A year for some recognition of Indian sports comes to an end. The year 2010 had as many uplifting stories from the realm of sports in India (not the Organising part though) and I’ve been lucky enough to pass off watching every moment in my office in the past months on the pretext of ‘serious work’ (jealous eh?).
Commonwealth Games and Asiad were truly the feathers in the cap with previously unheard sports and sportspersons making headlines, winning medals and in the process, telling the world that we were not a population of a few sporting events only. Conversely, the one game that binds the nation together more than religion and governance - cricket, would be expected to take a back seat in face of such other glorious moments. This, my dear amigos, is not true at any level. Despite us being given a healthy dose of tennis, shooting, track and field, boxing, wrestling and a gamut of other exciting games, we still hold cricket as the synonym of sports in India.
reason is simple – Sachin Tendulkar. As long as you have a living god of willow playing, everything else will be dwarfed. Now many would see the glass empty but I would like to tell my fellow pessimists that technically, a glass is never empty (it’s filled with air if not fluids!). Sachin is to cricket what Michael Jordan is to basketball, what Tiger Woods is to golf, what Nadia Comaneci is to gymnastics, what Michael Schumacher is to F1 and what Pete Sampras is to tennis.
He is one individual who has defined a sport like no other athlete in the arena, making the world to stop and check out what this silly game (they call it a ‘gentleman’s game, what a hoot) of bat and ball is about.
A sportsperson truly becomes the symbol of a sport when he/she takes it to a level when even the non-playing nations acknowledge the presence of the sport with the news of the game’s most valuable star. Sachin has done that ‘time’ and again. This year too, the only Indian to feature in Time magazine’s Top 10 sporting moments of the world was Sachin with his double ODI ton, that too in his 21st year of international competition!
A world obsessed with football, tennis, baseball, basketball, golf and the likes gets to know of a game called cricket not because of the IPL, Ashes, World Cups etc. etc. but through the grit of the Bombay Bomber and his ability to carry the weight of a sport on his shoulders.
The past year saw Sachin become the first to score an ODI double ton but that did not satiate his hunger and he went on to slam his 50th Test ton. Congregating more than 1,500 runs during the year at an average of more than 80, this Indian Air Force honorary Group Captain slammed the most number of centuries in a calendar year in his entire career!
What is the result, many may ask, due to the fact that we’re still eons away from a World Cup (even the T20 one). Well, we are the number one Test team in the world and Sachin’s contributed over 14,000 runs over the years to pitch-in his bit (a lot actually) to get us there.
In a cricketing realm that could have been irreparably damaged with the terror attacks and fixing allegations, it is partly because of Indian cricket and primarily because of Sachin’s immaculate conduct that world over, the game is still watched with interest whenever he is at the crease.
In Bruce Springsteen’s words, “Bet I can make you smile when the blood, it hits the floor. Tell me friends can you ask for anything more?” Sachin has been the headline and the footer of Indian cricket in 2010, though many would perceive smaller tournaments and home wins to be the icing on the cake, the cake itself is Sachin.
However, it would not be right to write-off the efforts of the other ten players in the team and as many more on the bench as they too have done their bit to keep our interest in the game alive, but the difference is that while a cricketer plays for his country, Sachin plays for the country and the game’s image in front of the world. Here’s a large one to the Master, wishing all cricket crazy Bobs a very happy 2011! Cheers!
(The views expressed by the author are personal)