Sachin gong cheapens Aussie honours

OPINION

With the annual Australia Day honours looming again, I'm thinking what a terrific idea it is for one country to honour a cricketer from another country.

But rather than Sachin Tendulkar being gonged by Australia, I have in mind the reverse: Steve Waugh being recognised by a nation whose people he actually helps - India.

I'm still rankled by Julia Gillard's ill-considered announcement a few months ago, while schmoozing in India, giving Tendulkar an honorary OA.

It might have won her a few headlines; it might even help in some small way to build bridges that are important to business and security between the two nations.

But it came at a cost of cheapening the awards that will be handed out to scores of worthy Australians next week.

I have no objection to handing out Australian honours to foreigners, provided they have done something of special significance for Australia or Australians.

Among those who come to mind are two Indonesians - Da'i Bachtiar and Made Mangu Pastika, chiefs respectively of the national and Balinese police at the time of the Bali bombings, who did so much to forge closer ties with Australia as they successfully hunted down all of the terrorists.

Fred Hollows, the revered eye surgeon, declined an honorary award as a New Zealand citizen but accepted a full-blown one when he became an Aussie.

Our honorary awardees include a few great souls who probably could be recognised by humanity in general - Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi.

But what has Sachin Tendulkar ever done for Australia, apart from giving sports lovers pleasure?

On that basis, why not dish out awards to - gee, take your pick - Pele? Maradona? Alessandro Del Piero? (At least he now plays for an Australian club). Michael Phelps? Usain Bolt? Roger Federer? Tiger Woods? If we had given one to Lance Armstrong, would we now be taking it back?

If you start honouring sportsmen who aren't Aussies, have never lived here, and have done nothing special for this country, where does it all end?

Why restrict it to sportsmen? Why not Madonna, Tom Cruise, Bart Simpson and, while we're at it, the Rolling Stones, too, posthumously if necessary?

For the record, Tendulkar is the fourth foreign cricketer so recognised, after West Indians Clive Lloyd, Gary Sobers (an Australian citizen through marriage) and Brian Lara. Why no-one from our oldest and greatest rivals, England?

Tendulkar is a master batsman. But as such he has arguably wrought more misery on Australian scorecards than just about anyone else.

No cricketer has played more matches against Australia, and only the ancient Jack Hobbs has scored more Test runs against us.

Neither has Tendulkar endeared himself to fans in recent times.

He refused to speak to the media while touring here with India last summer. And he caused great resentment when he changed his evidence over the course of two hearings into the so-called "monkeygate" affair a few years ago involving racial vilification allegations, effectively getting Harbajan Singh off the hook.

Gillard's gesture to a major trading partner was cheap, transparent and lacking in judgment.

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