Friday, January 03, 2014

The Zero Hero

A country of 1.2 billion people certainly needs its heroes. The frustrated housewife in Trivandrum who was sick and tired of the road blockade by the opposition party workers that had laid siege to the Chief Minister's residence and let loose a verbal volley that had the party workers reeling and hiding behind our men in khaki and forced them to open the road for movement of the common man. An act that resulted in a leading industrialist awarding her Rs 5,00,000 as a reward but also made her the voice of the voiceless. The former Joint Commissioner from the Revenue Services who fought for the Right to Information Act, the massive underdog who took on the incumbent Chief Minister in Delhi and defeated her by a margin of over 25 thousand votes. An act that resulted in him becoming the brightest ray of hope in a country filled with cynicism and accustomed to decades of corruption, nepotism and abuse of power by those we elect. The man who most fans regard as the greatest cricketer of all time. But did his exploits off the field invite the admiration that his cricket career did? 

They certainly come in all shapes and sizes

Outside of his much publicized automotive misadventure, there are stories that never make it to the front pages of our national media and thus leave us with untainted and consequentially deluded perceptions of our icon. Few people know the story of how around a decade or so ago, the cricketer wanted to get one of his cars fitted with a top notch sound system and when the installer returned the car, the missus calmly told them that he should be proud that he was getting the opportunity to work for one of cricket's greatest batsmen and that he should not expect to be paid. After saying that he needed to be paid for the cost of the components and that he could give a discount on the installation charges he was also told his business would boom because he could boast about the fact that he had worked on the car of our nation's greatest sports star. Ticked off, the installer asked for the keys to the car so that he could remove the speakers if he was not going to get paid by the wife of our cricketer in question which is when she finally caved in and decided to pay up. 

After his much publicized retirement, the cricket maestro decided to apply for membership to a prestigious club next to his large bungalow in Bombay and despite the massive waiting period for people trying to become members (think small multiples of 10 years for an idea of how long) the club decided to go ahead and allow him to jump to the head of the line. As per their policy they sent him a letter informing him of the acceptance of his application and asked him to proceed with the payment of the membership fee (think small multiples of Rs 10 lacs / 1 million for an idea of how much) which is when our star batsman replies back to them stating that he has never paid for a club membership in his life and he being who he is was of the opinion that the club should waive off the joining fee. The elected representatives of the club then proceeded to unanimously cancel his application (much to my delight) and told him to take a hike. 

This ladies and gentlemen, is a man who by virtue of being the first really big name in Indian cricket (no offence to those greats who preceded him), helped changed the rules of sponsorship and ensured that sportspersons make a pretty penny from endorsements. This is the man who has inspired countless youngsters over the last few decades with his performances on the cricketing field. As part of the fabulous four of Indian batting, he was the hero the nation wanted. He was the hero the nation needed. Outside of the cricketing grounds and away from the spotlight, it’s a shame that he probably isn’t the hero that we thought he was.