I stayed up to watch Leander Paes and Vishnu Vardhan (or J Vishnuvardhan) bow out of Olympics 2012 today. I normally avoid tennis discussions (with the rather cool excuse that tennis-ball sports do not interest me). I wasn't watching tennis today anyway. I was watching India in action. Leander in action. Till half-past one in the morning.
They've been knocked out today by Llodra, and more importantly, Tsonga: people who are ranked way, way above. It was almost a case of Sharman Joshi taking on Arnold Schwarzenegger. For Leander there might not be another chance either (well, he can still have a stab at it with Sania Mirza).
Much as I have respected and admired Indian sportspeople over the years and their commitment towards the country, I have never thought that any of them would be prepared to die for the country.
Leander Paes might. He might have as well been at Kargil instead of Wimbledon tonight, taking bullets instead.
He's that relentless. We have produced many masters across multiple sports. Cricketers, lots of them. Anand. Dhyan Chand. Geet Sethi. Prakash Padukone. Saina Nehwal in the making. Shooters and archers and wrestlers in the pipeline as well.
Almost all of them have been more talented sportspeople than Leander Paes. However, there have been one aspect where he has outdone them all.
Patriotism and pluck.
Some people use their sports equipments as paintbrushes. Some other as chisels. Some as tools. Some as pens. Some merely as a means to earn their bread.
I've seen Leander Paes use it as a bayonet time and again. Even tonight. At thirty-nine.