From the Riches to the Rags

Wednesday, 21 October 2020


From the Riches to the Rags

Gautam Ganguly | August 08, 2020 23:05 hrs

Retrospection on the history of human civilization familiarizes us with the inevitable fall of the celebrated kings and leaders who had touched the pinnacle of success and scaled the acme of achievements.  

The rise and fall of Julius Caesar, Napoleon, the great Byzantine Empire, the Mughal Empire, or the Ahom Kingdom are far too well known to even a casual student of history. Such fall from grace is generally viewed as a natural process of transition and decay proving the good old saying, ‘Old order changes yielding place to the new.’

In trying to find reasons, intellectuals and thinkers have offered logical explanations for the fall from grace and grandeur of reputed organizations, dynasties, celebrated individuals, etc attributing some of these to the Himalayan blunders and aberrations committed at the peak of their glories.
Shakespearean tragedies are a wonderful testament to the ‘fatal flaws’ ingrained in the character of epic heroes that led to their downfall despite being endowed with the best human qualities. 

General perception since time immemorial has categorically emphasized that it is the character that makes or mars the fate of an individual and the reason for failure does not lie in their ‘stars’! However, the advent of COVID-19 and its associated deadly impact has shattered all these well-founded, age-old dictums. Empirical experiences reveal that completely extraneous factors have rendered thousands of jobless, homeless, and visionless for no fault of their own as a fall out of the Covid-19 lockdowns.   

In a recent survey conducted by The Economic Times, it was revealed that the Covid-19 pandemic may cause large scale bankruptcies in India with the nation’s GDP continuously going downhill. In fact, experts opine that the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted economies around the world adversely like no other event since the Great Depression in 1929.  

The tourism and hospitality sector and the aviation sector in India, which saw an unprecedented flurry of activities and burgeoning growth, have fallen abysmally. As per independent reports, the arrival of foreign tourists in India stood at a whopping 10.89 million and an estimated 4.2 crore jobs were created in the tourism and hospitality sector alone. Similarly, India was the fastest-growing domestic air travel market globally. In 2018, 18.6% more people had travelled by air as compared to 2017. 

Today, total gloom has enveloped these performing sectors. It is being apprehended that nearly four crore job losses will take place in the coming days.  

Stories of sportspersons taking recourse to vegetable selling et al to sustain their livelihoods during this pandemic are in abundance on social media. 

Digressing from the claustrophobic Covid-19 bickering, a quick glance into the world of sports acquaints us with two appalling stories of downfall from brilliance - from prosperity to bankruptcy or from riches to rags.  

The recently concluded three-test series between West Indies and England have been exciting besides providing relief to the connoisseurs from the Corona scare. The first test match saw the West Indies team clinching a scintillating victory against England raising hopes for its supporters of the restoration of old glory. However, hope has been short-lived.  

Time was when the West Indies cricket team was considered the most formidable both in test and one-day cricket. A look at the history from the decade of the 1960s to the early 1980s throws light on the virtual invincibility of the West Indian team that annihilated the opposition teams with remarkable consistency blended with flamboyance. It does not require a lot of cricketing knowledge to assess the strength of a team comprising all-time greats like Sir Garfield Sobers, Rohan Kanhai, Sir Frank Worrel, Wes Hall, etc.    

With the introduction of limited over cricket by the ICC, the dominance of the West Indian juggernaut became more pronounced and imposing. The advent of ‘super cool’ captain Clive Lloyd and the menacingly devastating fast bowlers of the stature of Michael Holding, Malcolm Marshall, Joel Garner, and Andy Roberts had made the team into a world-beating unit. They won the first ICC world cricket tournament held in England in 1975, followed it up in 1979, and thereafter, the winning spree of the Caribbean team went on unabated till 1983. 

Ironically, the decline of West Indian domination began with the defeat at the historic final in 1983 when the Kapil Dev led Indian team defeated them in the World Cup final. Thereafter, the story of the West Indies has been of dismal failure in both tests and ODIs. From 1992 to 2019 ICC World Cup, the team did not get past the first round with the exception of 2007 when the world cup was held in the Caribbean islands.    

Bjorn Borg does not require any introduction to the connoisseurs of tennis. A winner of 11 Grand Slams, Borg is considered as one of the all-time great tennis players and his name figures in the Wimbledon’s Hall of Fame. After his glorious exit from tennis, Bjorn Borg had landed up with a number of personal setbacks that landed him in bankruptcy. 

In the year 2006, a shocking announcement was made that Borg’s coveted ‘Grand Slam’ winning trophies and two of his precious rackets will be auctioned in Bonham’s Auction House, London. Needless to say, the announcement had taken everyone by surprise. John McEnroe, an otherwise hostile opponent on the court, reportedly called up Borg to desist from such an unfortunate move. Ultimately, the noble and sincere effort of McEnroe and Andre Agassi yielded a positive result. 

Such real-life sordid incidents, the unfortunate stories of ups and downs, remind us of the famous lines of William Shakespeare in ‘King Lear.’ To quote the immortal dramatist, “As flies to wanton boys, they kill us for sport….”

(The author is a retired civil servant and a die-hard art and sports enthusiast. The views expressed in the article are his own.)

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