Comparisons are unfair to the youth
Predictably, the hype machine has gone into overdrive after Cheteshwar Pujara, the Rajkot run machine, as he has been labelled, has been picked to fill in the No 3 slot left vacant by the solid Rahul Dravid.
The media, including this newspaper is in the business of hype. We also have a penchant for labels and monikers, The Wall for Dravid, Silk Smitha, King Khan — which makes newspapers and tabloids what they are.
Yet, calling Pujara, the new Dravid or even the next Dravid, the next Wall or whatever, is so premature that even newspapers cannot be justified in taking this license. The comparison is unfair, because Dravid is a legend and Pujara is still taking small steps in the world of international cricket.
It also places a huge burden on Pujara’s shoulders because never mind all those protestations that players never read newspapers on tour, in these days of instant access and quick-as-lightning communication, it is impossible that Pujara would not know about all that hype and the expectations it creates swirling around him.
Sport and fortunes can be cruel and those dubbed as the next whatever may find that the shoes they are asked to fill are simply too big.
Take for example, Ian Craig, the former Australian captain, who was hailed as the next Don Bradman in his youth.
But he ended up playing only 11 Test matches with a disappointing run tally of 358 although hepatitis contributed to his career being cut short.
In the 1970s, Haroon Rashid was hailed as the next great batting star for Pakistan but when it came to seaming English conditions, he fared disastrously and ended up playing only 23 Tests. Another Pakistan batsman — Basit Ali — was called the next Javed Miandad when he burst onto the international scene at 22. His controversial career (he was accused of match fixing) could only witness 19 Test matches.
When commentator Richie Benaud is asked about Sachin Tendulkar, he rates the Indian the best he has seen after Don Bradman, but doesn’t read too much into comparisons with The Don.
According to the veteran broadcaster, Tendulkar is just a fine player.
Comparisons are odious, like they say, and particularly so in the case of Pujara and Dravid.