wonder why Greg Chappel, who merrily insulted Ganguly saying he wanted to hang on to captaincy for money, has been blind to Sachin's continuance in the game.

Chewing the cud of past batting glory, friends, is not going to help the Indian cricket team. Let's admit, Sachin is history, and let's get moving. Let's not get too fascinated by those yellowing newspaper cuttings of Sachin in Sharjah and Pakistan. Any amount of extremist attack on those who differ is not going to change the fact that everyone, including Sachin, has a time to go. Let's admire Sachin for the tremendous batting brilliance he has displayed - in the past. But the future belongs to young, energetic players - the likes of Pathan, Dhoni and Srisanth. It's time the Gangulys and Sachins took their deserved position in the commentary box. They will be far more useful there, than wasting valuable cricketing time for unmentionable scores. And if they are still unwilling to leave the field for good -- Boo!!

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