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Take Five

Remembering Nirmal Shekar through his columns

Here are excerpts from Nirmal Shekar’s vast repertoire of sports writing for The Hindu over three decades. These are reproduced as a tribute to The Hindu’s former sports editor and former editor of Sportstar, who passed away on February 1.

Is No. 18 a peak too steep for Federer? (Feb. 18, 2016)

Does Roger Federer have another Grand Slam title left in him?

Roger Federer of Switzerland waves to fans in Margaret Court Arena as he holds the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup after winning the Men's Final match against Rafael Nadal of Spain and makes his way to his press conferences on day 14 of the 2017 Australian Open at Melbourne Park.

Roger Federer of Switzerland waves to fans in Margaret Court Arena as he holds the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup after winning the Men's Final match against Rafael Nadal of Spain and makes his way to his press conferences on day 14 of the 2017 Australian Open at Melbourne Park.   | Photo Credit: Getty Images

On the face of it, it is not a mind-bogglingly difficult question to answer for a person who has closely followed tennis for four decades and has covered over 50 Grand Slam championships.

But then, only when you are alone and sit and ponder the question does it strike you that you would be better off telling people that you have no idea if Federer is capable of winning another Major or two.

This is because no matter how deeply involved you have been in the game, no matter all the past examples, no matter the comments made by former players and other assorted experts, you can never be certain that you have the right answer — although taking the easy way out and saying “I don’t know,” is a cop out, for sure.

Leave Virat alone for now, and Sachin, forever (Oct. 17, 2016)

For much of 2016, we have read quite a bit about how Virat Kolhi is the next Sachin Tendulkar. It looks as if that it was only the other day that Sachin started his famous, even legendary, farewell speech — the-half-an-hour-plus tour de force amidst never before seen emotional outpouring in front of over 30,000 spectators and millions watching on television — and now we want to find someone his equal.

Poor Kohli. He has not even had the time to establish his own identity and come to terms with what is — and will be — demanded of him as a batsman and as a captain.

And now he has to aspire to be the equal of the country’s cricketing god, who made his Test debut in Pakistan at the age of 16, about the time Kohli was a year old — all this because a few of us already think we know what the new Indian Test captain’s preordained destiny is, or what it ought to be.

Ayrton Senna — champion nonpareil (April 24, 2004)

Dying young provides an ethereal halo to these legendary heroes and sets them far apart from the survivor-heroes who live to tell and retell their oft-repeated tales.

Then again, even before the tragic end at Imola 10 years ago, Ayrton Senna was the rarest of heroes in an area of activity - sport - where champions are commonplace but heroes are hard to come by. His strength of will and fierce motivation saw him stretch human limits like no other driver had done, or even dreamed of doing, before.

The most consistently fast driver in Formula One history in the pre-Schumacher era, Senna was well on the road to creating records that would have made extraordinary demands on the German genius, who is now the undisputed king of the sport. Senna won 41 Grands Prix from 161 starts and was the world champion in 1988, 1990 and 1991.

Ali and the illusion of immortality (June 8, 2016)

File photo of Muhammad Ali.

File photo of Muhammad Ali.   | Photo Credit: AP

Even he had to pass on, depart this life, go the way of all flesh? Even the great, seemingly immortal gladiator, Muhammad Ali, had to meet his end, an often mundane process that all of us have to go through at some time or the other; unless you believe in what pseudo-science’s snake oil salesmen have to say — that immortal human beings would walk the earth by 2045.

With all the revolutionary advances in medicine, they tell us that death may become optional in a few decades.

But that belief seems like a desperate attempt to turn daydreaming (to stop thinking about the terrifying certainty of eternal demise) into a form of science — gerontology.

But a few lesser mortals like some of us — who harbour no illusions and know that death is the end of everything for the individual — who have no access to multi-million dollar laboratories, and even less access to the latest findings that are being tested out do believe that we are all in queue, that one day we might have to vacate the tiny space that we occupy in a planet that the late, debonair scientist Carl Sagan called “The Pale Blue Dot.”

McEnroe gets back his magic touch (March 11, 1989)

McEnroe has a vision of the game. And he wanted to articulate it although the great man is not half as eloquent in front of a microphone as he is on the court where every shot is a declaration of sorts, every match a statement about himself, a definition of his personality.

When he is on court, playing at the peak of his abilities, it is as if you are being addressed by Mark Anthony in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. For sheer vitality and spell-binding character, the effect is similar.

An artist totally committed to his canvas, he elevates the game to a level few others can take it to.

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Printable version | Feb 20, 2020 8:44:10 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/Take-Five/article17146977.ece

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