Cricketcountry on 27.3.2012The following post by the author was published on
Out of the pit
On March 26, 2012, when Tiger Woods closed with a two-under 70 for a five-shot win over Graeme McDowell, he looked his old dominant self in the well-remembered red shirt. The man who has often been acknowledged as the greatest golfer of all time, thus won the Arnold Palmer Invitational, his first PGA Tour triumph in 923 days.
Although Woods would like to count the unofficial Chevron World Challenge of last December, and thus take some months off his title drought, the fact remains that he has won his first major tournament since the BMW Championship on September 13, 2009. It was his 72nd tournament win, one short of Jack Nicklaus and currently 10 away from the record title collection of Sam Snead (82).
The interim period had not been easy for the champion, with sex scandal, divorce, swing changes, three separate injuries, sacking of his long-time caddy along with public and media scrutiny about whether he would return to winning ways again – all taking their toll.
It all boiled down to a question of holding on to his self-belief – after all, a champion of his ability cannot suddenly lose his skill.
Immense as this news is in the sporting world, it also highlights a curiosity underlining the difference between the followers of global sports and the Indian counterparts glued to the spectacle of cricket.
Longitudes and Attitudes
Woods is often mentioned in the same breath as Muhammad Ali, Pelé, Don Bradman, Mark Spitz, Babe Ruth, Carl Lewis and a select few hallowed names as the greatest of all time in the absolute scale of sportsmen across disciplines and eras.
In contrast Sachin Tendulkar is merely the greatest batsman of modern times – and many of his critics, who are unwilling or incapable of rational analysis, grudge him even that status.
However, when it comes to extremes of criticism of their respective trades, the Indian master has had much more to endure than the supreme golfer.
While Woods has been openly censured in the last two and a half years, sometimes mercilessly enough to resemble the psychological version of Biblical stoning, most of his critics have dwelt on his moral transgressions and raised significantly limited questions about his prowess as a master golfer. Indeed plenty of lambasting, sermonising, analysis – even ridicule and abuse – of his personal life have taken place, often indulged in by people one would scarcely trust near their own womenfolk. However, there have certainly been a very few calls for his handing in his mashie and putter – and if doubts have been raised about his sporting future, the voices have generally remained reasoned and rational.
There has hardly been media madness created by tally marks notched against each day Woods lived without winning his next tournament and 24x7 channels dealing with nothing else but the vigil.
However, in contrast to the 30-month barren spell of the golfer, Tendulkar has top scored for India – by some distance – in their World Cup win just a year back. His spate of centuries, which had become a flurry during the 2010-11 season had suddenly dried up for the last 12 months, but by no stretch of imagination had the dry run approached anywhere near that of Woods.
Yet, the extent, level and the recurrence of voices calling for his head reached such illogical levels of chaotic cacophony that ultimately the great man, who had forever let his bat do the talking, decided to append his willow crafted arguments with words as well.
Which leads us to the question: Why this difference in attitude? Why this largely national impatience to pull down icons from their pedestals? Why this urge to defile monuments?
Woods, in spite of his obvious greatness, does have two more names to overtake before racing ahead of the field. In contrast Tendulkar’s number of hundreds, which has for so long been the national obsession, is far ahead of what anyone else has achieved in the history of the game – by a good 30% distance. Yet, the wait had been too much for the fanatics who throng around the game to keep them from debasing the achievements of a phenomenon and the immense irrational pressure built up on the genius has probably imploded into a change of his outlook and attitude.
Is it that Indians, in stark contrast to the Americans and other nations with rich sporting heritage, are not used to having many champion sportspersons in their midst? Are their expectations when they suddenly find such a winner in their midst at odds with the logical world? Do they ascribe powers more suited to their familiar mythical heroes to this unknown and unaccustomed phenomenon of a sporting great? Is it the celebrated crab mentality – perhaps one of the reasons why there is an everlasting dearth of world class sportsmen?
In India, one can only keep wondering.