In the season of celebrating the Power of Blue, the apprehensions were probably genuine. A Made-in-India guy who learnt chess from his mother and went on to script the mother of all triumphs — twice. Even in the ecstasy of an Indian sporting high, would he get the accolades a King deserves?
It had taken hockey coach Joaquim Carvalho to protest bitterly for India to realise that another set of our boys in blue hadn’t got their due for being Asia’s best. Thus the fear: A day after cueist Pankaj Advani, another world champion, refused a government award to protest the law of unequal returns that govern India’s evaluation of sporting excellence, would Viswanathan Anand’s conquest remain just another news flash?
Maybe, maybe not. The good thing is that the man himself probably doesn’t give a damn. India’s first grandmaster has also been its most consistent achiever in sport. Given that chess is officially played in 161 countries, he is our only global icon. Multi-lingual, suave and intelligent, he is also the emblem of India that is young and hot at 60.
By being the world’s number one chess player, by challenging Garry Kasparov at the World Trade Centre, by consistently doing well at pilgrimage spots like Linares and Wijk aan Zee, by winning a hattrick of chess Oscars, this self-effacing GM has sparked a silent revolution in Indian chess.
On Sunday morning, Anand continued the trend of the sports pages giving us more good news than usual from the day India turned 60.
On August 29, NP Pradeep turned us Syrian killers in the Nehru Cup. On September 9, the men’s hockey team served up a magnificent seven to conquer Asia. Two days later, Delhi chess prodigy Tania Sachdev became Asian champion.
At Flushing Meadows, Leander Paes went within a match of the mixed doubles crown, while Sania Mirza broke into the top-30. And Jeev Milkha Singh keeps reminding us that he is a worthy son of a worthy father.
The ultimate high of course came last week, when a new drug called MSD revived an old Indian addiction. A bunch of kids-turned-men came home with coveted cylindrical silverware, to scenes unseen — and unexpected — even in cricket-crazy India. Chess is more esoteric than fast ’n’ furious T20 — but be it the Wanderers, Johannesburg or Mexico City, it was India shining all the way. Reason enough to raise a cheer to Indian sport. One that’s not just about cricket.