Good one -- felt like sharing

Once, while interviewing Rahul Dravid, I asked him what it felt like to know that a billion people go to bed happy or sad depending on how Team India played that day. I’ve always regarded Dravid as a very intelligent, articulate person, and his answer that day only enhanced my opinion of him.

“Everyone is born with a special skill,’’ he replied. ``In my case, it happens to be hitting a ball with a piece of wood. Others have skills that enable them to become doctors, or teachers, or scientists. Personally, I’ve always felt that it’s these people who really deserve to be celebrities, not cricketers like me.”

It was an interesting insight, and I was reminded of it the other day while seeing an Intel ad, taglined ‘Our superstars are different from yours’. You know, the one which has a middle-aged man whom you and I would probably walk past in the street without giving a second look. In the ad, he’s evoking the kind of hysteria normally reserved for rock stars. It turns out that he’s a co-creator of USB (Universal Series Bus).

The ad didn’t say it in so many words, but I think it was making an important point: Bollywood stars and sportspersons entertain us, but they don’t really change our lives in any significant way. So just why are we so awed by them, rather than by people who actually make an impact on our lives, without us even realizing it?

I love playing, watching and reading about cricket as much as any Indian. But I do think that as a nation, we lack perspective about it. If we want to feel national pride, why not about something like say, the launch of Chandrayaan, rather than winning a cricket match? If we have to feel dejected, why not about the maternal mortality rate, or our low literacy levels, rather than losing a match?

I hope India sweeps four matches on the trot and retains the T20 World Cup. But if it doesn’t, it won’t be a national catastrophe, so let’s not act like it’s one.

During my career, I’ve reported from battle zones, and I’ve huddled in bunkers while shells have whizzed around. I know a little about life-and-death situations. Believe me, a cricket match is not one of them. Let’s not inflict unnecessary emotional atyachar on Team India and ourselves by making it seem as if they’re fighting a war on our behalf. They aren’t.

So, let our team have a great time playing the sport they love, without fear or undue pressure. And let us have a good time watching them. If we win, great. If we lose, well, let’s appreciate the efforts of the other team and look ahead; our day will come again. As Sachin once told Sidhu during an India-Pakistan match, “tension mat le yaar”.

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