Tendulkar – From cricket to politics: Is it possible?

Wednesday, 9 May 2012 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

As a habit I unwind in the night by watching NDTV mainly due to the powerful ideas that it tells the world; especially the programmes like ‘The Buck Stops Here’ and ‘We The People’ are cutting edge, in my view.

Last week there was a breaking news update that cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar was accepting a membership in the Rajya Sabha. It sure surprised me, given that the past experiences of top cricketers joining politics have not brought much success to them or for that matter contributed to the wellbeing of the society at large.

Given that Tendulkar in his 20-year career was known for his sound decision making, I thought of tracking back on some statements he has made in his career and checking the applicability of his thinking to the work ethic of a politician. Let me capture the essence:

Tendulkar Quote 1

“Cricket is my expertise. I would like to contribute to that field. I am sportsman and I will always be a sportsman”

Tendulkar must understand in South Asia, the reality is that one works in a context of a political economy. Hence a new skill that he must learn is that decisions will have to be done in his new responsibility not purely on merit but on maintaining the party’s popularity amongst its supporters.

For one to practice this ethos, a strong ground understanding at the village level politics is a must. Given that Tendulkar has expressed that he wants to continue his cricketing career, I am wondering how he can find time to learn this new skill of understanding the grass root political economy at play.

If he does not master this new skill, he will find himself not being relevant as an individual in the Rajya Sabha where intellectual debate takes place at the highest level.

Tendulkar Quote 2

“John Wright told me in 2003 that I could become the first player to score 100 centuries. One has to keep chasing dreams till they come true”

Tendulkar will have to understand that he will have to move away from personal objectives to setting dreams for the community that he wants to serve as member of the Rajya Sabha. Just like he has created a niche in the world of sports, now he would have to carve out a specific position in the world of politics in the Rajya Sabha. The question is, what is his dream and for whom will it be targeted?

Tendulkar quote 3

“Winning the World Cup was the most cherished dream, for which I waited close to 22 years”

It will be interesting to understand what Tendulkar will want to achieve in yet another dream in the next 22 years. The difference is that now it has to be to the people of India. Will the theme be on cricket maybe in the rural areas or will this be close to the area of the charity foundation that he is involved in or will be on a totally different agenda is what people are waiting to hear.

Tendulkar quote 4

“Sometimes success is waiting round the corner and one should always think of taking that extra step to achieve this”

Whilst this ethos will hold him in good stead in the world of sports, a point to note in the world stage of politics is that it is a thankless job where any decision that is taken which in fact can be the best of decisions will always be criticised. Invariably this criticism happens in the public domain.

The best case in point is when Tendulkar accepted the decision to be a member of the Rajya Sabha; the criticism that followed is ample testimony to him given that prior to this, there was hardly any negative media on his brand name. For an acid test if he just Googles his name now, the negative media that comes on the computer screen outweighs his contribution in the game of cricket.

Tendulkar quote 5

“Outside the stadium my driver informed that fans were dancing on my car. I told him not to stop them as the World Cup brought India together and it was the greatest day in my life”

Tendulkar will have to understand that in future, the victories that will be celebrated in his new role will include bloodshed, fisticuffs and tearing apart people’s characters on stage. I am wondering if he is aware of this new world that he is entering into and he will have to play an active part, especially during election time.

Tendulkar quote 6

“I am passionate about cricket. Cricket is my life. Keep praying for me so that I can derive strength from them. I pray to God to guide me to take the right decision”

One can argue that a better decision would have him to join the United Nations as an ambassador or may be join the ICC so that he could take the game of cricket to another domain. Especially given that he comes from the country that made the IPL brand in the game of cricket that has mesmerised the world.

This means that he can share the best practice and maybe see how this new product can be cascaded to the world. He can be the architect to explain the importance of being marketing-oriented so that one can keep a sport a top-of-the-mind entertainment in the fast-changing consumer world.

Tendulkar quote 7

“The ability to handle success and failure mind training came from my family. There is an unwritten law not to discuss the performance but get ready for the next match”

Tendulkar will have to change this particular life ethos big time in his new job given that at the Rajya Sabha, the debates that normally takes place is more on the past where performance is dissected big time. This means that analysis of trends will be key to the success of his new job rather than just looking at the next challenge like he does in the game of cricket.

Tendulkar quote 8

“Whatever that has happened in my life cannot be changed. Be it success or failure. The only celebration at home if I did well, was offering of a sweet to God by my mother”

I wonder what his mum will say now as he enters the world of politics. Be that it may, Tendulkar will have to be part of some decisions that are not popular or with which his mum might not agree. I wonder what advice he will get from his family, especially when it comes to the debates on the 2G scam, Commonwealth Games issue and lately the Army General.

Tendulkar quote 9

“I have been supporting deprived children by sponsoring their education through Apanalaya Centre. But this is for my personal satisfaction and I do not need any publicity”

A very interesting and debatable quote. In his new role he will realise that the respect he garners especially among his critics will be based on the work he does for the community. This will require a very strong publicity drive that will include motivational speeches that he will be called on to give to youngsters. I wonder how he will take this new challenge given that he is media shy and normally stays away.

Tendulkar quote 10

“Whilst batting, it is important to concentrate on the present moment without thinking of the problems in the past. You have a second to react whilst facing the next ball. It’s important to keep the mind blank and heart rate down to make the right decision”

This may be true in the world of cricket but in the game of politics one must be aware that it’s always a high adrenaline job that requires one to understand the political vibes and undercurrents whenever he speaks or when he decides to be part of a project. This requires a new skill set, which is why many sportsmen fail in the world of politics.


Whilst it may be a noble gesture for a human being to enter the world of politics to serve the community, the fact is that this particular job requires a set of skills that one needs be born with. Unless one is prepared to play the game that has no rules and boundaries, it will be a tough challenge – especially for a person like Tendulkar who has practiced the life skill of playing the game straight and allowing his bat to do the talking.

(The author is an award-winning business personality in the private sector and sits on many public sector policy boards. The thoughts expressed are strictly his personal views and not the views of the organisations he serves in Sri Lanka or internationally.)

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