Thursday, April 01, 2010

' We are too self-absorbed"

"Why are Indians poor at team sports? Why don’t we win at hockey or football?"  The answer, according to Aakar Patel’s column in The Mint, is that “we cannot understand harmony. That’s why we are poor at things that require selfless interaction, like team sports. Indians do not have the instinct of acting in concert. We find it difficult to put the other person ahead of ourselves even if both might benefit. This lack of harmony isn’t limited to sports, it is inherent: We see it every day in our mindless traffic sports.”

We might win at cricket, but that’s hardly a team sport. A twenty over match is nothing but an aggregate of 240 one-ball encounters between batsman and bowler. So, someone like Sachin I-don’t play-for-records- I-play-for-my-country Tendulkar can be perfectly happy with his century, even if his team doesn’t win.

To perform harmoniously as a cohesive unit, different components of that unit must come to the self-realisation that they are in it together for a common purpose. In this case, the common objective is that the team must win. How does this sense of collaboration emerge in each of the components?

Nicholas Humphrey, on 'watching his baby son thrashing around in his crib, two arms flailing, hands grasping randomly, legs kicking the air, head and eyes turning this way and that, a smile followed by a grimace crossing his face', wrote a brilliant, meditative piece wondering when and how the different parts of the baby would perform together harmoniously as in an orchestra? 

Ask any orchestral player, and he’ll tell you: although it may perhaps look to an outsider as if the conductor is totally in charge, in reality he often has a quite minor – even a purely decorative – role. Sure, he can provide a common reference point to assist the players with the timing and punctuation of their playing. And he can certainly influence the overall style and interpretation of a work. But that is not what gets the players to belong together. What truly binds them into one organic unit and creates the flow between them is something much deeper and more magical: namely, the very act of making music; that they are together creating a single work of art.

Doesn’t this suggest a criterion for “belonging” that should be much more widely  applicable: that parts come to belong to a whole just in so far as they are participants in a common project?

Try the definition where you like: What makes the parts of an oak tree belong together – the branches, roots, leaves, acorns ? They share a common interest in the tree’s survival.What makes the parts of a complex machine like an aeroplane belong to the aeroplane – the wings, the jet engines, the radar? They participate in the common enterprise of flying. Then, here’s the question: What makes the parts of a person belong together – if and when they do? The clear answer has to be that the parts will and do belong together just in so far as they are involved in the common project of creating that person’s life.

  To go back to Aakar Patel’s column, teamwork cannot be brought about by a team leader or imposed from above. It can come only when there is self-realisation in every member that he/she is collaborating on a common project of winning a match. Perhaps, such a realization evades Indians. That’s why we may produce an occasional world champion in billiards, badminton or chess, all in individual capacities. But team events such as hockey and football leave us thrashing around, arms flailing, legs kicking randomly, head and eyes turning this way and that…………….


hari said...

Simple answer is weather is too hot in India. :-P

ramesh said...

that's a fallacious and a silly argument by Mr Patel and I am surprised you haven't torn it to shreds which you usually do to most tripe .. hell we are all living together despite our deep differences in language, culture etc. etc. raj thackeray's and togadia's notwithstanding .. look at croatia, it was part of the balkan states but they are pretty good at football eh? .. and what about our rich classical music heritage .. is that a thing of working alone? the counter examples are endless, going by this columnist's logic we should have the record holders in athletics .. in fact you should have put Mr Patel's comments under your Vacuous and Verbose section .. and coming back to cricket.. individual game??? so the fielders sip tea while the others bat eh? and one bowler and one batter can take the whole team together eh? yes it is not as communist as say footer or hockey but still .. my case rests

Raj said...

Hari, the weather?

Ramesh, I am sorry to fall in your esteem, but I happen to agree with Aakar. And, it is not one bowler and one batsman. What he means is that each batsman or each bowler must engage alone and with only one adversary, at any point in time. A batting score is the sum total of individual achievements.

Usha said...

Is this also because of the way an individual's performance is rewarded whether the team wins or not that there is more involvement about one's individual performance rather than being a teamplayer. They used to talk about certain batsmen playing for their own records rather than for the team's win.

Raj said...

Usha, no, because we are like this only.