“We can have at least 500 such inspirational stories. If the next generation gets encouraged and plays sport, India will become an economically stronger nation by 2030,” said Tendulkar in an exclusive interview with Hindustan Times on Thursday.
The 55-page booklet titled “Unforgettable sporting heroes and legends of India” contains the profiles of such greats as Dhyan Chand, Milkha Singh, Prakash Padukone, Ajit Wadekar, PK Banerjee, Mary Kom, et al. The Vice-president of India and the HRD ministry were given a copy on December 21 when Congress MPs bowled out Tendulkar’s maiden speech in the Rajya Sabha.
“The HRD and sports ministries are working on this already. It’s my dream to see sports being treated on a par with physics, maths or history. It’s my endeavour to change the mindset, and if we can build a healthy generation, we would have saved India from an economic disaster,” said Tendulkar, who will ‘retire’ as a nominated MP on April 26, 2018.
“Many of my fans are now young parents. If they get motivated by the stories of our old heroes and ask their children to take up a sport in school, they would have given me my greatest gift. It’s like scoring a dream hundred again,” said Tendulkar, highlighting that all work (read study) and no play, will push India – the diabetes capital of the world – to a point of no return.
“But who will push your dream once you have left the Rajya Sabha? Given the Indian mindset, isn’t this project of yours just too over-ambitious?
“As a cricketer I had always set lofty benchmarks. If parents and schools love their kids, then sport should be their second religion. I am just trying to make them aware,” said Tendulkar, ruling out a stint in national politics to push his project forward.
With 21.7 million Twitter followers, Tendulkar is No 8 on the list of most followed Indians. Virat Kohli is 10 on this list, headed by PM Narendra Modi (37.5 million) and Amitabh Bachchan (31.5 million).
Tendulkar said the booklet’s intention was two-fold. While the first was to include sport in the existingRight of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act of 2009, it would also serve as a tribute to a generation that deserves a “respectable and stable life.”
“What happened to our former hockey captain Mohammed Shahid was just shameful. We can’t afford to forget our national heroes,” said Tendulkar. The mercurial Shahid, whose stickwork left the tightest of defences in disarray and helped India win their last Olympics gold in Moscow in 1980, died in July 2016 in pain and utter neglect.