Sachin Tendulkar will not be the first Indian cricketer to dabble at the fringes of politics.
The pioneer was perhaps an old British colonial administrator. Lord George Robert Canning Harris has captained the English cricket team in the early years of international cricket, before ending up as governor of Bombay Presidency 1890 to 1895. Harris did enough to promote cricket in the city to have a schools tournament named after him; it was in a Harris shield match that Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli were involved in a record 664-run partnership. But Harris, as head of the MCC, infamously tried to block the inclusion of Ranji into the English cricket team because he was not born an Englishman.
Another interesting man who moved from the cricket field into politics was P. Baloo, the eldest of four brothers who made their mark in the game. The Palwankar brothers were from a caste that was once regarded as untouchable. Baloo was one of the stars of the first All India team that went to England in 1911 under the leadership of the Maharaja of Patiala. One brother --- Shivram --- was also on the boat to England. Another --- Vithal --- was captain of the Hindu team that won the Quadrangular final against the Europeans in 1923 after a thrilling run chase in which he hit the winning runs. The delirious crowd lifted the untouchable captain on its shoulders.
When Baloo and Shivram returned from the 1911 tour, they were felicitated by their community in a public function that had a young student named B.R. Ambedkar as an organizer. Baloo later joined politics, first with the Hindu Mahasabha, then with Ambedkar, and finally with the Congress, in the 1930s.
The same decade saw the Indian team go to England twice, in 1932 and 1936. Vijay Merchant, arguably the best Indian batsman of the time, refused to go with the 1932 team as a protest against the imprisonment of Indian political leaders by the British colonial government. He eventually went out in 1936, when the 1935 Government of India Act had paved the way towards provincial elections, one of the steps towards eventual freedom. The captain of the 1936 team was the Maharajkumar of Vizianagram, or Vizzy. He led the team because of his princely origins rather than his cricketing abilities, and was one reason why the mercurial but immensely talented Lala Amarnath was sent back halfway through the tour of disciplinary grounds. Vizzy later joined politics, and was the Lok Sabha member from Visakhapatnam.
The next big episode took place in 1971. Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi was one of the many princes who were angry with the decision of the Indira Gandhi government to abolish privy purses, a payment that the government had promised in 1947 as an incentive for royal families to integrate their territories with the Indian Union. Pataudi stood as a candidate for the Vishal Haryana Party from Gurgaon in the 1971 Lok Sabha elections, only to be swept away by the Indira wave. He gave it another shot in 1991, as a Congress candidate in Bhopal. Rajiv Gandhi campaigned for him a few days before he was assassinated. Pataudi lost once again.
Since then, many other Indian cricketers have tried their hand at politics --- Navjyot Singh Sidhu, Chetan Chauhan, Kirti Azad, Manoj Prabhakar, Mohammad Azharuddin and Vinod Kambli. None of them has reached the heights of Imran Khan, who is widely considered to be the dark horse of Pakistan politics. Tendulkar does not seem to be entering the muddy waters of party politics --- as yet. He will be nominated by the president to the Rajya Sabha. It remains to be seen whether he will treat the appointment as pleasant diversion or use it as a stepping stone towards a more active political life.