Mission Tendulkar,Mission Marshttps://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/mission-tendulkar-mission-mars/

Mission Tendulkar,Mission Mars

TV generated enough hot air around Tendulkar’s 199th Test to propel him beyond the stratosphere.

TV generated enough hot air around Tendulkar’s 199th Test to propel him beyond the stratosphere.

If CNN-IBN is to be believed,one particular gentleman travelled in reverse all the way to Kolkata to watch Sachin Tendulkar explode,hopefully take-off from his last Ranji Trophy innings against Haryana. If the DD News reporter was to be believed,the PSLV-C25 fired on all cylinders,had a “lovely launch” and “everything [was going nicely” at ISRO headquarters. Welcome to Mission Tendulkar and Mission Mars Orbiter.

The latter was pure rocket science and for a change,we had some feel good news on TV. Tuesday afternoon,the countdown to India’s “rendezvous with the mysterious planet” (NDTV 24×7),broadcast live,was as exciting as the countdown (“1 day to go”) to the final game at Eden Gardens for that “son of India” (Sourav Ganguly,Headlines Today) — his 13th at the venue,more than any other Indian cricketer,revealed NDTV 24×7. (See how much information you can glean from TV?)

As the clock ticked 14:38:00,India’s most ambitious space adventure blazed a new trail. It was so powerful that the timer on the right hand side of the TV screen — and the commentator’s voice — trembled. Truly. Lift-off was “normal”,said our awestruck DD friend,“very fantastic… very nice”,clearly,he was lost for words to describe “this beautiful performance” (rather like a dance?).

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Words are not failing our TV anchors,sports anchors,correspondents,former cricketers now cricket analysts or the Indian public as they celebrate Mission 199. On the contrary,TV is generating enough hot air and hyperbole around Tendulkar’s retirement to propel him beyond the stratosphere and deposit him on Mars. The first man on the red planet? That is not rocket science,“it’s a joke”,according to Dinesh C. Sharma (CNN-IBN),who insisted that settling human beings on Mars five years from now is impossible.

Well,if you believe everyone and everything you hear on TV,a “global” space mission may be possible (BBC World) but there will never be another Sachin Tendulkar — although Virat Kohli is already being hailed as his successor in ODIs by Star Sports’ commentators and Sunil Gavaskar (NDTV 24×7). It’s all so confusing.

Ever since Tendulkar announced his departure,each aspect of his game and personality is being examined under a loving magnifying glass: “Sachin#Sachin” says it all (Star Sports). “Thank you,Sachin” says it even better (CNN-IBN). “Mahanayak ki Maha Bidai” paid homage to Kolkatans’ lavish farewell to him (Aaj Tak),but what do they mean by spelling his name incorrectly,demanded a highly incensed former batsman Yashpal Sharma on India TV after M.S. Dhoni did a spell check.

In a coup,Headlines Today lined up Sachin’s brother Ajit Tendulkar for personal reminiscences along with biographer Boria Majumdar (has he deserted Times Now?). CNN-IBN got Rahul Dravid to speak about India’s number four and not a hint of criticism passed his lips even about his controversial declaration in Pakistan with Tendulkar near a double century. Said he blandly,the two had “pride and mutual respect”. Rajdeep Sardesai described Tendulkar as a “mountain” and Dravid as “the wall”,which typifies the nature of the tributes paid to the Little Master: nobody reaches his height.

We love him dearly too,but it’s getting a bit too much,no? No wonder the NDTV India anchor asked on the eve of Tendulkar’s 199th Test — “Has he changed in any way?” And the answer is no,he hasn’t. He is as modest as he is committed to India,as always,said the likes of V.V.S. Laxman,recruited by NDTV 24×7 for this long farewell. Oh no,there are some changes: his signature today bears “absolutely no resemblance” to his signature of yesterday,insists Majumdar. And,according to his bat-man Bhandari,he went from a heavy bat in 2004 to a lighter one in 2011. Sachin#Sachin.

Two missions,two success stories,celebrated all day,all week. Then came the criticism: Times Now debated Mission Mars’ cost to the nation,Headlines Today and CNN-IBN questioned Kolkata’s Sachin “mania”,showering him with rose petals,etc. Odd,coming from a medium that has rained all the praise in the world — and even the universe — on him.

shailaja.bajpai@expressindia.com