Saturday, March 5, 2011

The genius of Sachin Tendulkar

‘Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see’. These are the famous words of the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, and as I watched Sachin Tendulkar fashion a magnificent century against England at the Chinnaswamy stadium, they seemed most apposite. Of course, England’s bowling was mediocre, at best, and later in the day Andrew Strauss matched and perhaps bettered Tendulkar’s innings; yet it seemed Tendulkar was the real genius.

But this begs the question as to what constitutes genius? Is there at all a place for the word in the world of sport, where its usage is hackneyed – often employed even to describe the banal and the pedantic? Teresa Lacerda and Stephen Mumford in an outstanding article in the Journal of Philosophy on Sport – yes there does exist something of its ilk – argue that while in art, the genius “innovates some new technique, movement or style”, in sport, “the genius is one who creates new sporting strategies that tend toward competitive success.”

To me, genius is a mastery of space, achieved through intuition – an exertion of one’s will over another. Throughout history man has been fascinated by space and philosophers great and meek have theorized on its forms. The German philosopher, Immanuel Kant, wrote in Critique of Pure Reason that space is an a priori form – something intuitive from which knowledge is later gained. Kant’s work may have come under intense criticism, but in many ways his theory on space finds embodiment in the world of sport and nowhere more perfectly than in the batting of Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.

As Tendulkar carved gaps in the field that even to the probing eye seemed non-existent, my father, with whom I was watching the game, opined that this was down to pure providence. Placement of such precision, he said, cannot be calculated. Yet, I thought, it was this innate ability of Tendulkar’s that sets him apart from the rest. His knowledge of where the spaces in the field were seemed utterly intuitive and not least bit manufactured. The works of a genius are rarely explicable and as Kant argued, even the genius is himself often unaware of how his idea was conceived. I am sure Lionel Messi would not have an answer to how he dribbles past maze after maze of defenders like they never existed. Genius is vague and enigmatic and therein lies its beauty.

Matthew Syed in his book, ‘Bounce: How Champions are Made,’ uses the Malcolm Gladwell line of thought and argues that talent is overrated; a person acquires command of a skill through purposeful practice for a period of at least 10,000 hours. Tendulkar in his rigorous sessions at the dusty Sivaji Park in Mumbai where he learned the game would have undoubtedly lapped up these hours well before his teenage years. But it is difficult to believe that at the core of his achievements are not his inherent gifts but the strenuous and committed practice of the art. The intense coaching and painstaking training must have surely contributed towards the thriving of his genius, but they most certainly cannot account for its creation.

As he twists his wrists to find the minutest of gaps that leave the opposition and the spectators gaping in awe, Tendulkar himself I doubt is aware of the gravity of his accomplishment. This intrinsic gift, though, is only but an element in his genius. To him creativity bears no boundaries. In a career of over twenty years, he has been faced with the need to constantly innovate; to change his game to suit the demands of the time. But this burden has rested easy on his shoulders. Creativity comes intuitively to Tendulkar. The double-hundred in Sydney in 2004, where he famously shunned the cover-drive was by itself a manifestation of his force – an ability to eschew the natural as an inventive answer to the necessities of the situation.

The sustenance of his talents for more than two decades is, perhaps, the greatest element in Tendulkar’s genius. By meeting the need to create in every step along the way, he has imposed his will like no other – an imperious mastery of space by a true genius.

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1 comment:

Priyanka said...

Sachin is the most overrated over-hyped cricketer in the world. Sachin Tendulkar's inability to win matches for India a blot on his career.

Sachin is the most overrated over-hyped cricketer in the world.