The Grand Master versus the Little Master

The Grand Master versus the Little Master
It’s been a long time since I have written a blog and I had almost given up on blogging. The recent series of events and a number of articles that have gone through have led to an interesting question within me about which I am going to write in this blog. It’s quite an intriguing title that I have started to write on, a little puzzling too. Let me explain first about the title. The Grand Master in the title is ‘Grand Master’ Vishwanathan Anand. The Little Master in the title is none other than Sachin Tendulkar. How can they be competing against each other given that they are from two different sporting disciplines? Well, it so happens that they are actually competing against each other in one particular race.
First let me explain about some of the recent events involving them and what I read about these great men and what led to this title…..
Indian Premier League (IPL) 2010 has just concluded. My favorite team Chennai Super Kings (CSK) led by Mahendra Singh Dhoni defeated the Mumbai Indians (MI) led by Sachin Tendulkar. Though MI lost the cup, Sachin ended up with the most number of runs in this edition and was the deserving winner of the ‘Orange Cap’ – a memento for the leading run scorer in each edition of IPL. Tendulkar played the finals despite having stitches in his hand. He batted valiantly but unfortunately could not prevent his team from losing. Earlier this year he achieved the feat of scoring the highest individual innings score in ODI – He scored a massive 200 runs in the match against South Africa in February 2010 at Gwalior. His list of records in cricket is endless. Despite being a very successful cricketer and an icon/ demigod for millions of his fans he is pretty down to earth. For a little bit of history about Tendulkar and a list of his records please visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sachin_Tendulkar
As I am writing this blog, the 12 round duel between Vishwanathan Anand and Veselin Topalov (http://www.anand-topalov.com/) taking place in Bulgaria is mid way through. Anand is currently leading at 3.5 points to Topalov’s 2.5 points, but the title race is far from over. To give a little bit of background about Anand: Anand is the current World Chess Champion. He is the first Chess player in history to win the World Championship in three different formats: Knockout, Tournament, and Match. Veseline Topalov is challenging Anand’s position as World Champion and by the end of the 12th round match between them on 11th May we will get to know whether Anand or Topalov will emerge victorious. Anand is also one of the only five players in history to break the 2800 mark on the FIDE rating list. For a little bit of history about Anand and a list of his records please visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vishwanathan_Anand
That still leaves us far from how/ why I zeroed in on this title. So how on earth did this thought occur to me? Well, I was reading commentary in Tamil about the matches between Anand and Topalov written by Lalitha Ram (http://cricketthavira.wordpress.com/) on the Tamil blog that I regularly follow (http://idlyvadai.blogspot.com/). After I finished reading the blog, I went to check out about Anand on Wikipedia. Then suddenly out of nowhere I decided to check out about Sachin on Wikipedia. As I was going through one particular section, something struck me; I opened Anand’s profile on Wikipedia in another window and compared it with Sachin. It so happened that Anand and Sachin are racing against each other and my blog is about this race and who might win in this race.

Before we see what this race is all about, a few nuggets of information that would serve as disclaimer or help to provide a level playing field. Anand (born 1969) is four years elder to Sachin (1973). Anand came into public attention in 1984 (when he became youngest Indian to win ‘International Master’ title) five years ahead of Sachin’s historical tour to Pakistan. On the flip side Sachin is an international icon in a very popular/ viewer friendly form of sport which is also India’s National Sporting Passion. Therefore the amount of visibility and adulation that he receives is far higher than Anand. With this disclaimer let me start elaborating about what this race is all about.

Take a look at the list below:
1. Anand won the Arjuna award (an award to Indian sportsmen from government of India) in 1985. Sachin won the Arjuna award in 1994.
2. Anand won the Padma Shri award (India’s fourth highest civilian honor) in 1987. Sachin won the Padma Shri award in 1999.
3. Anand won the inaugural Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award (India’s highest sporting honor) in 1991- 1992. Sachin won the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award in 1997 – 1998.
4. Anand became the first sportsperson to win Padma Vibhushan (India’s second highest civilian award) in 2007. Sachin won the Padma Vibhushan in 2008.
So by this time it would have become clear to you what this race between Anand and Sachin (that I am talking about) is all about – It’s about the Bharat Ratna (India’s highest civilian honor). It so happens that no sportsperson has won the Bharat Ratna so far (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bharat_Ratna#Complete_list_of_recipients). So whichever of these gentlemen wins the Bharat Ratna ahead of the other will also become the first sportsperson to win the Bharat Ratna.
To be fair enough there have been a few sportspersons (four to be precise) in the past who should have been conferred with the Bharat Ratna (Well that’s my list, there might be many more deserving sports personalities); They are Major Dhyan Chand (3 Olympic gold medals), Leslie Claudius (3 Olympic gold medals and a silver medal – a world record in Hockey that he shares with Udham Singh), Udham Singh (3 Olympic gold medals and a silver medal) and Balbir Singh Sr. (3 Olympic gold medals); all from the Indian Hockey fraternity. The reasons to why one of these men if not all of them did not win the Bharat Ratna is a puzzle that only Indian politicians can solve. It is also quite possible (though only a remote possibility) that a sportsperson apart from Anand & Sachin might win the Bharat Ratna first.
But my bet would be that one of these men would win the Bharat Ratna ahead of any other sportsmen. In fact I don’t see any one sportsperson in the current generation except for Leander Paes, who come anywhere close to Anand and Sachin (Tenure of successful career, being a very good ambassador for their respective sporting disciplines, importance of the milestones achieved, consistency of performance and keeping the nation’s flag fluttering proudly in the international sporting arena).
Sachin’s case: It looks like the Maharashtra government is going to recommend Sachin’s name for the Bharat Ratna this year. The government might decide to honor Sachin this year itself. Even if he is not conferred with the honor this year, the next year the ODI cricket world cup will be jointly hosted by India. Sachin has never been part of a worldcup winning team and would be keen to be part of the worldcup winning team next year. If India manages to win the worldcup, the voice of all those people supporting Sachin’s candidature would be deafening. If India does not win, Sachin might still decide to retire. If Sachin retires, the grateful nation would want to give him a fitting farewell from the sports field and might confer the Bharat Ratna to Sachin.
Anand’s case: It’s not clear whether the Tamil Nadu government has recommended Anand’s name in the past or is planning to recommend this year. If Anand beats Topalov to defend his world title, then there would not be much left for him to achieve in the Chess Arena (Remember Anand has won the world title in three different formats and if he beats Topalov he would have also successfully defended his world title). In that case, the government might honor the person who has achieved the pinnacle in his sporting discipline with the Bharat Ratna.
That still does not answer who will win the Bharat Ratna first. At this point in time Sachin is a little ahead in the race with his state government thinking about recommending his name. But wait till Anand wins the duel against Topalov; Tamil Nadu government might recommend Anand’s name. Then the race would be on even footing. If the Tamil Nadu government does not Anand’s name then Sachin would definitely have the edge.
The political angle to this whole race is that both NCP which is part of the coalition with Congress that rules Maharashtra (from where Sachin hails from) and DMK which rules Tamil Nadu (from where Anand hails from) are key allies in India’s central government. If both these state governments recommend a deserving sportsperson from their state this year, the central government might honor both of them this year itself so as to keep both its allies happy. In that case, the race between Anand & Sachin would end in a tie.
Irrespective of whether politicians support their cause or not, Anand and Sachin are deserving sportspersons who should be conferred with the Bharat Ratna at the earliest. The same applies to Leander Paes also.
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