There was a time in India in early 1990s when Nirma detergents had suddenly took over the nation. The incumbent soaps and detergents leader Hindustan Lever was suddenly beaten up. And at that time, the business news pundits were proclaiming – “Nirma has beaten HLL”. That left me wondering. Hindustan Lever Ltd. (or HLL as it is popularly known) – was the main Consumer Products leader in India for almost 100 years. Nirma has hit it on a low cost detergent flank and made itself a success. But that was because HLL wasn’t looking at that time.
But HLL was “THE HLL” for 100 years. Nirma was “the Nirma” for just 10 months! To say that the latter had beaten the former was nonsensical. It is one thing to be great for an year. It’s quite another to be great for 20 years.
Sachin Tendulkar’s greatness should be viewed in this light. It is not easy to bear the burden of stardom in India. Specially in cricket. Because cricket is a defacto non-denominational Religion for Indians. We live and die by it. We cry and rejoice together. Any star player is put on a pedestal and brought to the ground very quickly. Ask Saurav Ganguly. While a new left hand batsman Gautam Gambhir, got the highest bid in the new IPL series worth millions, the quintessential “God” of left hand batting and on the Off-side – Saurav Ganguly didn’t even get picked up by any team!
Sachin, however, is different. Even after 21 years of being in business at the highest level and being the best in the business that the world has known… he still is there. Like an Energizer bunny. He keeps going on.. and on.. and on! He has thrashed several generations of bowlers of the same nation – for example, from Pakistan – he has given nightmares to Abdul Qadir, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis.. then to Shoaib Akhtar and now to the new generation of their bowlers.
Recently, facebook saw this interesting quote going around – attributed to the Time Magazine. It probably is not from the Time. But it does a great job of summarizing the greatness of Sachin “the God of Cricket”! By linking his entry to the events and personalities around at that time to those today, the quote shows his longevity.
“When Sachin Tendulkar traveled to Pakistan to face one of the finest bowling attacks ever assembled in cricket, Michael Schumacher was yet to race a F1 car, Lance Armstrong had never been to the Tour de France, Diego Maradona was still the captain of a world champion Argentina team, Pete Sampras had never won a Grand Slam.
When Tendulkar embarked on a glorious career taming Imran and company, Roger Federer was a name unheard of; Lionel Messi was in his nappies, Usain Bolt was an unknown kid in the Jamaican backwaters. The Berlin Wall was still intact, USSR was one big, big country, Dr Manmohan Singh was yet to “open” the Nehruvian economy. It seems while Time was having his toll on every individual on the face of this planet, he excused one man. Time stands frozen in front of Sachin Tendulkar. We have had champions, we have had legends, but we have never had another Sachin Tendulkar and we never will.”
Mind you, Tendulkar, cannot just be evaluated on his longevity in cricket – which is India is no easy task – but on his devastating presence for such a long time.
Sachin has been compared to Don Bradman, the best batsman of all times. But then Bradman was “the Bradman” for a few years. And worked with very little pressure – almost none compared to what Tendulkar goes through. And he played and excelled in only one form of cricket. Sachin has been the master at every form and at every level!
Game is one dimension of the pressure. Money and business – and the betting that goes on with it (which did affect Sachin and his other team members, as he admitted recently) – is the other aspect. And a BIG aspect at that. Any lesser person would have been hurt badly.
But as the lore goes in the betting circles – that money is not put on the game until Sachin is playing for he is “unpurchaseable”. Rest everyone is. He also recently turned down the adverting offer for an alcohol brand – a fat one at that – based on ethics!
Integrity, Longevity, Aggression, Amiability, Quality and basic humanity is a difficult combination. In fact in today’s sports – an IMPOSSIBLE ONE. That is the greatness of Sachin!
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