Yes, this is yet another article eulogizing Sachin Tendulkar’s glorious Cricket career. Yes, I have read them all. No, there was no better use of my time. Yes, I still decided to write this one.
I belong to a generation in India, which had begun to accept that a draw in a Cricket test match and a “respectable” defeat in a One Day game was something to feel good about. And that was the case in sport — where there is a definitive concept of winning and losing. In other not so “competitive” aspects of life, it was just considered okay to coast along trying not to get into too much trouble. That was until a 16 year old boy came along — a boy who wanted nothing more than to win. A boy who idolized contemporary icons of sporting aggression — Viv Richards and John McEnroe. A boy who genuinely believed that he could dominate anyone in World Cricket. A boy who did exactly that.
Years later, when Sourav Ganguly danced on the Lord’s balcony with his shirt in his hand, I experienced emotions which at best could be described as a mix of embarrassment and jubilation. The former because this act so gleefully defied the Indian middle-class values of modesty. The latter because he was doing what a billion Indians wanted to do by then — celebrate winning. Sachin would have never done something like that. But in a sense such fierce desire for winning was an unknown concept before he arrived on the scene.
But what does all of that have anything to do with Sachin getting a Nobel prize in Economics?
There are three components to economic growth. The first is labor which India has in access. The second is capital which Indian has a scarcity of. The thing however that makes the most difference and can explain the stupendous success-followed-by-destruction-followed-by-success stories of countries like Japan and Germany is the third element — productivity. Productivity is the thing that allows the best leverage of a limited amount of labor and capital i.e. how efficiently can a worker use a certain amount of investment to generate optimal returns? Several factors contribute to productivity — advancements in technology, better tools, more practice and so on. But ask anyone with even a minimal understanding of psychology and they would tell you that the factor that contributes the most is hope or positivity. If there is someone who can make a billion people more productive whether by giving them momentary happiness or by giving them a gold standard for achievement, then that person has essentially raised the collective output of a nation. That is no mean feat. Several economic theories that won Nobel prizes are still languishing in libraries waiting to be discovered by policy makers. But the “Sachin Effect” has already worked.
Throughout Sachin’s career, I don’t know why the entire nation was hell-bent on forming an emotional connection with him. I never quite understood why people invariably and sometimes unknowingly held their happiness captive to the output of Sachin’s mini-battles with his opponents on the cricket field. Yes he was special. But to be honest, so were many others. Ever since he came, several others have also come and matched at least his sporting exploits to various degrees. Why us Indians, never quite connected with all those others in quite the same way, I have no explanation for. What matters is that we were looking for a hero, we found a hero and he didn’t let us down. He gave us hope. He made us want to succeed. He made us want to grow faster. He made us want to be better than others. He made us want to do all those things again, and again, and again.
Connecting with Sachin, considering him a nucleus of national pride and a common role model was the best thing that could have happened to our nation. He made us want to give up a collective endorsement of mediocrity and left India on a path to find its place under the sun. “Sachin Tendulkar” was a wonderful idea that happened to India.