Sachin - 1 of 100 most influential in 2010..Really?

We, the Indians, never cease to amaze me with our gullibility. We are very easily swayed by our hearts, and all rational flies out the window at slightest opportunity. And this holds true for even the well educated people, and not just those who don’t know any better.

During US Presidential elections majority of Indians rooted for ObamaChange We Can Believe In: Barack Obama's Plan to Renew America's Promise, even though his policies were in no way pro-India! In the long run his policies would’ve hurt the Outsourcing industry, which is on a boom in India.

Later, when this same Obama was awarded Nobel Peace Prize few months into this Presidency, we severely criticized Nobel Committee, as Obama had done nothing to deserve the prize. Well, for a change we were right in our stand. Obama had not deserved the award by any stretch of imagination.

And similarly, I say that SachinSachin: The Story of the World's Greatest Batsman does not deserve to be called one of 100 most influential people of 2010!

Let me first say that I admire Sachin. Unreservedly. And have done so for as long as I can remember. I think he is the best cricketer to have ever walked the face of Earth.

But I still fail to see how he has influenced people, or can be called influential.

I left comments saying so on some of my friend’s status messages on FB, and the reasons they cited included something as absurd as (and I quote here):
“For a very long time my mom was able to make me drink boost because Sachin endorsed it.. was it an inspiration or his influence on me? :)” and 
“if TIME thought to include Sachin in the nomination list along with 200 others.. they must have some justification.” 
to slightly logical ones like:
“he has influenced me in the way he is sol down to earth..
the way he is never involved in any controversy
the way he carries all the expectations of a billion mad people
the way he has excelled his game..”; “hes been the single greatest reason to watch else does one manage to influence ppl” and “dhoni's captaincy, mcc mulling 25ovs idea, bhajji getting away, ppl standing up for his mumbai is for india… again the list goes on”

As I said on FB, I agree to some of these reasons, especially Sachin being the greatest reason to watch cricket. But I still maintain that he is not influential. It all depends on how you define ‘influence’. First and foremost, “to influence” and “to inspire” are two very different things. Especially when considered in the context of the list TIME magazineTIME (1-year) proposes to publish.

In this case, to influence would mean to take a stand, to go out of his / her comfort zone and act in a way that makes a difference to people’s lives at large, or influences major policy formulation that would affect masses. As far as I know, Sachin does not qualify when measured against these parameters.  He has inspired a lot of people to turn to sports, or to excel in what they do. He might have inspired some people to consume products even though there is no scientific proof that the product is good or nutritious for your health and carries out what it claims to do in the adverts. But can we call this influencing the masses towards something constructive?

If that were true, each Indian film star is far more influential than many people who would be featuring in the same list. What about the star who claimed “His name is Khan and he is not a terrorist”? Why not include him in the list for influencing people’s opinion positively?

Even TIME magazine on its links does not associate Sachin with any influential activity. Their citation for Sachin reads:

“The greatest batsman of his — or arguably any — generation, Tendulkar continues to smash records at an age most cricketers hang up their gloves. In February, he became the first man to score 200 runs in a one-day international, a feat comparable to Roger Bannister's 4-minute mile. Despite being held in reverence by a billion Indians (and in awe by hundreds of millions of cricket fans around the world), Tendulkar has a reputation, rare among sports gods, for humility and self-deprecation.”

To the best of my knowledge, I have never known Sachin to go out of his comfort zone to do something meaning. I might be wrong here, and I would love to be corrected at this point. But as far as I know, Sachin did not start any training school like Anupam Kher started acting school to help struggling sportsmen train and prove their mettle. He never tried to mobilize funds or resources like BonoBono (of U2) because he felt there was a cause big enough for his participation. Even Brad Pit and Angelina JolieBrangelina: The Untold Story of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie donated One Million Dollars when earthquake devastated Haiti. I am not aware that Sachin donated anything.

When we talk about influential people, I think of people like Md. YunusSmall Loans, Big Dreams: How Nobel Prize Winner Muhammad Yunus and Microfinance are Changing the World, who revolutionized rural finance with Microfinance, Bill and Malinda GatesBill Gates: Helping People Use Computers (Community Builders) who started Bill and Malinda Gates Foundation for a cause and donate a major part of their wealth to the foundation. Even Warren BuffetThe Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life, who also chose to donate a large part of his wealth to Bill and Malinda Gate Foundation.

Closer at home we have Kiran BediIt's Always Possible: One Woman's Transformation of India's Prison System, Ela R. BhattEla Bhatt (Founder of SEWA), Shashi TharoorCharlie Rose (April 10, 2003) and Pullela Gopichand. Incidently, Pullela has not only started a training school called Gopichand Badminton Academy, but also turned down lucrative endorsement campaign offers from Cola companies at the peak of his career, because he felt Colas are bad for health!

As for TIME nominating Sachin, I am sure they must have their reasons. But lets not forget that end of the day, TIME, like any other corporate, is ruled by bottom lines. And it knows well that nominating Sachin will drive a lot more traffic to their site, than they could otherwise hope. And if Sachin is among the list, their magazine’s sales in India will jump too!

Lastly, let me re-iterate that I don’t mean to deride Sachin in any way. I think he is a sportsman par excellence, and a very decent and down-to-earth human being. But I will not go so far as to call him one of the most influential people on Earth!

Please let me know your views on this.

P.S.: For those whose comments on FB I have quoted here, please let me know if you don’t want it to be quoted, and I’ll remove it.

Disclaimer: Ideas and thoughts expressed here are author’s own and do not reflect his employer’s or any one else’s stand in any way.


Vaishali said…
Hey Gagan... A really gud post. At least read sumthing out of the usual.. "sachin=God"! :)
Yes, I dnt think sachin cums in the "influential" ppl. Yes he does cum in the most known ppl around the globe but nt the "influential" ones.
Ppl love Sachin for his certain qualities, even I do, but I cannot cite an example where he has helped in influencing ppl, or rather being involved in a gud cause to use his fame to gud.
Thanks Gagan for posting this.
(tumne mere mu ki baat cheen li :P )
santhosh said…
for starters, the actor who said his name was khan is on the list, and so are ppl like lady gaga, jeff bridges, sandra bullock, beyonce, neil patrick harris, tiger woods and are high in the pecking order (though not sure how the positions were arrived at)..........influence does not necessarily arise from a misplaced sense of idealism....influence happens in popular culture and these are the ppl who do it ......he is anyways more influential than lady gaga who is popular for her wardrobe malfunctions or a philandrer in barney stinson....and ya he spoonsors education for 200 children every year through apnalay...if that was the criteria for your 'influence'
Harish said…
A good post, but some misplaced intentions. An analysis of why Sachin is influential is incomplete without trying to understand why Cricket is influential in India. The 1983 WC, the T20 win, all are events that are influencing different generations of Indians, but in the same way, i.e. to prove that brown skin is no less than any other color.

Call it childish, but every time our puny Sachin whacks Symonds or Kallis or Powell or any other bowler to the boundary, the ball carries with it the aspirations of many Indians with it. It gives us pride (maybe wanton, since it is just hitting a ball with a stick); but he inspires and influences people the same way other geniuses do. Mozart, Beethoven or Michaelangelo didn't start orphanages or create jobs. But they made all our lives a lot better with their sheer existence. Sachin is 'influential' in the same exact way.

A speech by Obama,Manmohan..
Movie of Amitabh,Training School by anupam... and all others u stated ...out of these which one can stop the traffic on roads, make malls empty ... ensure everyone's glued to TV's???
there is only one man who can do it ...and that i think is influence
Lob said…
Alas! This one totally falls flat on logic! (but anyway who the hell am I to talk about logic?)

@santhosh and harish:- I guess both gave a very matter-of-fact definition of 'influential'...

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