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TEEING OFF

Achievement in the world of sports is not something Indians can be very proud of. Cricket has to be left out of the discussion because only a handful of countries play the game, which does not demand a great deal of athleticism. In football or field events, India does not feature anywhere. In other sports, only a few individuals have been good enough to at least participate in major tournaments. This is why the achievements of the young golfer, Anirban Lahiri, are worthy of note. Not that he has won a tournament. But what he has accomplished is important. In the British Open, he was ranked 31st in a field of 84 ó and this on a course that most golfers consider tough. What is remarkable is that this is Mr Lahiriís first Major tournament. Mr Lahiri, in fact, had a dream debut because his performance included in the third round a hole in one in the three par ninth hole. Most golfers would argue that a hole in one is often a matter of luck. But what is also true is that this particular dream of golfers when it occurs in a Major tournament is evidence of a playerís driving prowess, accuracy and nerve. Mr Lahiri can be proud of what he has achieved and so can all Indians who love sports.

Mr Lahiri is obviously a talented and committed golfer who works hard at his game. He clearly knows that to have promise is not enough. This has enabled him to make the transition from the Asian circuit (he has two wins on the Asian tour) to a player to be noted in the British Open. It remains to be seen if Mr Lahiri will be able to break the voodoo that prevents Indians from becoming top-class sportsmen. In golf, one can think of Jeev Milkha Singh and Arjun Atwal; and in tennis, Sania Mirza. (Mahesh Bhupathi was ranked 31st in a field of 84 has not been good enough to play singles in a Grand Slam tournament.) This failure on the part of Indian sportsmen continues to baffle most observers. Is it to do with the climate, or diet, or lack of hard work? It is difficult to pinpoint an answer. It is equally difficult to believe that a country of Indiaís demographic size is so profoundly devoid of sporting talents. This familiar talent is the context for celebrating Mr Lahiriís participation with some credit at the highest level. He has just teed off, and all his well-wishers will hope that from participation he will move on to winning. The best, all Indians will console themselves, is yet to be.