Sachin Tendulkar is not only perhaps the best batsman to ever play cricket, he is considered an icon. Thursday, he announced his plan to retire.
It's almost impossible to find an American sports analogy for how huge Tendulkar is in India, where interest in cricket tends toward obsessive, says Indian Parliament member Shashi Tharoor.
"He is certainly the greatest Indian to ever wield a cricket bat, and possibly one of the greatest in the history of the entire sport worldwide," Tharoor explains to Weekend Edition host Scott Simon.
"He's also had the most unusually lengthy career of any major sportsman, having been such a gifted prodigy that he made his debut for India at the age of 16, and has continued playing till he turned 40 this year," Tharoor says. "He owns pretty much all the important records in the international sport, and what's more, he's done so while carrying the expectations of a billion people every time he strides out to bat."
Tendulkar's announcement dominated all the television channels for hours, Tharoor says.
"The passion for the sport is something that's got to be seen to be believed in India, so this chap has been a colossus," Tharoor says. Also, "he's somehow managed to be uncontaminated by scandal, by controversy, in a sport that's been laden with examples of both."
On how Tendulkar connected with the Indian identity
His rise in a sense became tied up with, or almost emblematic of India's own rise to assertion on the world stage. when Sachin Tendulkar made his debut for India in 1979 at the age of 16, India was still a developing country, a poor country, one with lots of problems, a semi-closed economy that stilled called itself socialist ... Then India liberalized in 1991 with the end of the Cold War and a major change in financial calculations and political philosophy in the country, and that coincided with Sachin's rise. India rose, and Sachin rose.
What happens to this kind of star in retirement
Amusingly enough, our government nominated him to our upper house [of Parliament] ... There are half a dozen nominated seats for very famous and distinguished figures in the field of culture or academia, even cinema or the arts. Sachin was given one of those seats, even before he retired ...
Given the hold he has on the admiration and the allegiance of the Indian people, he could speak on any public issue with a moral authority that very few could rival. So I think if he wanted to use that position as a member of the upper house, as an Indian equivalent of a senator ... he could have a significant impact on public life.
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