Measuring greatness

Courtesy the Telegraph [and courtesy my friend Siddhartha Vaidhyanathan on Twitter], a great read on Lionel Messi that goes beyond the player and looks at the nature of greatness itself:

The argument that a player cannot be considered great until he claims a World Cup winner’s medal is rendered nonsense by the portfolios of Ferenc Puskas, Alfredo di Stéfano, Johan Cruyff and George Best. Tell me they couldn’t play, that they did not redefine the parameters of the game. Greatness is not measured in silverware but in the memory.

Just one of several bits in that piece that reminds you of the on again, off again argument whether Sachin can really be called the greatest, without a World Cup to his name. There are other bits in the Messi piece that reminds you of SRT. Like, so:

His diminutive, beautifully balanced frame benefits from a low centre of gravity that affords acute changes in direction and keeps him upright when the big lads pile in. For an anatomically challenged male he is not without strength. These are the technical elements.

Messi has another dimension that is harder to measure. His awareness and understanding of space is preternatural; he is Pythagoras with a paint brush, all angles and vision.

And then there is the primal hunger that drives him, and the courage to take a chance.

This places him alongside the likes of Tiger Woods, Michael Schumacher, Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, athletes whose desire to win can be considered a pathology, a kind of insanity, a life dedicated to nothing but balls, spikes, water and wheels. At least Messi’s obsession has not put a scowl on his face.

Read on. And watch:


8 thoughts on “Measuring greatness

  1. Just an observation – what’s wrong with “vertically challenged”? “Anatomically challenged” is rather suggestive no? 😀

  2. Messi is still young – still miles to go. Comparing him with Federer, Woods, Bolt, or Sachin is not being fair to the man. Let him grow and become a legend before comparing him with other established sporting legends.

  3. For me personally The Messi moment came when he was about 19 and scored a hat trick in the El- Clasico , securing Barca a 3 – 3 draw. It also beggars belief that all Messi moments ( at least for me ) seem to come when he wearing the Barca shirt.

    How one earth Maradona manages to stifle this genius in the Argentian national team baffles me. Is there more to this than meets the eye ???

  4. cricket being a team game can we even think of measuring a cricketer’s performance or greatness based on winning or not winning a cup. Indian cricket reached new heights and is one among the three best teams across all the formats at the moment during the period when sachin is playing ..but even if the team had not performed this well ..there would been not a iota of doubt in the greatness of sachin.

  5. This template looks much better than the earlier dark theme. Quite a few similarities between messi and srt, especially the height

    • More than “height” in and of itself, all these guys have the low center of gravity that permits impeccable balance.

      • You are right, IMO. I believe balance is the singlemost important element in Sachin’s class in the crease. And his height is an important factor in that.

        A few years back, Ponting said that perhaps the future generations wont see any great cricketers who are short (like sachin, and ponting himself is not that tall). His argument was that the well-built powerful guys are going to dominate the game. It was an intriguing observation, but I was a little sceptic. Seeing the way IPL1/2 turned out, I thought perhaps he is correct. But this year Sachin is proving that it is not everything about power. Good to know. Because, Bradman wasnt a giant. So was SMG. So is Sachin. So was Lara. So is Ponting.

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