As Charles Darwin propagated in his Theory of Evolution, “It will not be the biggest or the strongest that will survive, but it will be the ones most responsive to change.” Brand Tendulkar not only survived, but thrived for over 24 years at the top of his game. Inspiring and injecting joy, hope and pride amongst three generations of Indians. While Tendulkar the cricketer has retired, Tendulkar the brand will continue playing.
Let’s take a closer look at how Tendulkar has evolved as a brand that stays connected to the dreams and aspirations of a billion Indians and revered by millions across the globe.
His journey can be divided into 4 phases: The Marauder, The Master, The Mentor and The Messiah-(4-Ms, if you like). Each phase reflects a different facet of Brand Tendulkar’s journey and impact on Indian society.
The Marauder- first 5 years
This marks Tendulkar’s discovery as a batting prodigy, his baptism into competitive cricket and his early years as a destroyer of bowling attacks.
He was that affable, middle class, Marathi Mulgaa, who fired the imagination of a post- liberalized India, where winning was suddenly becoming as important as competing. The fact that he was ‘one-of-us’ and yet had the grit and passion to take on the best, without flinching, made him a hero-in-waiting. His exploits as a Young Turk became part of conversation. That his arena was cricket, (the opium of the Indian masses) made it a heady cocktail waiting to ignite.
And ignite it did! The sight of this baby faced, cherubic little boy (with a squeaky voice to boot), annihilating ferocious bowling attacks with bat in hand, set heart’s on fire. It gave a message that talent without fear can make the David beat the Goliaths. It also sent a signal that in India, gene pool does not determine success anymore. Talent and courage does.
Tendulkar become this ‘mythical marauder’ who fired young India’s aspiration to take on the world.
The Master – next 10 years
Having achieved unprecedented success at a very young age in International cricket, Tendulkar’s next part of the journey saw him evolve into a mature and masterful batsman.
He was now moving into the league of all time greats. From the fearless marauder, he was bearing the cross of the Indian batting line-up, carrying the expectations of a billion Indians, every time he went out to bat. He was no more the little boy next door of unadulterated excitement, but someone whom people trusted to ‘bat for their lives’.
Tendulkar’s mindset and game evolved to reflect this reality. Suddenly he had to let go the gay abandon and start becoming a high performance run machine. This was the time when he broke several records, his team started growing in self-belief and winning overseas. He became a household name, the flag-bearer of not only Indian cricket, but Indian sport and the face of many a brand.
Also, he became more ‘real’ from being mythical. There were ups and downs, victories and defeats, achievements and disappointments and career threatening injuries. He changed his game from a destructive stroke player to a more balanced master of his craft. His dedication and focus on the game, his humility amidst widespread adulation and sense of dignity on and off the field, were lauded as values that complemented his cricketing acumen.
The exciting wonder boy impetuousness had transformed into the equanimity of a Zen master. From an icon of young India’s hopes, he became new India’s brand ambassador.
The Mentor- last 10 years
By now, Tendulkar had grown into one of the legends of the game. As Alexander the Great famously said, “Every now and then even a legend has to reinvent itself.” It was time for another phase in his evolving career.
Tendulkar’s new role went beyond his own performances and prowess and he began to inspire a new breed of wannabe cricketers. Young Indian cricket aspirants wanted to be the ‘Next Sachin’- fearless, talented, hungry and passionate.
Not only did he ignite passion for the game amongst a vast multitude in India and abroad, but also played friend, philosopher and guide to a new generation of his team mates. His presence in the dressing room was as valuable as his exploits on the field.
Like a true mentor he was there to inspire, guide and nurture the future of Indian cricket. He had evolved into a ‘guru’ and role model for not just young cricketers but young Indians,
The Messiah- coming years
Having retired from playing cricket, ongoing debates in media continue discussing ‘What next for Sachin?’
Irrespective of what Tendulkar does next, he may have retired from the field, but not from the hearts and minds of people. Very much like how the great Don Bradman continued to be an icon of Aussie pride, well after his retirement.
His next role in my view would be of that of a ‘messiah of human spirit and values’, which transcend cricket or sport and impact the field of life itself. This would be among his greatest influence in today’s world, to plug the growing deficit in values, propriety and ethical behaviour.
Tendulkar can, and I am sure he will, continue to inspire and inject joy, hope and pride amongst the next generation of Indians. In my book, “he’s more than just the God of Cricket, he’s The Complete Man”.
Play it again Sachin.