'(The Blog) With No Name', perhaps best described as a stream of notes and thoughts - 'remembered, recovered and (sometimes) invented'.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Who is Guruchand Singh?

Guruchand is in his mid-twenties; he is over six feet, three inches in height and is a fine athlete who can jump 3-4 feet high from a standing position. He is also the only international sportsman I have shaken hands with. But the handshake apart, I hardly know anything about the man: I don't know if he has a celebrity girlfriend, whether he has endorsed any soft-drink, whether he owns a few or several swanky cars - the answer to each of these questions is very likely to be "No" but I really don't know.


A full 25 years have passed since that last ball six in Sharjah. The day after the match, a poor Keralan gentleman's name had appeared in the local newspapers - his heart stopped with that fateful Miandad hit and never restarted; it was the first such case I heard about. Now, middle-age has brought a worrying increase in my own blood pressure and a visceral fear of stress. So, when the recent semifinal against Pakistan happened, although I was at home in Kerala, I stepped out and went for a movie; the theatre was surprisingly full and I overheard several conversations on how much more peaceful it was to be in the theatre watching that moronic film than to be in front of the telly.

When India played the final, I was in Bombay. I could have watched at least two thirds of the match (had a train to catch in the evening) but preferred going on a very long walk down the Western Express Highway, luggage and all. Later, on the train to Amdavad, the air was thick with cricket. I tried standing at the door - to be away from the all the tension. But there was no respite. At every street corner in the endlessly straggling Western Railway suburbs we were passing thru, crowds were watching the game with bated breath and occasional huge roars. And I prayed - something I have not done in years - for an Indian victory. Maybe that made the vital difference; if Sri Aurobindo could harness and channel his yogic powers to propel the allies to victory in the second world war, I could quite conceivably enable 11 men in blue to win a tournament featuring the Commonwealth countries and the Netherlands and named 'World Cup'.

Anyways, the show is done and over and each of our players has grown a lot richer - perhaps by billions of rupees each. Let me return to what I really want to write about.


Just over half a year ago, I went to watch India play Pakistan here in Cal. It was not cricket but volleyball so there was no stress - only joyous anticipation. The players of both sides (especially the Indians) looked a lot younger than the cricketers and a lot taller and fitter. Just watching them warm up sent one's pulse racing. The match itself was hotly contested and each time a spiker from either side soared to strike, there was electricity in the air. And here, unlike in cricket, where irrespective of the results, the Pakis always look by far more athletic and powerful, the Indians were clearly better built - some of our guys could have looked okay even among NBA stars - and actually outhit and overpowered their rivals; and they did not seem to need any prayers.

The match won, the players lingered for while for some stretching exercises and then filed out. I too was among the hundred odd admirers who approached them for handshakes/autographs. I got there a bit late so I could only shake hands with the guy who left last and that happened to be Guruchand Singh. But that was fine, for he was one of the best players on view.

The next day's papers devoted a few inches of space to this match. There was special mention of Guruchand's performance; apparently, his participation in the match had been doubtful due to injury - hurt by a piece of broken glass during the train journey from Chennai (where the team had been training) to Calcutta.

I was surprised: "Why is our National team in a globally competitive sport like volleyball traveling by train? Why the eff are they not flying?"

A clue to the answer is here:
A cash prize that works out to a few tens of thousands of rupees per player is being awarded to the national team and judging from all those happy faces, itis a windfall of sorts. And the ticket for the India-Pak match, held on a Sunday evening in a large, air-conditioned indoor stadium had cost me ten rupees.

Let me leave it as an exercise to identify the players in the photo linked above (the caption lists only the four political heavyweights sitting in the middle). I feel any genuine sports-lover among my few readers ought to give it a try - after all, these chaps did quite well at the recent Asian Games and have kept India at around a global ranking of 30-40 among well over a hundred countries actively playing the game - and like in cricket, at the very top or thereabouts among Commonwealth countries.


The other day, another National-level volleyball player, Arunima Sinha, met with a tragic accident and lost a leg - while on an overnight train journey in an unreserved compartment, she was attacked and physically thrown out by some hoodlums. Some folks have commented online: "A national-level sportsperson having to travel unreserved, Why the hell??"