Parliament’s Missing Sons

Written by  //  February 24, 2011  //  National Politics  //  9 Comments

National politicians in India today can be broadly classified into five kinds: career politicians, hereditary politicians, lawyer-turned politicians, businessman-turned politicians or a combination of the above. A few other strays exist— second rung, have-been film stars (or third-rate, depending on how uncharitable you are, think Raj Babbar, Jaya Prada), academicians (Dr. Manmohan Singh, making the assumption that his actually a politician and not an Economics professor, a role he plays quite often and relishes even more often) and sanyasinis (Uma Bharti in flaming orange with or without Govindacharya in tow). Conspicuous by their absence in this list, and by implication in Parliament, are cricketers. Except token representation in the form of Mohammed Azharuddin, whose speeches in Parliament are a harder act to follow than his answers at a post-match ceremony, and Navjyot Singh Sidhu, whose almost restrained presence in Parliament, is quite unlike his normal self on the cricket field, in the commentary box, as a judge on Laughter Challenge, or even purportedly in a parking lot in Patiala, the corridors of Parliament seem strangely devoid of the country’s most loved sons. This is a peculiar anomaly and this article is a call to set the record straight and make Parliament the favoured post-retirement hunting ground for out-of-work cricketers. I think they have what it takes, though the standards they have to meet are pretty high.

So what does it take to be a successful Indian politician? Three key qualities are absolutely essential—mass appeal, the ability to handle pressure and be able to connect with a wide range of people across social strata. Top-level national cricketers have all these qualities in abundance:

Mass Appeal:

Most national cricketers who have played for any length of time would command a respectable mass appeal. Perhaps they may not all be unanimously revered like Sachin Tendulkar, but it would be fair to assume that service to Indian cricket is a pretty safe way to work one’s way into the public consciousness.  That’s an election result neatly in the bag.

See how just one knock of 87 got this dude a whole generation of fans. Had he been wiser he would not have continued playing for Uttar Pradesh in dusty hinterland cricket grounds but could have been sashaying down the corridors of power in the country, something of course he can’t do with much regularity on a cricket pitch:

Ability to handle pressure

For an Indian cricketer, it’s all about the pressure. Whether home or away, with a massive contingent of fans loudly and raucously cheering him on, and millions more glued to their television sets, nerves are bound to jangle. Almost every moment is a make-or-break one. Hit and you’re famous; miss and you’re a goner.

Sample this for pressure: A tail-ender coming out to bat against Pakistan in Karachi, it doesn’t get bigger than this:

If after this, as a politician, your constituents want you to build a road, three contractors are falling head over heels to get the contract to build the road and your party does not want you to build the road but instead focus on enriching the party coffers, surely the pressure seems minuscule in comparison?

The Connect:

For a politician, unless you’re smart and in the Rajya Sabha like many of our current cabinet ministers are, it’s all about connecting with people. Especially in this modern day and age, it’s imperative for most politicians to connect with the farmer, the grocer as well as the tycoon and public relations manager. And cricketers already have a headstart in this process: because if there’s one thing that connects Indians better than State Bank of India proclaims to do , it’s cricketers.

Sachin Tendulkar

I have little doubt that cricketers can fit into politics more seamlessly than most others. Given this, I’m surprised most former Indian cricketers end up either doing bad commentary, attempt to coach teams, or just retire into oblivion. Come on guys, you’ve served the nation handsomely as cricketers, and here’s another golden opportunity to put on the whites again. The white kurta-pyajama for Parliament this time!

9 Comments on "Parliament’s Missing Sons"

  1. Rohit February 25, 2011 at 6:20 am ·

    Our neighbourhood has a few uninspiring examples. Imran-I-Sometime-love-the-Taliban-Khan in Pakistan and Sanath Jayasuriya in Sri Lanka. Khan’s tenure has been controversial, Jayasuriya’s undistinguished. I do think Sourav has potential to occupy political space in West Bengal.

    Also, Kirti Azad’s presence in parliament has more to do with being a mini-dynast (his father was an MP and MLA) than his cricketing career.

  2. Arghya February 25, 2011 at 8:35 am ·

    Hi Rohit,

    Yes of course- Imran has been a particularly undistinguished politician. Sanath on the other hand has done nothing in particular which is true for any politician in Sri Lanka unless your last name is Rajapakse. Kirti Azad is one of the hereditary politicians, who, as you rightly point out, made it not because of his cricket.
    I don’t necessarily think that all cricketers will make good politicians. From the point of view of national politics, I think most have what it takes. And there will be a few hits and a few misses, much like Ganguly and his batting. But from a cricketer’s point of view, I think it makes perfect sense, given that most of their lives end at 35 which is when a politician’s life begins.

  3. Vikram Hegde February 26, 2011 at 9:14 am ·

    I’m surprised there haven’t even been any nominated members that I can think of. Roger Binny was nominated to the Karnataka Legislature (Anglo-Indian member).

  4. Suhrith February 27, 2011 at 1:13 pm ·

    I’ve just returned from Calcutta. The city now, more than ever before, is filled with posters of Ganguly.

  5. Sudeshna Sengupta March 5, 2011 at 12:32 pm ·

    Why should successful or not too successful cricketers join politics?

    Mass-appeal- for cricketers translated into popularity- they have seen excess of it, as in our country cricketers are demi-Gods or perhaps demons at times- both the ethereal kind.

    Ability to handle pressure-for the present crop-ability to handle the money takes precedence thanks to lalit and the IPL. The ability to handle pressure is all on the audience as to whether our demi-Gods will perform as expected. Will be be able to withstand Brian O’Neil and the Irishmen. Tremendous pressure on us not ‘them’, please.
    and then
    To Connect- Our cricketers would love to connect but through- Pepsi-helicopter shot, Adidas, Boost-secret of all our success. Don’t you see the connect?- it is a two-way business, and all to do with bank balance and savings; not just for the rainy day but to build the Noah’s Ark.

    Till then we have to be satisfied with the Sidhus and Azhars and their oft inane submissions in Parliament.

  6. Arghya March 5, 2011 at 6:06 pm ·

    Not entirely sure whether the inanities will go, even if more cricketers come in- but we live in the hope!

  7. Anon April 11, 2011 at 6:18 pm ·

    On the fifth line you have made a grammatical mistake. It should be he is instead of ‘his.’

  8. Anon April 11, 2011 at 6:20 pm ·

    Otherwise nice post…

  9. Kranti B June 17, 2012 at 5:25 pm ·

    Jayaprada, third-rate???? do you know anything at all about her body of work in movies????

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