destination india

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

the common factor

What do Sania Mirza, Narain Karthikeyan, Vishwanathan Anand, Major Rajyavardhan Rathore and Anju Bobby George have in common? They are all loners – they have only themselves to blame if they lose out in their competitions. Sania has to master the art of playing on clay, grass and hard courts. Narain has to tackle the vicious curves and hairpin bends at breakneck speeds. Vishwanathan has to anticipate several thousand moves of his opponent. Captain Rathore has to hit the bull’s eye every time he pulls the trigger and Bobby George has to scale newer heights to stake claim to the honors. They know that, when they do not deliver, they cannot pass the buck. Sportspersons, like them, have to finance their own careers – sponsors, if any, lend helping hands but are not the reason for them to play. When they win, they bring glory to not only their near and dear ones and family members but also to the country. The financial incentives are add-ons – eagerly accepted but not the main reason to perform.

On the other hand we have our team games – we brought home eight Olympic Golds in Hockey (six consecutive years from 1928 to 1956 and then in Tokyo 1964 and Moscow 1980) way back in the fifties. We also lifted the World Cup for cricket in 1983 once and reached the finals of WC and other important tournaments more than once. Our fans went delirious with joy but we upheld the tradition of losing out at the final post. All that is now history, we cannot rest on those laurels for ever. Failure brings with it criticism. We are told that we lack the killer instinct; we are told that we lose out invariably in the game of nerves, exactly when one has to keep his head we lose ours and gift away matches without any sign of resistance. When netting penalty corners, we always net one less than required and surrender tamely. Our body language tells it all.

The only game where we thump our chests gleefully even in defeat is in the game of politics because this is possibly a game where one never loses – those in power retain power and rejoice in lining their nests for posterity. Those who lose out bargain for more and more perks to ensure that those in power remain in power and continue to dispense goodies under the table. Another term for this typical Indian largesse is horse trading.

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