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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Leander Paes - An Unsung Sports Icon !

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A nation starved of Icons with whom the youth of country can relate to, fortunately I am happy about the unsung 'ness' which real, worthy Icons face. Leander Paes is one of them.

He become the first Indian to win under 18 Wimbledon tennis tournament. Later on he become first Indians to win a medal in individual sports category in Olympics, by winning much coveted Bronze medal in Single's category 1996 Atlanta Olympics. I remember watching him play against Andre Agassi with so much passion and zeal in that awesome semi-final. Aggassi was in top form then and though he won the match, the world saw what a true fighter Leander was and will remain.  Fortunately Abhinav Bindra won a Olympic Gold for us later on. These 2 medals still remains our cherished and only Olympic medals in any individual sports.

Leander Paes chose to focus on his game, his fitness and stayed away from media, especially the Television advertising. His focus and commitment paid of well as he went on to become one of the most successful Doubles Tennis player of the world. Leander had the opportunity to rake in multi-million dollars by endorsing several brands, attending award functions or by working in movies etc. However he seems to be contend with the prize money and chose to rather use his time to practice, play and win more games, tournaments, one after the other without making any headlines ever except for his achievements in sports.

What I have learned from Leander is that one can remain focused on his work and yet can earn good money, bring name and fame for the nation and for himself. I learned that its not necessary that people around you and the masses will appreciate you for your good work but still you can do what you like and excel at it.

It amuses me that despite of having such a vast pool of raw talent, we as a nation is not able to do much at truly international level ( and I dont think Common Wealth Games are truly international, with all due respect). Once again, who's to be blamed at. System? Government has done absolutely nothing to develop decent sporting infrastructure at the grass-root level. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened to Indian cricket if  exceptional players like Kapil Dev, Mohindar Amarnath and Gavaskar never happened to India. The first and second generation of Indian cricketers developed on their own, drawing inspiration from one another, without any support from government or authorities. If 1983 never happened perhaps 2011 might not have happened either.

The nation became obsessed with Cricket (a sport which is played by practically 8 countries of the world) because we had no other option. Period.

Whatever Leander Paes achieved is exceptional. He achieved it on its own. Our media never cared to write too much about him and that actually worked to his advantage. Because he achieved everything on his own, his success cant be easily replicated and scaled to develop more committed, hard working players like him.

In past 5 years, Cricket grew big because Corporate World started riding on the back of Crickets to promote their brands. Leander Paes is exceptional and not everybody can be like him. So several small town boys, who became popular overnight started riding the euphoria on the back and shoulders of some exceptional 3rd generation players such as Sachin, Kumble, Dravid. The sheer number of talented cricketers available increased, because the money involved, the glamour, name and fame increased all of a sudden, especially after the IPL booom !

Leander Paes personified consistency, he never stopped just because he won an Olympic medal or led India to World Group in Davis Cup.

Sports is not just about entertainment and business as it seems to be reduced to currently in India. Sports is celebration of human spirit and raw capabilities. Technology has made our lives comfortable and will continue to do so. Sports field is where we realize that like other animals, we too are made of flesh and veins. Our blood also boils and heart can afford to skip few beats. When a sportsmen is in a field, doing what he's supposed to be doing, nothing matters except him. No matter how much money is riding on his back nothing but only his performance can raise him above the rest, amidst the best.

We as a nation definitely can do much much better then what we currently think of. Campaigns run by individuals, organizations such Olympic Gold Quest and NDTV Marks for Sports have raised awareness, provided some ray of hope to other sportsmen and women to pursue their passion, learn and excel in sport of their choice.

Still lot more is required, not just from government but from each and every parent. Lets not stop our kids from becoming Saina Nehwal or Leander Paes of tomorrow !


  1. Very much true !
    much needed post and i was thinking to write on this as well :)
    he is a legend when it comes to Asian and Doubles tennis players...
    Great post bro !
    Link text

    1. Thanks Dee. I am looking forward to read you..

  2. I saw his interview on TV few years back, and I must admit, he came out to be very heart felt, dedicated and honest players around. There were no fancy words and no diplomatic statements. He meant what he said. He was perhaps 35 at that time and was still truly passionate about his game and fitness. Its been a pleasure following his conquests in Tennis tournaments over the years and he is one of the most under rated sporting giants of the country.

    1. I agree Kunal. Leander is definitely much more passionate than other current make believe sports icon from Cricket. Its time, we the people start appreciating and respecting Sportsmen outside Cricket as well..

  3. -very informative blog you have there.cheers

    1. Thanks Banti. Hope you enjoy reading other posts as well.

  4. nice one nitin:)

  5. A many thanks to you for highlighting the importance of tennis as a sport in our country. It's much needed. Here, Cricket is God. Hope this mindset changes and people reflect views on other sports too.

    1. Thanks Rohit....I hope all of us keep appreciating and encouraging achievers in all sports, so that media and ultimately sponsors too pay their much needed attention and support.

  6. Anonymous8:30 PM

    Get your facts right, please...


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