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Sporting Parallels

The advent of ESPN-Star into the Indian television arena has not only wrought in a lot of excitement among sport lovers but has opened up frontiers to view an eclectic mix of the best sporting action occurring across the planet. Today, the “buffet” served for the sport viewers have veritably increased with a lot more players in the sports telecast arena”. We have been able to relish and appreciate the best of sports, and this article will focus on the several similarities between different sportspersons across different sports and cricket specifically.

Sachin Tendulkar and Ichiro Suzuki:

When Yours Truly was in Japan for nearly two years, he was struck by the ebullience of an iconic sportsman named Ichiro Suzuki, who plays for Seattle Mariners in Major League Baseball. Ichiro is as much a superstar in Japan as is Sachin Tendulkar in India. However what was striking was his very close resemblance in style, substance and character to Sachin.

The six-lettered Ichiro is a five-star person in Japan, not merely because he is referred to by the first name, which is very uncommon, but also because of the dint of his performances when he consistently averaged the highest among all batters while playing for Orix Blue Wave in the non-descript Pacific League in the NPB (Japanese Professional Baseball). He moved over to the superior Major League in 2001 and didn’t miss a beat averaging 0.350 in his first season as a Mariner leadoff hitter. He still plays as the most consistent hitter for the Mariners constantly in tune to win the batting title in the American League. Now that’s uncannily similar to what’s been done by Sachin throughout his batting career.

What’s very common to him and Tendulkar is the way both handle themselves on the field and away from it. His picture-perfect batting technique mirrors that of Sachin in many respects. His all-round hitting ability across different areas in the park parallels Sachin’s 360-degree dominance of the wagon wheel during batting. Ichiro has a fierce arm from right field constantly threatening runners on bases, similar to Sachin’s ability to give the ball a rip from the boundary line while fielding deep. And the most common attribute to these superstars is how they handle their private lives: free of controversy, fully dignified and absolutely mature. They have another common feature; they give really bland and boring interviews, reserving their insight to while playing the game rather than talk about it. Both are hence laconic but special sportsmen who deserve every bit of the adulation they receive.

Zinedine Zidane and VVS Laxman:

Anyone who has seen Zidane play would affirm to the magical abilities and the gazelle-like play that are so part and parcel of “Zizou”‘s game. Zidane is a genius who mixes elegance with innate talent in the right proportions while delivering consistently for both country France and club Real Madrid, who are both the top teams in the football world owing a lot to this maestro. The telling feature of Zidane’s play is how he seems to be from a different planet with his shimmies, flicks, dribbles and cuts amidst a crowd of defenders, making his counterparts and colleagues on the same field look like mere mortals. This feature is what brings into focus, India’s panache-batsman VVS Laxman. When Laxman is on song, the sound of the ball hitting the meat of his bat sounds mellifluous, the flow of his blade is as smooth as the note that emanates from a Beethoven symphony, the ball is caressed across the field as if no friction exists on the ground and the timing of the shot is as perfect as the jump from one note to another in an Ilayaraja song. Both these sportsmen aren’t exactly muscularly endowed, nor are they versions of Adonis, it’s the way they play that draws the choicest eulogies and hosannas from the sport watching public.

Laxman has a long way to parallel Zidane’s standing as the best footballer on the planet, in cricket. Yet for sheer elegance and wizardry with the bat, his name pops up immediately when similar players in different sport are thought about in the same “style” league as Zidane.

Brian Lara & Kobe Bryant:

Before venturing into the similarities, it’s the dissimilarities that have to be pondered about between these two players. Brian Lara plays in a Lone-Star team whose winning/losing is dependent on his performance more often than not. Kobe Bryant plays in a team which is consisted of four future Hall of Famers, the strongman Shaquille O’Neal at Center, “The Glove” Gary Payton at Point Guard and the second highest scorer in the NBA ever, “The Mailman” Karl Malone at Power Forward. With such a robust and strong squad, the pressure is not solely on Kobe’s shoulders to take his team to glory.

However, both these players have an uncanny knack of playing the best with their backs to the wall. Kobe, who has been mired in an alleged sexual harassment trial all season long, has endured a sore shoulder, played all season with hardly any pre-season training and has still performed when he was least expected to. His 36-point outburst against Houston in the fourth and decisive playoff game came right after a court attendance in Colorado. The two outrageous three pointers at the brink of the buzzer against Portland in a late-season game were testimony to his crunch-shooting prowess. Game after game, he has re-affirmed that he is among the best who “perform-when-it-matters-the-most”. This is precisely what Brian Lara is renowned for. His knocks of 153* (which included a fervent partnership with Courtney Walsh for the 10th wicket), 213 against Australia in 1999,the “bring-the-smile-back” 400* were all innings that showed tremendous grit in times of utmost peril. When the game is on the line, Brian Lara and Kobe Bryant’s numbers are invariably dialed and most surely their teams are obliged with a saving/winning performance.

Muttiah Muralitharan & Sohail Abbas:

Sport is full of surprises. Sport is full of the inconceivable. Happenings in Sport are mostly unpredictable. There are a few very “Sure-Fires” in sport, very few “take-it-to-the-bank” stories. Muttiah Muralitharan, the controversial but extremely effective and most deadly spinner from Sri Lanka is a sure-fire performer though. With lots of 5-fers and lots of 10-fers in test cricket in his pocket, there seems to be no one as consistent as this wily off spinner in world cricket. We can always expect at least one 5-wicket haul in a test match from him and invariably our faith and Sri Lanka will be rewarded.

Such consistency has a parallel in Sohail Abbas in Field Hockey. The Drag-flick specialist is a constant threat to the opposition when a penalty corner cometh. His success rate in the penalty corner zone is the highest in international hockey and Pakistan have won a slew of matches due only to the sheer brilliance of Abbas. He has a variety of flicks in his armory and he constantly befuddles the opposition in penalty corner positions with a great sense of direction and a wondrous ability to punch in the requisite power in the shot. A nonpareil target hitter, Sohail Abbas along with Muttiah Muralitharan make up paragons of consistency.

Thanks to the dedicated sports channels, one gets to study the nuances that are common to different sportspersons playing different fiddles and under the ambit of different rules. Three cheers for the globalization of sport!

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