Why

Why

Friday, 20 July 2012

AGEING LEGACIES: SACHIN TENDULKAR AND MICHAEL SCHUMACHER


The noun form of the word ‘age’ varies with the same ‘age’ when used in the verbal form. One talks about a prolonged period of time (noun) whereas the other points to the process of getting old (verb). I looked at these two meanings and felt there is several a miles separating the two. How confused one can be if we mix one another; more so when we use the term inappropriately.

This article was prompted after having watched Michael Schumacher showing certain glimpses of his past racing career in the recent races. He retired in 2006 and he did go on a high; who can forget his breathtaking overtaking manoeuvre on Kimi Raikkonen at the 2006 Brazilian Grand Prix at his last race (at that time) with just few laps to go. I am a fan of his driving ever since I started watching Formula One in late 90’s. He made a surprise move in 2009 when he decided to come out of his retirement to have a go at the races beginning 2010. Brink of touching 41 (in 2009), who would have given him a chance? This isn’t a just a sport, F1 is a huge business where P&L are calculated like any other ruthless corporations. Mercedes after having decided to go on their own (earlier they supplied just the engines) roped in Nico Rosberg and the well known German in the form of Michael Schumacher, a German family well established. Yes, it was Ross Brawn’s idea (who is the team principal at Mercedes), but he doesn’t own the team. Unless agreed at the top level, Michael could not have returned to the team where he first started his racing career (He was with Mercedes before F1). So where did age play a role? In a sport where reflexes are paramount, what expectations did the Mercedes management have when they signed him?

91 GP victories were a thing of the past so were his record breaking pole positions and breathtaking fastest laps – all he had was experience and joie de vivre when it came to racing. He had everything to lose after what he had achieved in that sport. Now he was willing to give up all just for the sake of racing. Certainly there were more people whose decisions mattered most also were on the same track. So a new life for a legend (we have seen Michael Jordan doing it) and in the third year (after having started racing in 2010) – for the first time he is showing the signs that he is competitive and his car is getting better (He had his share of bad lucks with the engine failures and car problems in 2010, 2011 and at the start of 2012 season). It seems he does not care much about reputation, if he would have like any other normal investor would do in the market – he would have chosen to play it safe. Which person would risk such a reputation?

On a similar note while I am talking about one of my favourite sporting personality, in a striking distance I find a similarity to my other favourite – Sachin Tendulkar. Ever since the 2011 England tour debacle, I have been hearing a lot of them telling him to quit playing cricket.  Each time he refuses to – So what, our people will have different strategies to pin him down. The voodoo of 100 hundreds was created and it reached such huge proportions that, every failure became a platform for mockery and more criticism. I have a simple funda – let him decide as he is sensible enough to decide what’s good for Indian cricket. Being patriotic doesn't mean being awake at all the times, it is about being awake when it matters the most. Indian cricket is still going through a transition phase. They reached #1 while in transition, make no mistake. A lot of players came in, had their moments and result – India won. Now the formula doesn't work anymore, you know why? There was nothing so called a formula. It just happened as we were treated to one triumph after the other which culminated with the World Cup. Coming back to Sachin, he is good nine months shy of turning 40. Now this brings back to my first point – What does 40 signify? Is it a mere number? I would say – yes, in its true definition, as there are other parameters for ageing. 

While Sachin can never inspire a generation of teenagers in the current situation, he has given hope for a lot of others, especially people of his age. Agreed, no selector or a BCCI administrator would dare axing him from the team – a privilege no other sportsman has ever had in my lifetime. I know someday he would retire – that day I only hope the Indian team doesn’t feel the void left by him. Looking at our present set up, I have not seen a cricketer to have maintained a certain degree of authority. They have just been replacements, not because they are worthy, but they happen to be our next generation of players. In a team sport, it isn’t about individual brilliance; it’s about individual contributions for the greater cause. If one fails, the others must step up. Sadly in the past one year, it is the stepping up which has been a problem. The recent India ‘A’ tour to West Indies was a learning curve and frankly only more of such learning curves can bring out a player(s) who can knock the doors of Indian team selection consistently. It is not about just giving a chance at the top level, it has to be a matter of choice.

Michael was three when he first raced using the kart built by his father and Sachin had already picked up the cricket bat by the time he was five. It has been a long journey for both of them and bulk of it was spent to excel in their respective sporting arenas, a case of choosing the sport over their personal lives and reputation.

Michael has had his moments off the track for a brief time (though he was still consulting with Ferrari post retirement) and Sachin has started speaking about things about life beyond cricket.
BCCI has made few changes from this season onwards and it certainly looks like a positive move. Cricket wise, it is going to be a crucial six to eight months with three teams (New Zealand, England and Australia) touring India for Tests. Add Pakistan for ODI’s and T20’s, you will see a lot of things happening and who knows, we might come across an announcement, a good-bye at the conclusion of this Indian cricket season. 

Irrespective of whether there are worthy replacements, he will be gone. But for now – his market value has not diminished (a true indicator of one’s form these days) and he continues to play, while Michael continues to race as they both are giving finishing touches to their unique legacy forts.