Friday, July 07, 2006

Sporting Heroes

There are those who watch sport for its own sake. I am not one of them - I tend to agree with George Orwell's definition of "war minus the shooting". Sport without the passion and parochialism is sterile, sort of like watching controllers go about their daily jobs (Wow, brilliant Excel Sheet!!! anyone?)

Rare is the tribe of sportsmen who can evoke this passion - who have the capacity to make their fans rejoice at their successes, despair in their failures, even negotiate with God on their behalf (please God, if Becker wins this one I will donate my video game money to charity) Here are a few people who had this impact on me:

David Gower
India was touring England in 1986, not having won anything there since '71. Gower was England's captain for the first Test at Lord's which India won courtesy DBV's hundred. Those were the days when we relied on the radio for live commentary and on DD for 30-min highlights. One frame from that game still stands out in my memory - Maninder was bowling to a woolly-mopped blond left-hander. The ball was tossed up outside off-stump, inviting the drive. The batsman stretched his right foot out to the pitch of the ball, and pushed - never did the bat rise more that a foot above the ground in the follow through. The next shot was of an Indian fielder retrieving the ball from the boundary. I was hooked. And that is how this blog came to be named.

Boris Becker
It was 1985. I was a nine-year old with no clue about tennis. The sport, then as now to some extent, was considered elitist and a rich man's pastime in India. We had just got our first colour TV courtesy my father's uncle who lived with us (and was a huge Bollywood, and Mithun, fan). Wimbledon '85 was all about a tall, gawky youngster who didn't seem to be that much older than me. He was different. He dived around the net, coughed so loud you could hear the echo, screamed to himself, charmed the crowds and actually won! "Champion at 17!" screamed the headlines. That year affirmed the possibilities of youth. Never again did I think I was "too small" to do anything.

Sachin Tendulkar
"India is Tendulkar, Tendulkar is India" - the adage thankfully does not hold true any more for the Indian cricket team. However what a time it was. In a time when cricket was more in the news for bookies and intrigue, when stars made the headlines by their presence in MK Gupta's little black book rather than by their performances, one man carried a nation.
Desert Storm in Sharjah - the perfect example of why cricket is really about individuals and always will be.

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