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Why Sachin Tendulkar might feel upset after watching Airlift

In the film Airlift, an official of the Indian Embassy in Baghdad disapproved of Sachin Tendulkar, the former ace cricketer who is a proud owner of the most number of runs in the game.

Speaking to the film's lead Ranjit Katyal (played by Akshay Kumar) who risked his own life and those of his family members to protect Indians left stranded in Iraq-occupied Kuwait in 1990, the official expressed cynicism about Tendulkar, who was just 17 then.

Sachin Tendulkar

Why the cynicism?

"Don't know why the selectors pick such youngsters," the official said while watching Tendulkar on television even as Katyal was seeking a serious audience on rescuing the Indians in the West Asian country which fell without a fight before the aggressive forces of the then Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussain.

The cynicism about the lad, who went to become a world beater in years to come, made evident the lack of self-belief India's government establishments suffer from. Was the take similar to that on the fragile political leadership that had existed in India then?

In 1990, India's coalition era had just started and the prime minister's chair looked vulnerable with a series of unstable governments at the Centre.

Tendulkar had a quiet beginning to his international career but even then...

Tendulkar, who had made his debut less than a year before the Kuwait crisis unfolded, was still in his formative phase in international cricket.

He was just seven one-day-matches old in August 1990 when Iraq invaded Kuwait with an ordinary average of less than 20.

In Tests, he had played just eight matches till then with an average in the mid-20s. His highest one-day and Test scores then were 36 and 88, both against New Zealand. His first two one-day innings saw him getting out for nought as did the second innings of his debut Test against Pakistan.

But writing off Tendulkar just on the basis of those initial scores was never a wise act. And the Indian selectors perhaps did a better job in sticking to the talented right-handed Mumbai batsman than South Block's policy-makers who made a mess in dealing with the Kuwait crisis.


Tendulkar, although hadn't quite turned the run-machine he was known to be later, he had proved himself to be someone who was determined to make a mark.

Didn't the embassy official keep Tendulkar's brief but talented show in mind?

The boy was hit on his nose while playing a fierce Waqar Younis in Pakistan during his debut tour in 1989 but yet continued to take on the opponents' pace attack. His ability had surprised even the great Pakistani captain Imran Khan.

Also during that tour, Tendulkar had smashed renowned Pakistani spinner Abdul Qadir for four sixes in an over, three of them consecutive, in an unofficial match in Peshawar.

Tendulkar's first Test ton came during the Kuwait crisis

Also the batsman's first-ever Test hundred came in Manchester in England in August 1990 itself, when he scored a match-saving 119 not out.

Tendulkar could have been treated with more generosity in the film

Hence, the embassy official's cynical take on the batsman who had started exhibiting glimpses of his talent could have been avoided in the film.

In those days when India was stagnating both politically and economically, Sachin Tendulkar had emerged as a fresh hope for the post-Gavaskar era.

The makers of Airlift could have been a bit more generous while speaking on Tendulkar.

Story first published: Saturday, January 30, 2016, 13:15 [IST]
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