The crowning of Vishwanathan Anand as the FIDE world chess champion opens up a simple question. Is the wizard, who has been in the top-three for the last 15 years, India’s greatest ever sportsman?
Greater than cricketers like Sachin Tendulkar or Kapil Dev? Greater than the billiards champs like Michael Fereira and Pankaj Advani? Greater than the tennis stars like Leander Paes and Ramanathan Krishnan? Greater than athletes like P.T. Usha? Greater than hockey stars like Dhyan Chand?
Of course, Anand plays an individual sport. Of course, chess is a mind game. But has any sportsperson—and we could include non-sportspersons too to enlarge the debate—has any Indian performed so consistently well on the world stage as Anand and come up trumps? Has any one person done so much to popularise the sport in the country of its birth and make it such a potent global player? And has any superstar been so civil and self-effacing about his mindblowing feats?