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It's all about attitude

Are young Indian sportspersons going on the wrong track in trying to acquire a winning attitude? ABHIJIT SEN GUPTA on what it takes to be a true sportsman.

GO FOR IT: Sachin Tendulkar is a perfect role model. - Photo: N. Sridharan

OFTEN WHEN an Indian sportsperson or an Indian team loses, the defeat is widely attributed to the lack of the "killer instinct.'' Indian sportspersons are generally supposed to lack this essential element, which makes all the difference between victory and defeat.

But what exactly is this instinct? Even those who subscribe to the theory that Indians lack killer instinct, are unable to define this term.Under the mistaken impression that the "killer instinct'' means rough and tough behaviour, many young Indian sportspersons are taking to unduly aggressive and even crude behaviour on the field. In tennis tournaments, players throwing rackets or arguing with the officials have become a common sight even in junior tournaments. In football and hockey, violent confrontations occur frequently. Perhaps the term "killer instinct'' does not comprise any one particular element and is therefore difficult to define in concrete terms. Probably it consists of several different aspects of a sportsman's physical and psychological make up which enables him or her to come out on top even when under extreme pressure. The ability to conquer the odds, the will to go the extra mile, the determination to make the necessary sacrifices and do so consistently, are probably among the ingredients that make up that "killer instinct.''

To a young and impressionable mind, the term may conjure up the picture of the aggressive type of sportsman - ever ready to bend the rules or run down an opponent. But this is not accurate. For there have been some very successful sportspersons who do not fit into that bracket of outspoken and audacious sportspersons.Some of the most successful sportspersons this country has produced in recent times have exhibited a totally different attitude. The best examples are Sachin Tendulkar, Vishwanathan Anand, Geet Sethi, Pulella Gopi Chand, Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi. If there is any one characteristic which they share in common, it is grace under pressure. They never lose their cool and have been model sportspersons throughout their career. All of them have behaved with dignity and decorum despite being provoked severely on many occasions.

Sachin Tendulkar has been on the receiving end of much harsh treatment by rival bowlers on many occasions. By attempting to aggravate Sachin psychologically, they hope to put him off balance and upset his equilibrium.

Many a verbal taunt and provoking gesture has been hurled at Sachin by rival bowlers and fielders, but he has never lost his cool. He has never retaliated except with the bat. Despite their unassuming and unpretentious attitude, sportsmen such as Sachin, Vishwanathan Anand, Geet Sethi, Gopi, Leander and Mahesh have risen to the topmost levels in their sport in the international arena. If the "killer instinct'' is the vital element in attaining triumph in sports, then these sportspersons must surely have it in plenty.

So what seems to be important is the ability to focus on the task at hand and concentrate on the game with the single-minded dedication of a Sachin Tendulkar or a Vishwanathan Anand. Sportspersons from Australia, South Africa, Europe and America may adopt different methods - they may show more aggression and more pugnacity. But Indians have their own way of succeeding. What is significant is that Indian players and teams should not let themselves be rattled by their opponent's tactics. It is better for budding Indian sportsmen to follow the examples set by Sachin Tendulkar and others and shun methods which bring dishonour to the sport and to themselves. Throwing rackets, arguing with referees and umpires and abusing rivals do not mean possessing the killer instinct.

Rather, a fierce determination to win, commitment to one's sport and hard work are the vital ingredients.

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