Thursday, August 23, 2012

be the change

Can you today, in one day influence the world around you? Can you change your country, your city?

Leave it be, your profession at least? 

Javed Miandad, he of our growing up times, with one low, self-confident swing of the bat in the late eighties, did, and that too, in much less than a day. In one inspired moment of ‘can do’, he seemed to have inflicted a deep and mortal wound into the psyche of the Indian cricket team. The team thereafter just could not beat Pakistan it seemed. At least, not in Sharjah. Whatever score they put up, it appeared would be hunted down by the Pakistani batsmen. And between the Indian batsmen and any small target, seemed to arise a fearsome Aaqib Javed out of nowhere, conjuring up magical hat-tricks at will; and fantastically, only against the Indians it appeared. The air of defeat seemed to cloying and suffocating, and perennially hanging around, and the self belief that a bunch of fabulous cricketers had, seemed to be locked away safely back home in India.

It was in the mind. Most of it at least, if not all.

Be careful what you think, for your thoughts become your words.
Be careful what you say, for your words become your actions.
Be careful what you do, for your actions become your habits.
Be careful what becomes habitual, for your habits become your destiny.

Google surprisingly, did not definitively attribute the above to someone. Maybe I didn’t search hard enough, but beyond doubt, the insight could not come, but from a wise one.

How many milliseconds separated Usha and an Olympic medal in 1984? How many individual Olympic medals did India win in all of the twentieth century? How many overseas test victories notched up by the India cricket team before the Y2K bug?

Said the famous tagline for a shoe brand, you don’t win silver; you lose gold.

Sport at the rarified levels of the elite and professionals, is all about striving for that little extra. That, millisecond which separates a medal winner from, literally, an also ran. Those little bits of fish fin simulating swimsuits; those carved out squash balls inside gloves; those reduced grams in a tennis racquet. Those invisible back-room boys analyzing patterns, and rhythms and swings and such other minutiae, hoping to give their boys, that bit of advantage.

That said, separating the winners from the also-rans is also another little thing. Self belief. That little thing which makes a sportsperson believe in himself or herself, when all seems hopeless and lost, and ignominy is a ton of bricks just around the corner.  That imperceptible little thing which digs deep, hard and strong, through the bloody eyed pain. That thing which deep within, says quietly first and then with a roar : This day is yours. No one can take it away from you. Your destiny is yours. Just. Once.  More. Now GET UP AND GET OUT THERE ! AND SEIZE THIS DAYYYY AND MAKE IT YOURS!

281, Kolkata. In hindsight, I believe it was not about a solitary and fabled victory at all. Far from it.

In hindsight, that knock defined a decade of cricket in India. Indeed, probably of sport in India itself?

How many overseas test victories did India win from 2001 to 2010? England, South Africa, Australia, the object of cricketing wet dreams? How many Olympic medals did India win in just 2008 and 2012? Six medals in 2012 alone ! Who would have ever thought? How little, or how much that knock of Laxman's had to do with it, who knows?

For sure it would be foolish and naive to believe that this is all the fruit of that One Day, the Fabled one; and all the doing of that one man. Beyond doubt, hundreds, even thousands perhaps have sweated collective blood, sweat and tears, so to speak, to have these results achieved. But did not the effort of Vangipurappu Venkata Sai Laxman on That Day not have anything to do with it at all? Nothing?

Did one gentle and seemingly soft human being, in the course of a day, not teach us as a sporting country, to wipe away the blood from our nose, sweat from our brow, and then say ‘Okay buster, now bring it on then; let’s see what you got’.

Did he not make us Believe?