April 11, 2007

Of heroes and hero worship

ESPNcricinfo staff
Brian Lara crashes another four during his fifty, West Indies v Australia, Super Eights, Antigua, March 28, 2007
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So Brian Lara will be gone from the one-day stage. So will Glenn McGrath. Inzamam already is. So is Anil Kumble. It’s a pity. We shan’t see the likes of them any more.

One of the fascinating things about any team sport is the extent to which individual players within a team matter so much to the fan. They provide the rich subtext within the larger narrative of a game. Individual players become our heroes. And heroes provide fans with an extra intensity in the heart of a game they are already intense about.

Heroes offer the repeating, repeatable motifs we pursue in anything we are passionate about – the moment when the bass line kicks in, the instant when the drink has begun to take hold, the moment when we are riding the high, floating, weightless.

I’ve had many heroes in my 30-odd years of following cricket. Increasingly, they are younger, much younger, than I am. (Quite a realization, that, the first time one has it. Then one gets used to it; one knows that the sportsmen we’ll admire will be only younger than we are.)

There have been times when they have gone and something has gone out of me. The passion for the game after such occasions hasn’t quite dwindled; it’s just as though there is a hole in my affections where the player ought to have been.

It’s always been the case with any sport for me. I remember it happening with GR Viswanath in cricket, with John McEnroe in tennis, with Diego Maradona in football. Who has it happened to with you? Has it happened to you at all?

Heroes we find while following a game in our childhoods are the best. (Viswanath, McEnroe and Maradona were mine.) We feel most intensely about them. And if we find players we admire later, the ones we find in childhood or adolescence are the true heroes.

That’s because hero worship essentially belong to the experience of childhood. As we grow older and cynical, we treat with mistrust the notion of being so utterly in thrall to another human being. The late Alan Ross, poet, editor and writer, has the last word on this: ‘I believe that heroes are necessary to children and that as we grow up it becomes more difficult to establish them in the increasingly unresponsive soil of our individual mythology. Occasionally, the adult imagination is caught and sometimes it is held: but the image rarely takes root.’

Soumya Bhattacharya is the editor of Hindustan Times, Mumbai. He is the author of two volumes of cricketing memoirs - You Must Like Cricket? and All That You Can't Leave Behind - and a novel, If I Could Tell You

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Posted by Daryl Dindial on (April 27, 2007, 13:44 GMT)

Yes I do agree when great players leave, somthing special disappears from the game. For West Indians, Cricket would never be the same without Brian Lara, the best batsman in the modern era. Brian thank you for inspiring the cricketing world your records speak for themselves and real cricket fans would always remember the moments you made memories that would forever be etched into our minds.

Posted by theekshana on (April 25, 2007, 17:33 GMT)

an article that evoked similar thoughts in my heart ; senna, maradona, becker, arjuna ranatunga ; i will never feel as closely tied emotionally as i was to them...

Posted by Mike on (April 20, 2007, 13:32 GMT)

Cricket > In days gone by = Richard Hadlee, Dennis Lillee, Sunil Gavaskar, Gordon Greenidge, Des Haynes, Viv Richards, Michael Holding, Ian Smith, Glenn Turner, Imran Khan, Wasim Akram. Not many around these days to come close to these guys. Playing today = Mattiah Muralitharan, Chaminda Vaas, Glenn McGrath, Matt Hayden, Ricky Ponting, Steve Fleming, Shane Bond, Dan Vettori and Brendan McCullum (who I rate as the best WK in the game today), Brian Lara (just retired), Sachin Tendulka, Jacques Kallis.

Posted by Amanda on (April 17, 2007, 18:14 GMT)

It was interesting to read what vinod said about having a billion people to pick another hero out of...but what of us West Indians?

Lara is a flawed genius, but he is above all a genius and has given us so much joy. I'm writing this from the media centre at Kensington- just over 8 years ago I was over in the bleachers watching him carry the West Indies to a spectacular victory with that 153 against Australia. I was 17 at the time and that was and still remains the greatest day of my life. That's what heroes do for their fans.

But look at what we have left now. Who among this lot the WI has now can live up the cricket heroes of our past? There is not a one of the calibre of Lara, Viv Richards, Sobers, Worrell, Walsh, Marshall... Pretty depressing, actually.

Posted by nick mac on (April 16, 2007, 23:37 GMT)

Greg Chappell, Sydney, batting of the back of a series of ducks and a bout of gastro. Sheer determinetion and brilliant batting display, I will remember for the rest of my days. Senna driving an underpowered car to win in wet conditions and then win many more times there after.(schumacher not 1/2 the driver though stats say otherwise.)Thing is, in most sports some one pops up to take the mantle.Gavaskar/Miandad/Aravinda DE Silva/ Wasim/ Lillee/Chappells/Marshal/V.richards etc etc.. now we have the Sachins/ Laras/Hayden/Ponting/Dravid/Trecothic(when well)...I think always we get lost and comfortable in what we have and tend to forgt about the youth wanting a go. For some reason players are left to decide when they are going to quit( like they own the game? No more odi. or no more test.??) Always to long they play, and we await the next big innings. What a farce!.All in the name of money and greed, or you see them let the game slip away in the interest of getting that next 50/100 for the stats sheet.In the 20's/60's to play 50 tests was an achievement, now its expexcted to play 100 and almost a god given right to the player? We have players with 200/300+ games...Why? For me, this is the answer as to why some teams fielding is so lack lustre. No way is the drive there to play and play hard after so many times on the park.I would sack 90% of both the Indian/Pakistani Teams if it were up to me..They showed no interest in the games they were meant to play..Plenty of young stars out there waiting to shine people, we just got to give them ago..As an Aussie, I'll be sad to see Jayasuria leave, AWESOME to watch..Hayden, absolutely Brutal in full flight...but there is life there yet in our youth.dont dispair. all will turn around

Posted by Adheer on (April 16, 2007, 17:06 GMT)

Heroes for children are meant for character building. They idolize certain characters in their heroes and try to emulate them. Heroes can come from any field; music, sport, science etc. As children grow and define their personalities and character their heroes remain as fond memories and as a reflection of themselves. Gods, idols, stars, superstars and leaders are all our heroes to choose from. I disagree with the author in that he said the likes of Lara, Kumble, and Inzi will not come again. Each generation has its sports heroes. The point is the author and the older generation will not look for any heroes in the current or future generations. They may merely enjoy watching the sport devoid of any hero worship. But the youth will always look for their heroes. My other point is that the fans use these good sportsmen or artists as idols and build their character based on them. I think this is very disturbing and may result in fragile character building. If Sachin fails, the fan is depressed because he failed! Only Gods, visionaries and true leaders should be used to promote good character building and personalities. For example, Rama, Jesus, Sita, Rama Krishna Paramahamsa, Vivekananda, Mahatma, Ambedkar, Sai Baba, Mother Therassa, Einstein etc. A character or personality that is based on these sources remains strong most of the time because the sources never fail. If we don’t have access to or faith on these type of sources we tend to find pseudo sources in fields like sports and music. And we tend to see Sachin and Ganguly in the form of gods. How many of us can draw inspiration and build character based on Baba Amte, Medha Patkar, Dalai Lama and many such great modern leaders and visionaries. If we all tap into these sources then Sachin like heroes will remain mere sports stars and some of us who are budding cricketers can actually hero worship to become next Laras and Sachins.

Posted by Omer Admani on (April 16, 2007, 6:26 GMT)

Cricket (1st sport)-- Wasim Akram Cricket (2nd sport)-- Wasim Akram Cricket (3rd sport)-- Wasim Akram Football-- Zidane I like Dravid among Indian batsmen, but unfortunately haven't seen an Indian player with an aura about him-- like Shane Warne or Imran Khan. Amitab Bachan if he were a cricketer.

Posted by sanjay on (April 15, 2007, 4:44 GMT)

play 10 match series between these two teams. india seniors: sehwag, ganguly,dravid, sachin, yuvraj, dhoni,agarkar,zaheer,harbhazan,munaf,powar. coach: gavaskar. india juniors : robin uttappa, vidyuth sivaramakrishnan,mohd.kaif, suresh raina,dinesh karthik,manoj tiwari, irfan pathan, laxmipaty balaji, piyush chawla,sreesanth,r.p.singh. coach: greg chappel.

Posted by Sridhar on (April 15, 2007, 2:48 GMT)

My heros- Sunil Gavaskar, Viv Richards, Pete Sampras.

Posted by Pritam Chowdhury on (April 14, 2007, 23:13 GMT)

Mr Bhattacharya, wonderful article, but one point I wish to make and in a sense ask if you and others agree or not.

Maybe as we age we stop worshiping new heroes who are younger than us, because they point out to us what we werent able to achieve in all the years of workshipping others ?

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