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 from the Commonwealth declared something like this, and accomplished it with such style and chutzpah was when Javed Miandad spoilt Dilip Doshi’s bowling economy figures, with a pulled 6 off a short ball.
Bindra himself will perhaps chuckle at all this hyper-analysis of those 323 tweeted characters.
As he does when you ask him how he prepared for the shoot-off finals, where everyone starts at 0, after the practice became a regular in shooting World Cups. “But I never make any World Cup finals!” he shot back, also refusing to commit to plans for Rio or immediately the World Championships in a month’s time. “One day at a time,” he says divulging nothing more.
It’s always been futile to ask greats to define the constituent parts of their greatness, and Bindra tires easily of medals he can win comfortably and questions he can answer too easily. Seagulls are free to nibble on sardines in the vast sea. At any rate, Abhinav Bindra’s had enough of the Commonwealth Games. He can afford to after a brilliant ending 10.6 shot and a snug gold.
Scotland Yard: Playing statue, the Scottish way
Dundee, a two-hour-ride out of Glasgow where Indian shooters start their gold-rush, has a town-centre with a statue of the bearded strongman comic figure Desperate Dan from DC Comics. In neighbouring Kirriemuir, there’s JM Barrie’s Peter Pan.
Statues — even the non-Peter Pans —never grow up, and it seems the Scottish sculptors and smiths have always believed that public sculpture needn’t all be serious and solemn, but can be science and script-penners. So, alongside bronze memorials of Robert the Bruce, William Wallace, and assorted royalty across Scottish cities, this nation has granite, red stone and bronzes on pedestals for writers Burns, Stevenson and Arthur Conon Doyle and innovators and thinkers — Adam Smith, John Knox, and David Hume.
They already have Greyfriars Bobby, a Scottie terrier from island of Skye, who has been immortalised in Edinburgh for guarding his owner’s grave for 14 years until he himself died, and most recently, St Andrew’s, a town in Fife raised close to $10,000 for a bronzie of stray cat Hamish McHamish (the cat’s still living, and anyway has 9 lives). Statues here never grow tall either, as not for them Scots the mad desire to try and out-size and out-stretch the Statue of Liberty.
Thinking back to the prospects of some pretty heavy-duty historical figures rising out of the Arabian Sea back home, you wonder if only monstrosities can make a statement.
Glasgow had its Duke of Wellington statue, marching someplace on a horse for years, and just standing there at the Royal Exchange Square.
Then someone got very drunk one reveling night and picked a red traffic cone, climbed the statue plinth and plonked the cone on top of the duke’s head – all for a lark. It became the city’s iconic landmark, the duke with a cone on his head.
Yobs, as plucky strangers and pranksters get called, have been at it for 30 years now, climbing the statue and crowning the duke with a cone. The city council was suitably offended at this ‘vandalism and defacing’ and the cost on exchequer to clean up after the mess and wanted to raise the height of the plinth. The cone went missing in the lead-up to the Games as the duke was preened up, which triggered a massive outrage from citizens (even the older ones) who believe that the villainous council was out to ‘take the fun out of our city and the cone off his head.’
Facebook created a storm; the Games meanwhile fetched up. In what will be the enduring image of the opening ceremony, the Duke’s statue — well, a miniature — was wheeled into Celtic Park. The red cone was right there, shining as a beacon, well after the stadium emptied and lights went out. Scots prove history doesn’t always need to turn into statues, statues themselves make history here.