Master blaster Sachin Tendulkar, who took oath as a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha today, is ready for his new innings and is keen on helping not only cricket but other sports as well.
Mr Tendulkar, who took oath in the office of Rajya Sabha Chairman Dr Hamid Ansari, said he was honoured and keen to help not only cricket but other sports as well. "In the last 22 years of my international career, cricket has given me so much and I also wanted to give something back to cricket in the latter half of my life. Today with the nomination, I am in a better position not only to help cricket but also other sports. It means a lot to me. I will try to help other sports."
"But I believe there will be a few obstacles along the way, and I will need from my fellow parliamentarians, the administrators, media and our countrymen. Together we can make a lot of changes," the newly appointed MP said.
Mr Tendulkar, who was accompanied by his wife Anjali and Congress leader Mr Rajiv Shukla, also said that he would like to be remembered as someone who contributed to the country and not just cricket statistics. "I will be happy if I am remembered as someone who contributed to my country, rather than just cricket statistics. That would be fantastic."
President Pratibha Patil had approved the cricket legend's name along with Bollywood actor Rekha and businesswoman Anu Aga in April for the Upper House of the Parliament. The approval had come after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wrote to the President with the government's recommendations.
While Ms Rekha and Ms Aga were sworn in in May, Mr Tendulkar could not take oath earlier due to his IPL commitments. The IPL ended only on May 27th.
Indian skipper MS Dhoni said yesterday that his senior team-mate will make a contribution as a Rajya Sabha member. "This (Rajya Sabha) is a new avenue for him and I am sure he will do well and contribute there also," Dhoni said.
He said Mr Tendulkar has excelled in cricket and in whatever he has done so far. "I would like to wish him all the very best. He has been contributing in cricket and has done well in every field," he added.
World chess champion Viswanathan Anand also said that Mr Tendulkar serving as a Rajya Sabha member would be a big step in his life and wished the cricket legend enjoys his new role. "I hope he enjoys his role and he is able to do it very well. It's a big step for him and I think he will enjoy it," Anand said.
Given Mr Tendulkar's busy cricket schedule - he spent more than 235 days last year playing or travelling for 33 matches (From January 1 2011 to March 31 2012) - many have questioned whether he will have the time or inclination to be an active MP. Cricket legend Sunil Gavaskar was asked by NDTV about whether other members of the House might find it tough to take on Mr Tendulkar in a parliamentary debate, given the huge goodwill he enjoys among politicians as well as cricket fans. "The only person who can win an argument against Sachin is (his wife) Anjali," Mr Gavaskar had responded.
Mr Tendulkar's nomination in the Rajya Sabha had evoked mixed reactions. While some hailed the decision, some were critical of it and accused the government of trying to leverage the cricketer's huge popularity and icon status for its own benefit.
"Sachin's nomination is a real recognisation of sports talent," said the Left's Gurudas Dasgupta. But he added, "Sourav Ganguly could also have been considered when he was in his top form." Mr Dasgupta also said that the government must consider recognising achievers from other sports as well. "It should not be highlighted that they are patronizing cricket (alone)," he advised.
On the other hand, Shiv Sena's Sanjay Raut slammed the Congress party, saying: "They want to improve their image ...they should not play politics with Sachin," he said. The Congress had denied the allegations. Congress leader Rajiv Shukla, who had accompanied Mr Tendulkar and his wife Anjali to a meeting with Congress president Sonia Gandhi hours before he was nominated, said: "We are trying to bring good people in Parliament...it is a kind of honour for him."
Mr Tendulkar's inclusion to the Rajya Sabha comes at a time when many have asked why he has not been given the nation's highest civilian honour - the Bharat Ratna. In March, Mr Tendulkar became the only cricketer to get a hundred centuries in international cricket. Politicians, who are not from the Congress, as well as analysts, have said that by accepting the government's nomination, Mr Tendulkar will be seen as aligned with the Congress. This, they argue, could dent his standing as a man who has been careful to avoid any public affiliation with a political party. "It is Sachin's and the Congress' personal matter. But I feel more than a seat, he should be given a Bharat Ratna," BJP leader Gopinath Munde had said.
In 2009, Mr Tendulkar took on two political parties - the Shiv Sena, which is headed by Bal Thackeray, and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, launched by Mr Thackeray's estranged nephew, Raj. Both parties were pushing a strong anti-immigrant campaign in an attempt to woo voters in Maharashtra. "Mumbai belongs to India. That is how I look at it. And I am a Maharashtrian and I am extremely proud of that but I am an Indian first," Sachin had said.