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Thursday, 25 July 2013

What can we learn from Bartoli, Raikkonen and Sammy

Six years ago, in 2007, when she reached her first grand slam final at the very same grass heaven, people were wondering how Marion Bartoli even made it all the way through to the finals. She did not look like the fittest person around given the normal standards, she did not move that great in the court, she had a strange stance while serving and played both her forehand and backhand shots with both hands most of the times. Comments ranged from "bizarre" to "outrageous" to "crazy". She faced Venus Williams in top form in the final, let the occasion get to her, and capitulated in straight sets. People went back saying she robbed them off a great Wimbledon final by virtue of having reached it. Anyone else on the planet, it seems, would have made a match of it. Many even went onto predict that she would not last long in the game, lamenting the depths to which the women's game had sunk since the glory days of Steffi Graf and Martina Hingis. Not many wanted to consider her case from a positive viewpoint.

Come 2013, the same lady, one of the older players on the circuit now, stormed into the Wimbledon finals again, thanks to the same physique, the same strange serve, the same double handed forehands and backhands, but with a renewed vigor and great movement on the court. This time, she even went one step ahead, decimated all opposition, and was crowned champion of the most valued tennis tournament in the world. She had to face some ridiculous comments along the way, but kept doing what she knew was correct for her. She has faced unnecessary and harsh criticism throughout her career for her physique, her lack of natural game, et cetera, et cetera. But the bottom lines is, she knows what works for her. She turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to all the criticism, and smiled her way to the result that is now out there for everyone to see.


McLaren days: "He overcooks the engine - that is why you see so many reliability issues with his car".
Ferrari days: "He has lost his motivation for the sport. He won a World Championship, and now he sleeps through the races. What a waste of a Ferrari seat".
All his career: "He does not talk. He has so little feedback to the engineers. That does not help in the development of the car".

These are some sample criticisms that have come former Formula 1 World Champion (2007) Kimi Raikkonen's way over the course of his career, and in typical Kimi way, he has kept quiet, and proverbially, has let his driving do the talking. After a Rally bound hiatus from Formula 1, he came back to the pinnacle of Motorsport in 2012, with a returning Lotus team running Renault engine. The team was definitely not a top 3 in Constructors' equation, funds wise, sponsorship wise or performance wise. What do you expect out of Kimi Raikkonen? 12 podiums out of 29 starts since return, 2 wins, finishing the 2012 Drivers'Championship in third place after being in contention for the championship almost till the end, running a strong third in 2013 half way through the season, and expecting to improve further. So much for the no motivation theory. A record number of consecutive finishes in point scoring positions - holding a mirror to his remarkable consistency. So much for overcooking the engine theory. And Lotus has improved the car so sensationally over this period to serve Raikkonen with a car that can compete with the bigwigs such as Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes and McLaren. So much for the no feedback to engineers theory.

Raikkonen continues to perform, continues to keep quiet in front of the frenzied media, continues to steer clear of controversies and dangerous first corners in Grands Prix starts alike, and continues to inspire millions of cult fanatic followers.

Just leave him alone. He knows what he is doing.


The West Indian Cricket ODI captaincy has changed hands after a few years of surprising stability on the leadership front from their standards, with Dwayne Bravo taking over the reigns in the daylong format. The selectors and the WICB have probably made an avoidable decision to change what was going smooth, and time will tell if it was a sensible thing to do. Two series later, there are no indications that the WI ODI cricket team has made any progress.

Darren Sammy. That simple guy from Saint Lucia who is referred to as an all rounder. Where does he bat? What does he bowl? Before many people could realize his role in the team, the turn of events had made the WICB choose this man with a million dollar smile as the skipper of the team across all formats. The West Indies are currently on a 6 test match winning streak, and are the reigning T20 World Champions. If there is one man who can be credited with creating a cohesive unit by bringing together the big egos and dousing the confusing and divisive shambles, motivating players from multiple countries to unite under the West Indian flag, it has to be Sammy. He has faced criticism day in and day out about his place in the side, where people went to the extent of calling him a specialist captain and that he would lose his spot as soon as he loses captaincy. Sammy replied through his trademark smiles, test hundred on the England tour, remarkable bowling figures every now and then with his tight medium pace, umpteen crucial knocks lower down the order to lift the WI from hopeless positions. He took the loss of ODI captaincy sportively with a smile too, and the WI think tank which promptly dropped him from the ODI playing eleven soon after relieving his burden, learnt to reinstate him as the primary bowling all rounder two matches later and has since, seems to have realized the weight of Sammy's invaluable contributions.

You don't necessarily have to be that vocal charged up leader. You don't need to terrorize the opposition by imposing yourself. You can enjoy your way to success by being yourself and not trying to prove detractors wrong. The latter is supposed to be an additional outcome. Not the primary goal.


uDiT sH@rMa said...

An inspirational read. We often talk about people who remain on top but success has its own ways to greet the champions.

Prasanna said...

Yes Udit, thanks.

Anu Narasimhadevara said...

Nice reading VP!!
Constantly being bamboozled by people bigger, louder than myself, I understand how easy it is to doubt yourself, wondering if you are at all being heard. Thanks for bringing these examples to light!


Prasanna said...

True. Thanks Anu.