If Abhinav Bindra played anything more violent than what he does to collect gold medals every now and then — played something, like football, then a comparison with Eric Cantona and his enigmatic throwaway lines would have been apt.
But Bindra only shoots at targets with a rifle, from 10 metres afar. And the Indian has mercifully never launched a kung-fu kick into the crowd like Cantona’s Crystal Palace stunt. The Indian’s vibe is of a man who wouldn’t hurt a fly, and only because it’d look silly with a gun in his hand.
That the 31-year-old is brilliant at what he does, and India’s once-in-a-generation athlete is very evident from his medal haul — 9 medals in 5 Commonwealth Games, though they all seem small, and indeed are, when compared to the Beijing Olympics gold medal.
So, it was almost inevitable that Bindra would come to Glasgow to tick the box of an individual gold medal (all his previous ones are team golds), coop up his entire nervousness behind a wry half-smile (or half-frown, tough to tell) and then move onto the next obsession that amuses or traumatises him — which his Olympic gold apparently did.
It was borderline cocky — his announcement, tweeted a day before the CWG match: “Tom I will compete in my 5 th cwg. This will be my last appearance at the games Hope to have some fun. Cont.” Or, was it? He followed that up with “Been a great journey which started as 15 year old at the kl games and have 8 cwg medals so far…..” and “So friends pray and wish me some luck :-)”
All sincere and affable warmth.
When asked what prompted him to declare a day in advance, he replied, as if about to let on some deep secret, before holding back, “It was sort of liberating, and almost tactical…” That was followed by a forced polite smile.
The seagulls were now pursuing the trawler, and the sardines being thrown into the sea, one devilish fish at a time. “No, the tactical part was just a joke,” he would add, sardines now cured with salt and vinegar.
A man of many moods, goofy one moment, grim the next, Bindra tried to sell us the line that he was old now – 31 – and it was time for others to step up to the task of securing India its possessive gold in 10m rifle.
Yet, a declaration like that — they’d call it bold in Test cricket, Michael Clarke-ish — a day before competition could only mean two things: either Bindra was supremely confident and he ought to be, since he shoots a class apart; or that he was revving up to explode, and needed the pressure to keep good his goal. It’s just that the last time someone continued…