INDIA'S media has gladly accepted Sachin Tendulkar's Order of Australia gong, thanking Prime Minister Julia Gillard for the honour and the upset it has caused back in Australia.
"Julia Gifts Sachin a reason to rile 'em," Calcutta's Telegraph proclaimed on its front page, noting the visiting PM's attempts at cricket diplomacy did not appear "to have gone down well at home".
The 'Little Master', AM. Photo: Reuters
"Julia Gillard did not wield the willow when she took the field today but managed to hit such a whopper of a shot that the blokes back home are nursing the 6516th reason to hate Sachin Tendulkar," the paper said, its purple prose a reference to the 6515 runs Tendulkar has made against Australia.
As an instrument, however, to attract attention to Ms Gillard's three-day state visit to India, the honour bestowed upon Sachin was a clever play. Pictures of the PM in Delhi watching a children's cricket match graced the front pages of a swathe of Indian papers, from the conservative tabloid Mail Today to left-leaning broadsheet The Hindu.
The Navbharat Times declared: "Sachin says thank you Julia."
One of India's largest Hindi-language papers, Dainik Bhaskar, was less enthusiastic. Its editorial said Australia's decision to recognise Tendulkar was motivated by a desire for new business ties on the subcontinent.
"Is this [award] an attempt to earn the confidence of Indians and strengthen business relations? It seems so.
"China, a big market for Australian commodities, is facing economic slowdown, so Australia needs a new market and that's why it's eyeing India with hope."
Tendulkar, who was this year made a member of the Rajya Sabha, the Indian parliament's upper house, demonstrated something of a flair for politics with his diplomatic acceptance of the gong.
"I indeed feel privileged and honoured at receiving this recognition. As an Indian cricketer, I have always enjoyed playing against and in Australia and feel it is one of the great cricketing rivalries, which is pivotal to the health of our game," he said.
"I hope that this honour will further cement the bond between the two countries, which both share a unique love for cricket. I have always received tremendous affection from the Australian cricket fans. Once again my heartfelt thanks to the Australian government."
Ms Gillard yesterday defended the decision to award Tendulkar membership of the Order of Australia, saying people love to discuss all aspects of sport.
"The assessment we made was across the breadth of his career and his status as one of the finest batsmen the world has ever seen, the finest since Bradman."