Well played, Sachin: Tendulkar’s reply to IOA shows he’s the messenger, not the message

If there’s anyone in India who understands the joys and pitfalls of mass adulation and media attention, it is Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. So it’s no surprise to see Tendulkar strike a perfect straight drive in his reply to the Indian Olympic Association’s (IOA) invitation to become a goodwill ambassador for the 2016 Olympic Games.

Tendulkar has clearly learned from the Salman Khan – IOA goodwill ambassador fiasco, where Salman’s appointment became the story after some of the athlete’s voiced objections to picking a movie star as their de facto spokesperson. Whatever you agree or disagree about Salman, it’s obvious from Tendulkar’s letter that he wanted no part of a repeat.

File photo of Sachin Tendulkar. PTI

File photo of Sachin Tendulkar. PTI

Instead of accepting or rejecting the offer, Tendulkar responds by outlining his vision of the role and placing India’s Olympic athletes at the very heart of it. He does not want to be sucked into a part different than the one he wants to play.

“I strongly believe that the sportspersons from different parts of the country, pursuing their unique skills are the true ambassadors of the growing sporting culture in this country," he writes.

“Awareness about their struggles, discipline and single minded focus will help develop many more world beating champions and courage passionate following of the Olympics in our country."

In that single paragraph Tendulkar has let the IOA know that if he were to accept the offer, he does not want to be the focus of attention. That, rightly, should be on the athletes who will be representing their country. The role, as he sees it, is simply to spread the stories of their struggles, hopes and dreams to a wider audience, thereby giving the athletes more exposure and potentially inspiring others to follow in their footsteps.

What the idea should not be, is to promote Tendulkar as the IOA’s ambassador, which would bring him attention he most certainly does not need and likely does not want.

Tendulkar then goes on to list the steps he is willingly to take.

“It will be my pleasure to meet these world-class athletes before they leave for Rio to learn about their experiences and preparations.”

There’s no doubt meeting Tendulkar would be inspiring. His achievements and stature make that inevitable. One example of this is his meeting with Sarita Devi after her Asian Games heartbreak in 2014. Afterwards, Sarita she would carry Tendulkar’s words of encouragement with her for the rest of her career.

“Whenever I do well in boxing, I will think of what he said,” Sarita told this writer months later.

Tendulkar would also happily “be part of any awareness campaign that can rally the country around our athletes and motivate them, including amplifying their efforts and success on my Twitter and Facebook accounts.”

Again, he stresses that it is the athletes who should be the subject of the campaign, not him. Sachin Tendulkar is to be the messenger, not the message.

In just a few short paragraphs, Tendulkar affirms his admiration and respect for India’s athletes, expresses what he is willing to do to support them, while also firmly indicating that he should remain the background.

Having listed his terms, Tendulkar, then drops the ball in the IOA’s court, saying he looks forward “to receiving details on your planned initiatives towards this objective”.

It’s hard to see how the IOA has any option but to agree. Well played, Tendulkar. Well played.

Updated Date: May 05, 2016 09:44 AM

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