Here we go again, it is time once more to revisit the greatness of Sachin Tendulkar, arguably the greatest Indian batsman of all time. He has been awarded the Laureus Sporting Moment Award for India's 2011 World Cup triumph and the celebration that followed – specifically the Indian team lifting him on their shoulders during a lap of honour at his home stadium – Wankhede.
Congratulatory messages are pouring in from all around the world, especially from Indian cricketers. While the media and the fans dance to the tune of Sachin-mania, it is worthwhile to pause and reflect on the validity of the choice and the manner in which the winner is decided.
The 'moment' for which Sachin won the award was described as 'Carried on the shoulders of the nation' – referring to the iconic image of Sachin on the shoulders of his teammates after the World Cup win. While that indeed was an iconic moment and deserves to be celebrated with all the pomp and passion it ignites, was it indeed the most iconic sporting moment of the century so far?
Was it more iconic than Cathy Freeman – a native Australian sprinter who ignited the Olympic flame at the Sydney Games' opening ceremony – winning the 400m race at the same games with the entire nation watching her with bated breath?
Was it more iconic than Rafael Nadal's victory in the 2008 Wimbledon Final over Roger Federer after, arguably, the greatest tennis match of all time? Was it more iconic than Usain Bolt's and Michael Phelps' numerous victories? The list can go on.
Right way to pick the winner?
Then, there is the question of the method of choosing the winner. It is through votes by fans around the world. In any such exercise, the Indian nominee is bound to emerge as the winner. Remember how, some years ago, when Time magazine decided to hold an opinion poll for choosing their Person of the Year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi got more votes than anybody.
The award, however, went to the brave doctors who went to Africa for fighting the spread of Ebola virus. If we go even further back, there was the farcical selection of the top eight wonders of the world through voting by SMSs and online votes.
Not surprisingly, Taj Mahal came out on top as the greatest wonder of the world. Nobody remembers that whole episode now, except for the alleged kiss between Christiano Ronaldo and Bipasha Basu at the event where the winner was declared.
Now, there is a case to be made for such a method for choosing the sporting moment. One can argue that if more people vote for a certain event, that means it affected a greater mass of people. However, in such kind of polls, nationalistic sentiment takes over and people start voting without thinking whether the event they are voting for was indeed as special as it is being made out.
Should Sachin only receive the award?
Lastly, if this moment had to be chosen as the greatest over the last two decades, why give the award only to Sachin Tendulkar. The two men who played the leading role in India's victory in the final – MS Dhoni and Gautam Gambhir – should also be felicitated. In fact, it was a collective effort by the Indian side that won the title. The whole team should have received the honour.
Lastly, let's not be too naïve. We know that India is a huge market for all types of brands. The people at Laureus would have fully known that adding Sachin's name to the nominee list would earn this event a huge audience in India. Without the Indian component, the ceremony would have had many millions fewer people watching or following it.
So, while Sachin's position as one of the greatest sporting icons of the world and a symbol of Indian national pride is unquestioned, his winning this award should be seen in a more nuanced way than through blind adulatory lenses. This doesn't belittle the achievement of the Master Blaster but brings a level of sobriety to the moment.