Sunday, June 09, 2013

Why am I not a "success"? I grew up liking all-rounders!

I grew up watching cricket and obsessing about it, as most young boys did then (and most probably do even now.)  As much as I liked the artistry of the top-order batsmen, especially Vishvanath, and the spin bowlers, my first hero was Abid Ali.

Yes, Abid Ali.

I was perhaps not even into a double-digit age when I decided I liked Abid Ali the most.  Here was a player who could bowl pretty decently, bat pretty decently, and field excellently.  He could do it all.  And, from the radio commentaries and newspaper reports (no TV then!) I understood that he did all these without any flair. 

Ali was an "all-rounder," as such players are referred to in cricket.  After him, there were a couple more like Ghavri and Madanlal, but it was not the same. Not even Ravi Shastri.

And then the "all-rounder" world simply became fantastic, and was way more than I could have imagined, thanks to Kapil Dev and Ian Botham.  These two took the idea of an all rounder to an entirely new level.  And, they seemed to approach every opportunity with the same level of intensity and excitement, without ever feeling jaded.

I left India just about when these two had passed their peaks, and soon I was following college football and baseball. 

In college ball too, it was the "all-rounder" players that I liked.  I was a grad student at USC when Rodney Peete was the Trojan QB.  Peete could pass and also run--a contrast to Troy Aikman across town at UCLA, who was a much better QB but not a runner.  While they were both excellent baseball players too, only Peete continued playing college baseball.

However, most all rounders don't achieve "stardom," so to say because it is a very, very rare few who can perform exceptionally at more than one.  It was Aikman who went on to win the Super Bowls.  Rare is a Botham or a Dev.  Abid Ali is probably a forgotten name among most casual Indian cricket fans, who will certainly remember Bedi and Pataudi, and even Venkataraghavan.

I wonder how my life would have been if I had been a fan not of all-rounders but of super-specialists instead.

Academe--even at regional teaching universities like mine--encourages specialists and not generalists.  People whose focus is to know a lot about one or two small things, and not the other way around.  "The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing".

But, if I were a specialist, then my life would have been about some strange variation of dukrijnkarane!  Odds are that I wouldn't have been exploring and understanding life by blogging, writing op-eds, cooking, traveling, ... my, it would have been a horribly boring life.

Thank heavens I chose Abid Ali as my favorite!


Ramesh said...

Good Lord - Abid Ali as your favourite ????? Thank God you did not voice it in "those" days. I would have ragged you unmercifully :)

On the deeper point, I think there is a role and place in life for both the generalist and the specialist. Medicine is probably the best place to illustrate this. The science would fail if either the generalist or the specialist were absent.

By the way, why has dukrijnkarane caught your fancy ? :)

Sriram Khé said...

hey, when you are eight or nine--the kind of age i was when i chose abid ali--you select your superheroes for whatever reason. no wonder then i have always felt difficult to relate to my fellow classmates (and seniors too!!!!)

yes, the world needs generalists and specialists ... not to mention the ditch diggers too. yet, we overemphasize specialists!

not to be obsessed wit the metaphorical "dukrijnkarane" has been a life-long issue ... not a new epiphany by any means. that, alas, is the reason i am not a "success" ;)

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