'Goodness gracious me! You mean she didn’t know HIM? Hang on! In this zamana of achhe din when elegant expressions of surprise in English might be sneered at as too elitist, perhaps that question should more appropriately be re-phrased as Arre voh apne aap ko kya samajhti hai?
Yes we are talking about that storm in a teacup when tennis diva and World No 1 Maria Sharapova professed ignorance about who Sachin Tendulkar might be. Before going any further, let me state my own position in respect of the man himself and cricket in general.
Sachin Tendulkar. Pic/Bipin Patel.
I love the sport and I yield to no one in my open-mouthed admiration of Sachin the cricketer and in my gratitude for the immense pleasure he has given cricket lovers like me and the rest of us over the last two decades and more. About Sachin the man, I do not know him all that well though he has been the epitome of gentle courtesy on the few occasions we have met for which I thank him.
Maria Sharapova. Pic/AFP.
Start of it all...
Now let’s step back and take a good hard look at the question that has sparked off a violent, almost manic reaction by his fans.
This reaction has been triggered off because of the hysteria which the feats of Indian cricketers generate – and none generate this more than the incomparable Sachin – and secondly by the fanciful notion that cricket is a global sport. Logically therefore, to profess ignorance of an icon of cricket cannot lie in the mouth of Maria, herself an icon of the admittedly global sport of tennis.
The burning question really hinges around whether cricket is a global sport in the true sense of the term. To the extent that one out of every six persons on the planet is an Indian, that the Indian diaspora is spread all over the world, and that 95% of us avidly follow cricket, it could be said that cricket is known all over the world. But from that to jump to the conclusion that it is a global sport in the sense that it is played, propagated, watched and enjoyed by the natives of every country in the world is a jump too far.
If Maria professed ignorance of the icons of F1, or soccer, or golf, or basketball or track and field Olympic champions one could perhaps fault her. But c’mon guys, let’s be real – cricket is played at the Test level by only 10 countries world-wide though the sheer mass of sub-continental fans causes the impression that it is a global sport.
I submit that till such time as cricket is vigorously played and promoted by the natives of China, USA, Africa and South America - and that perhaps is only a matter of time - that label is not warranted. Till then, let all of us sit back and thank God, the real God, for giving us someone like Sachin Tendulkar instead of venting mindless fury on the hapless Maria Sharapova.
The author is a former World billiards champion