Nothing sells in this country like cricket, whether the team is losing or winning. It is the envy of all other sports, and the object of many funny and unfunny put-downs. The most recent one came from Vishwanathan Anand.
In his moment of glory, after becoming the undisputed world champion in September 2007, he wondered if he would get an equally delirious reception homecoming as the Twenty20 world champions. He didn’t. There was no ticker-tape parade, nor a public reception at a stadium full of frenzied fans. What he did get instead was a round of quiet receptions – by the President and others. But here is another piece of good news for him. Even people and the jury of the Indian of Year awards – instituted by CNN-IBN in partnership with the Hindustan Times – have preferred him to the cricketers.
Anand is the choice of the voters and the jury as the nominee from the sports category for the Indian of the Year award. You may want to know who the other contenders were: Captain and the vice-captain of the Twenty20 team M S Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh and the comeback king Sourav Ganguly (sweet revenge?), tennis player Sania Mirza and golfer Jyoti Randhawa.
Here is what jury member Geet Sethi said about the world chess champion: “Vishy has been around for almost 20 years and persevered to come to the zenith of his profession. He has won the world title in 2007…he has displayed great sportsman ship and great Indianess.”
Anand now joins finance minister P Chidambaram, SBI chairman O P Bhatt and Chak De’s director Shimit Amin and scriptwriter Jaideep Sahni as contenders for the Indian of the Year award from the categories of politics, business and entertainment respectively. The winners of the remaining two categories – public service and NRIs – will be announced over the next two days.
These nominees have been elected/selected by votes sent through sms or online and a jury comprising six eminent Indians – lawyer Soli Sorabjee (he is the chairman of the jury), HDFC chairman Deepak Parekh, actor Mohanlal Viswanathan Nair, Hindustan Times Media Limited vice-chairperson and editorial director Shobhana Bhartia, billiards champion Geet Sethi, Infosys co-chairman Nandan Nilekani and former police officer Kiran Bedi.
The Indian of the Year will be declared on January 29.