Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Greatness In Sport - Conclusion

Hello All,

I am back again as promised - now with the criteria and the eventual "winner" of Pavan-Laureus award for the Greatest Sportsman.

1. Special Skill - If you keenly follow sports, you would clearly know the difference between a Great Player and a Very Good Player. All great players are blessed with Immense Talent and skills that come naturally to them. Sachin has a lot of time to decide and play the shot he wants, Md. Ali to decide what punch to strike his opponent down, Kasparov to reflect what among several checkmates is his preferred option and in the same breadth can take the names of all the nominees. So, on this criteria , every one scores equally well - no clear winner emerges on this one.

Kasparov - Truly Special Talent

Tiger Woods - Amazing Skills

Schumacher -  Won every where
2. Conquering All Conditions/Opponents - All the sportsmen encounter various conditions which are alien to their home as the sports are now competed globally that takes them round the world. This is a very key criteria that can distinguish from a Home bully ( ala Sameeraweera who averages around 70 at home and 20 outside subcontinent) to an Allround performer. In our list, Sachin has a great record every where but in SA where his average is "ordinary", Federer has a Grandslam proving he conquered all conditions and opponents albeit without defeating Nadal in French, Maradona doesn't have a great record for his country in Asia ( banned for drugs in Korea ), Schumacher does have an excellent track record , Md. Ali and Kasparov to an extent didn't need to show this skill due to the nature of the sports they played ( mainly on conditions front ), Bubka failed in all Olympics except Seoul for inexplicable reasons and Woods did have a great record when he won All Majors in Golf.

So, we can short list Federer, Schumacher and Woods as the "better" of the group on this point.

Ali - Just 5 Losses In His Career
3. Statistics - Though most of the fans scorn the numbers and point us to look at the "class", the history does go by the numbers and the data.Looking at the list we have , Sachin has been the No.1 batsman per Wisden for not a great amount of time, Federer holds the record for having No.1 for the longest time , Maradona can claim that he was the No.1 during his time ( per FIFA as well ) ,  Schumacher by far is the best with highest wins which is the same as Md. Ali and Kasparov ( with the highest ever ELO rating ), Bubka and Woods complete the list with almost flawless numbers.

So, Sachin loses out on this criteria - but the fans can always point out to the fact that he has the maximum number of international centuries and the only living person in Bradman's Dream Team.

Bubka - Olympic Curse
4. Winning When IT Matters - All of us have personal dreams of winning when something really matters the most - could be a job, promotion, partner or anything in life. In the same way, all the sportsmen will have personal dreams of winning the KEY events successfully and playing a hand in it. Sachin successfully played a hand in India's WC win but from a pure personal front doesn't boost a great record in winning matches for India individually, Federer doesn't have a great Grandslam record against Nadal , Maradona won the WC with a 100% personal performance in a team game, Schumacher with Senna around might not have had the wins he had ( pure conjecture ), Ali lost just 5 games in his phenomenal career, Kasparov won everything that mattered, Bubka unfortunately lost in Olympics almost all the time and Tiger has had difficulties in dealing with "post glory" days.

Here , Maradona, Ali and Kasparov make the cut compared to others.

A Billion Hopes on HIS Shoulders
5. Handling Expectations - All of us know how difficult it is to deal with expectations - whether be that of the boss at work or that of parents/partners at home or peer pressure otherwise. It surely makes it difficult for any one to manage and handle expectations and do that consistently and successfully over a period of time. On this front, Sachin alone can claim victory as he carries the hopes of a Billion plus people each time he walks onto the cricket field and does manage the expectation very well. The rest in the list fortunately are not burdened with expectations and had the luxury of performing for themselves or for a limited set of people.

Great Talent, but had trouble dealing with it
6. Mental Fortitude - This might be a subjective one, but I will try to make it simpler. Sachin's mental fortitude and behaviour are exemplary ( but for the Ferrari controversy ) , Federer never shows emotions while on the court and his behaviour outside court is spotless, Maradona has a troubled life with drugs, ego etc. , Ali and Kasparov had run-ins with their governments and controversies, Schumacher had his sportsmanship questioned a few times when he "delibaretly" hit others' cars, Tiger had his major share of worries after his broken marriage and finally Bubka is the other "Non Controversial" person in the list.

Federer and Bubka emerge the "cleanest" amongst the lot.

Now, the time to decide the winner. It has been a good exercise for me to feel nostalgic and try to do "benchmarking" amongst the very best. By the criteria listed and the various sub-winners, there is really no clear winner emerging which is not a surprise considering the pedigree of  the sportsmen in the list I had shortlisted.

But since there has to be a winner - I picked Federer who shows absolutely phenomenal skills and class with consistency, humility in life , dignified and balanced whether playing a crosscourt winner or handling press conferences in multiple languages and above all, a true champion.

Federer - My Champion - Is He Yours Too ?

I am sure my choice might not reasonate well with the Billion Fans :) But I tried to do my best despite the fact that I am one of HIS fans as well.

Looking forward to talking to you all on a different topic soon.

- Pavan


  1. As always you were at your best when it comes to sports. True to your explanation and observation that Federer is the winner. I hope he would be happy to see that one of his fans ranked him the best 'among the best'.

  2. Very nicely done...the criteria here seem to be spot on . One name i would have added to this list of sportsmen though, is Michael Jordan, who possessed magnificent all round skills at his sport and would have scored highly in almost all criteria - he rose to the occassion numerous times to lead his team to 6 NBA and 2 Olympic gold titles, transcended the sport and brought its exposure to a far wider world-wide audience, while being fiercely competitive , but a likeable gentleman outside the court. The only thing i would hold against him is his penchant for comebacks !

  3. am dng gud..hope vodina n u r doing fn...its a nice article..grt tht u chose my inspiration n my favourite fedex..