22 January 2019

The shortcut to greatness

Every great sportsperson has a secret or a set of secrets that account for success.  Ricky Ponting attributed his success as a batsman to a steadfast determination to ‘treat every delivery with respect’. Bernard of Chartres a twelfth-century French Neo-Platonist philosopher said ‘If I have seen farther than others it is because I’ve stood on the shoulders of giants.’ 

This proffering of credit to predecessors was later picked up by Isaac Newton. Gary Kasparov wrote a series of books where he studied the games of the greats who came before him and thereby paid tribute to ‘[his] great predecessors.’  

It is pretty unlikely that anyone who has achieved any degree of success in any field would say ‘it was easy’ or something like ‘I was born with the talent and never had to work hard.’

Here’s what Michael Jordan, who is the Greatest Ever according to some, had to say: 

‘I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.’

Thisara Perera is not the Michael Jordan of cricket of course, but consider his performance in the recently concluded ODI series against New Zealand which, by the way, Sri Lanka lost by a 3-0 margin. 

In the first ODI, When he came to bowl his final over and the 49th of the innings, Thisara had decent enough figures considering a wicket that was full of runs, 46 for 2. He was carted for 34 runs inclusive of 5 sixers by James Neesham. Sri Lanka lost by 45 runs, Thisara’s contribution to a decent fight-back score of 326 was a paltry 4 runs.

His effort with the ball was worse in the second ODI, 69 off 7 overs without any wickets. And yet, he almost single-handedly brought Sri Lanka to the brink of an improbable victory, scoring 140 runs off just 74 balls, most of those runs coming while partnering tail-enders. 

Understandably he was not bowled much in the final ODI. He bowled two (relatively) tight overs conceding just 8 runs. He top scored for his team with 80 runs. This time the tail didn’t stay with him or rather, they tamely got out after a stunning catch by Martin Guptill sent Thisara back to the dressing room. 

Thisara Perera has been inconsistent, but he’s come up with flashes of brilliance such as these every now and again.  He’s got talent, that’s obvious. Why isn’t he able to be Jordanesque, though? He has heart, that’s clear. Why hasn’t he got the mind?  

The answer perhaps is ‘hard work’ or rather lack thereof or ‘not enough of it’.  There are no short cuts to ‘greatness’. And that, perhaps, is the hardest lesson of them all.