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Sachin, already an elder?

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BACK THEN: Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh greets Sachin at the World Cup semifinal against Pak

Reactions to Sachin Tendulkar's nomination to the Rajya Sabha have depended on both political bent as well as sporting preference. Then there are those who have seen the timing of it as a roguish move to deflect attention from the flak the government has been facing because of corruption cases.

One of the first to publicly go on record welcoming the cricket icon's nomination was the Indian Olympic Association. But that, one tends to suspect, was to avoid looking churlish. How can you grudge the gesture of a Rajya Sabha nomination to a cricketer who has scored a hundred centuries?

The IOA certainly could not have been unaware that there have been quite a few towering personalities in both Olympic as well as well as non-Olympic disciplines more deserving of the kind of honour bestowed on Tendulkar. The hockey great Balbir Singh (Senior), winner of three Olympic gold medals, to name just one. Or for that matter also Michael Ferreira and Geet Sethi of billiards world fame and Prakash Padukone of badminton.

Don't forget the Rajya Sabha is called the house of elders. Not that every nominated member gets a chance to speak there. But, given a chance, such articulate sporting veterans could have made a useful contribution, like the chastising speech of RK Narayan in the 1990s in defence of the children made to carry burdensome bags on their backs to school. Mr Narayan must be turning in his grave that they still do twenty years later.

If you thought Sachin is the first sportsperson to be honoured with a nomination to the Rajya Sabha you are both right and wrong. Before Sachin there was Dara Singh (2003-09 ). But Dara Singh belonged to a category described as "sportsperson and artiste. " After retiring from wrestling, the man, now well into his 80s, had reinvented himself as director, producer and actor, with over a hundred films to his name not to mention his role of Hanuman in the epic TV serial Ramayan.

The President's decision to break fresh ground by selecting a sportsperson to occupy one of the dozen nominated seats in the Rajya Sabha is contentious, for the relevant Article in the Constitution talks only about people who have to their credit distinguished contributions to literature, science, art and social service. A man, now in his late thirties, who presumes he still has a few years competitive international cricket left in him, Tendulkar could have politely declined the Rajya Sabha nomination. He has still to take his oath of office, but even as the elders are busy with debates in the house he is doing duty for Mumbai Indians in the IPL in his new-look hair style. It may be no different next year as well. The IPL or some other cricket commitment could clash with the budget session.

It takes courage for a man to decline an honour like having "Honourable" prefixed to his name and getting "MP" added to it. But showing such courage can sometimes raise a man in the eyes of the discerning. .

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