Perfect role models

Both Gundappa Viswanath and Prakash Padukone have conducted themselves well during their playing days and after their retirements — unassuming, unfailingly polite, respectful and modest to the core.

G. R. Viswanath in is heyday.   -  The Hindu Photo Library

What a memorable last week it has been. To be able to spend time with my two sporting heroes who have brought glory to India in their respective fields was simply awesome. On February 12, the one and only Gundappa Viswanath celebrated his 70th birthday and it was my pleasure to surprise him with a party where most of his teammates from Karnataka that won the Ranji Trophy for the first time in 1974 were present. There were some of his India teammates too and also some other close friends from Bengaluru and from overseas. The party would not have happened without the help of my good friend Sudhir Hasija, the owner of Karbonn Mobiles who arranged the venue in such a way that the surprise was maintained. The arrangements were first class and the Orchid Hotel went out of its way with thoughtful bits like putting up pictures of Vishy at various places in the venue that brought out nostalgia. The birthday cake was a massive bat with a thickness of modern bats bringing out a quip from Vishy that with such a bat he would have hit the ball even further.

The turnout of players of the generation after Vishy’s showed how respected and loved the great man is. As always he was his usual unassuming self and he made an emotional speech after cutting the cake.

A couple of days later the Sportstar Aces Awards function was held in Mumbai and I had the great privilege to hand over the Lifetime Achievement Award to Prakash Padukone, the badminton champ of my youth. Has there been a greater Indian sportsperson? Maybe, but in my book and humble opinion, Prakash is the best-ever Indian sportsperson.

In my book and humble opinion, Prakash Padukone is the best-ever Indian sportsperson.   -  The Hindu Photo Library


He was the first to move out of his comfort zone to train overseas in order to get better and be the world champion and the No. 1-ranked player in the world for close to two years. Badminton is a demanding and competitive sport and to maintain the No. 1 ranking for so long showed just what a great champion he was. His humble nature hid a most competitive streak which was essential especially against the Chinese players against whom just about everybody else struggled to get even eight points, while Prakash was beating them quite comfortably.

Remember this was at a time when a player only got a point of his own serve, unlike today where a point can be won off the opponent’s serve too.

Both Vishy and Prakash are role models for the way they conducted themselves when they were playing as well as when they were away from their sport. In fact, just about every sportsperson from the south of India and especially Karnataka were the epitomes of what is called true sportspersons. Unassuming, unfailingly polite, respectful and modest to the core. There must have been something in the Bengaluru water that made such wonderful sportspersons. That water certainly has got a bit contaminated as can be seen from the behaviour of some and thankfully not all of the modern Karnataka sportspersons, where even an ordinary player thinks he is a world beater and starts throwing attitude and tantrums galore.

If only they would take a leaf out of these two world beaters they will get the same love and affection that these two champions still get so many years after they hung up their boots.

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