The Telegraph
Friday , September 30 , 2011
Since 1st March, 1999
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War of words

Sir — It is a matter of shame for India that the release of Shoaib Akhtar’s autobiography in Mumbai was cancelled (“Sena message to Shoaib”, Sept 25). The incident raises questions about the real nature of Indian democracy. It is true that players like Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid are treated like gods in India. If anybody — especially an international player — dares to highlight any of their weaknesses, he is accused of being blasphemous.

It cannot be denied that some of Akhtar’s comments about Tendulkar are justified. The latter is not known for winning or saving matches for India. Be it in the World Cup finals in 2003 or in 2011, he has consistently failed in crucial matches. Even if Akhtar’s assessment of Dravid and Tendulkar is incorrect, he has every right to express his opinion. Freedom of expression in India has taken a beating after what happened in Mumbai. The legendary Don Bradman had only said that Tendulkar’s style of batting was similar to his own. That comment was blown out of proportion, and Tendulkar’s cricketing skills were equated with those of Bradman. If cricket fans are able to accept praise readily then they should also be able to stomach criticism.

Tendulkar and Dravid are now past their prime. Sourav Ganguly was, arguably, India’s most successful Test batsman between late-2006 and mid-2008. At that time, Tendulkar trailed behind Ganguly in terms of the runs scored. Yet, Ganguly had to leave the arena due to ‘poor form’ and ‘age’. If his forced retirement is justified then why are his contemporaries still playing cricket?

Dravid and Tendulkar are shadows of what they were in their prime. Yet, religious zealots are creating a din over Akhtar’s observations. Instead of trying to suppress people’s opinions, it should be accepted that it is time for senior cricketers to make way for new talent.

Yours faithfully,
Kajal Chatterjee, Sodepur

Sir — Celebrities and sportspersons have a penchant for courting controversy. They often publish sensational autobiographies. However, one fails to understand why they feel the need to target their colleagues and teammates in order to garner attention. Shoaib Akhtar’s contentious autobiography has raised quite a few eyebrows. Many have dismissed it as an attention-seeking gesture. Dressing- room squabbles are common in all forms of sport. This does not mean that everything that goes on behind closed doors has to be revealed for public consumption.

Akhtar seems to be a bitter man these days. He is peeved at the way he has been treated by the cricketing establishment in Pakistan. He is resentful of his peers and perhaps holds his seniors responsible for his truncated career. His feelings are understandable, but the aspersion he has cast on some cricketing greats is unacceptable. All that his autobiography will do is keep the rumour mills churning. One wonders what happened to his sportsman spirit.

Yours faithfully,
Pachu Menon, Margao, Goa

Sir — Shoaib Akhtar’s comments do not deserve so much media coverage. During his cricketing career, he was unable to ensure a regular berth for himself in the Pakistani team. His claims that Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid are not match winners, and that the former was afraid of him, are ludicrous. Both Dravid and Tendulkar have their records to speak for themselves. They are highly respected cricketers. Akhtar seems to have forgotten the drubbing he received at the hands of Tendulkar in the World Cup in 2003. He was also in the team when Dravid scored a sensational double century against Pakistan. While Tendulkar stated that it was below his dignity to comment on Akhtar’s observations, Dravid has maintained a dignified silence. Akhtar has even accused his former teammates of ruining his career. He seems to be desperate to increase the sales of his book.

Yours faithfully,
Ambar Mallick, Calcutta

Sir — The vehement reactions to Shoaib Akhtar’s comments about Sachin Tendulkar were uncalled for. One wonders why some people in India are unwilling to tolerate the slightest criticism of Tendulkar. In spite of being a fine batsman with a lot of runs to his credit, he has often failed to deliver under difficult circumstances. He has consistently shied away from moving up the batting order in Test matches, preferring to remain at the number four slot. His discomfort of quality fast bowling has been apparent. Several fast bowlers have voiced similar opinions in the past, though they have not been quite as blunt.

It is sad that people have ignored the good things that Akhtar has said. While he did criticize Rahul Dravid and Tendulkar, he has been effusive in his praise of the former Indian captain, Sourav Ganguly. The Pakistani speedster has given Ganguly credit for having changed the face of the Indian cricket team. He also has words of praise for the likes of M.S. Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh and Virender Sehwag.

However, none of this seems to matter in our country. In India, worshipping Tendulkar seems to be the only way to show one’s love for the game of cricket.

Yours faithfully,
Pujarini Banerjee, Calcutta

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