Thackeray to Tendulkar: Stay off politics, you don’t know Mumbai’s problems


Mumbai : Taking strong exception to Sachin Tendulkar’s recent comment that “Mumbai belongs to all”, Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray has warned the legendary cricketer to “keep off the political pitch” for his own well-being and said his “single cheeky” had made him “run out” in Marathi minds.

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He said Tendulkar may not even be aware of the struggle of Maharashtrians for Mumbai, as he was “not even born” then, and said cricketers like him “ultimately play only for themselves”.

The comments of the 83-year-old Thackeray, in the party mouthpiece Saamna that hit the stands Monday, came as the nation was celebrating 20 years of Tendulkar’s cricketing career and comparing him to India’s all-time sporting greats.

In a signed, open letter to the cricketer, Thackeray has given “a friendly advice” to Tendulkar, asking him to stay away from politics for “his own well-being”. Thackeray took serious umbrage to the cricket legend’s statement last week that “he was an Indian first and Marathi too, but Mumbai belongs to all”.

“You are free to hit fours and sixers on the cricket field, but keep off the political pitch,” Thackeray said.

Hitting out at Tendulkar – who grew up in Thackeray’s neighbourhood in Bandra East and learnt his first cricket lessons there – the Sena chief said the cricketer had become a billionaire and made a name for himself in the world because of his great skills.

“Nobody grudges you all this, in fact it makes them feel proud. But when you speak politics like this you tear the hearts of Maharashtrians,” he held.

Chiding Tendulkar, Thackeray asked him what made him utter the “single cheeky” (a quickie single run) of politics while expressing his pride at being a Maharashtrian before the media last week.

“With that one statement, you became ‘run out’ in the pitch of Marathi minds,” he said.

Delivering a crash course in history to the cricketer, Thackeray reminded him that when Mumbai was won for Maharashtra “with a lot of struggle and the supreme sacrifice of 105 people, Tendulkar was not even born”.

According to Thackeray, cricketers may talk lofty things about the country, but ultimately play only for themselves. “Do cricketers (like you) ever bother about the problems confronting the country, the inflation, slums proliferation in Mumbai, the influx of people from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Bangladeshi Muslims?” Thackeray demanded.

The Sena supremo signed off with “a friendly advice, in your own interest” to keep off politics.