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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Leander Paes: India’s greatest sportsman?

Leander Paes: India's greatest ever sportspersonAfter watching the day’s proceedings at the Asian Games at Doha yesterday evening, the question that came to my mind was – If one had to choose, who would he choose to be the greatest sportsman India ever produced?

I asked myself the question many a time over several years and entered into mild arguments with people. I have and still rate chess super grandmaster Viswanathan Anand above the most common answer I get from people, i.e., Sachin Tendulkar.

India’s greatest sportsperson can be one of the following due to various reasons:

a) Sachin Tendulkar (Cricket)
b) Viswanathan Anand (Chess)
c) Leander Paes (Tennis)

No, sportspersons like Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Milkha Singh, Jaspal Rana, PT Usha, the legendary Dhyan Chand, Bula Chowdhury, Kunjarani Devi, Vijay Amritraj, Ramanathan Krishnan, his son Ramesh, Prakash Padukone, Geet Sethi, Kapil Dev or Sunil Gavaskar can't be in the list at all.

Why? Because, either they have won limited and relatively lower prizes or dominated a sport that cannot be termed as global or was global at the time they used to play the game or their records surpassed by now by long margins (despite the fact the US played hockey then and Dhyan Chand bludgeon it with his hockey stick and Kapil was a great all rounder, world record holder once and the captain of the World Cup winning team in 1983).

Now, coming to my shortlist of the three people – Sachin, Anand and Paes – I have the following to say on the three of them individually.

Sachin Tendulkar: He might have scored centuries and by the bagfuls, but I have never seen him winning matches on his own. Even if he did, he did so in times not more than the digits on your left hand (hexadactyly and amputations included). His record is not unmatched by modern day cricketers; in fact, bettered or on the verge of being bettered now. Apart from his 40 ODI centuries, all his other records will tumble while he still will be playing. One might argue that he carried the burden of the team single-handedly when the rest of the team collapsed routinely in the last decade plus the expectations of a billion Indians.

Viswanathan Anand: A true champ in a truly global sport. He alone walked his way right at the top and not many can boast of what he has achieved in a fiercely competitive sport like Chess. A true genius, a rare talent and still is dominating the international chess arena. He is truly India’s top sportsman.

Leander Paes: Achieved nothing as a singles player, never had any kind of rankings to be proud of. However, his record as a double’s player is nothing less than extraordinary. Nonetheless, they don’t qualify him to be amongst the top sportsmen India ever produced. There are greater achievers by other Indian sportsmen in their respective field like Prakash Padukone, Pullela Gopichand, Geet Sethi, PT Usha etc. His above moderate achievements in professional circles notwithstanding, he gave India everything. He gave his heart out. When it came to do something for the motherland, he fought out of his skin and gave it all.

Just take a moment and remember his Davis Cup exploits where he beat greats like Pete Sampras, India’s lone medal at Atlanta Olympics over a decade back and his golds yesterday at the Doha Asiad. No one can claim to even match up to him when it comes to bringing glory to his country.

He is by far the best sportsperson India has ever produced. Leander Paes is the crown jewel of India, and of course without any doubt a billion and half times more worthy of the Bharat Ratna than the obscure and nationally irrelevant MGR who received it posthumously for reasons not beyond cheap political gains.

If you have a different idea, maybe another name that can fit the bill of India's greatest ever sportsperson please let me know.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Saravanan said...

Paes
You nailed it. Paes may not be as gifted as Anand or Tendulkar. But when representing India, he gave his heart out. Importantly he won matches for India in competitions even while playing against players who are 100 times more talented than him. Our cricketers and hockey players should learn from him. He is the role model for aspiring sport persons in this country.

Anand
I dont think anybody in India is immensely talented as Anand in their sports field. Anand inspired many chess players in this country. Infighting within FIDE and bad FIDE rating format hindered Anand's path to greater glory. If not Anand would have become numero uno player in Chess and won more world championships. Anand is still best player in rapid chess category. Its
pity that player like Sania are being hyped up beyond their talent whereas talented player like Anand is ignored most of the time.

Tendulkar
I would say Tendulkar is the best cricket player India has produced. Ever since his debut, he is carrying the burden of expectations of billions of people and with little support from his teammates. He satisfied the people's expectations to an extent. In late 90s with the emergence of players like Dravid eased the pressure off Tendulkar little bit. Offlate Tendulkar's performance is not good as it used to be. Tendulkar should believe in himself. Thats the only thing to regain from his current slump. The other thing I like about Tendulkar is his humility inspite of his big fan following.

9:03 PM  
Blogger mridula said...

I would list Anju Bobby George very high in successful Indian sportsperson's list.

9:14 PM  
Anonymous Sambaran said...

Good point guru. Leander seems to fire up with passion while playing for country. Even in this asiad, he played two matches (almost back to back, doubles and mixed doubles) and wins gold in both of them. Take a bow leander for your never ending vault of energy.

11:40 PM  
Blogger coolguy said...

It's quite difficult to choose between Anand and Paes. Both have won laurels in sports which have global competition. Agreed Sachin Tendulkar has his own milestones and records, but that's in Cricket, which is not (yet) a global game.

9:39 PM  

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