How Kumble & Co are different from you and me

ARVIND SWAMINATHAN writes from Madras: India’s win in Perth will prove many things to many people—the experience of our middle order, the effervescence of our youth, and the power of lip service. But after listening to Anil Kumble‘s tough-as-nails post-match comments, what it chiefly proves is how different our sportsmen are from the rest of their countrymen.

Barely a week ago, all India was shaking its head in mock disbelief that one of their own could have been labelled a racist. From the people on the street to the representatives of the people on the street (Navjot Sidhu, Lalu Yadav, Farooq Abdullah), there seemed to be just one “heroic” response to the disgrace in Sydney: call off the tour and recall the team.

It seemed such a typical, classical, karmic Indian response: jo hua so hua. We did what we could. The stars were aligned against us.

“Don’t take the shit. Come back.”

Contrast that “heroism” with the heroism of the team which: a) manfully suffered the ignominy and the scrutiny in the glare of the cameras, b) pulled up its socks in alien conditions in an alien country, c) looked the aggressor in the eye and did not wince, and d) showed that the series is being played between two teams, not just by one team.

It could still go wrong in Adelaide; it could to you and me.

What the victory in Perth shows, after you have peeled away the cliches of “backing your instincts”, is the true essence of sport and sportsmen. As Simon Hughes, the sports writer of The Times, London, put it so well long ago: Sport is the only profession where the practitioner exposes every cell and every inch of himself in his every act and action, in his pursuit of success and victory.

Politicians, doctors, engineers, carpenters, painters, auditors, journalists, prostitutes, software engineers… you name it, all of us build our lives away from the limelight, away from the public glare. We reveal, yes, but we hide, conceal, twist a lot more in our careers in our pursuit of success and victory.

Contrast that with Kumble & Co today in Perth, after what happened in Sydney.

In their response, Kumble & Co have shown what they are made of.

In our response, all the rest of us showed what we are made of.