How Rohan Bopanna is a new age John Mallory

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Shivaji Dasgupta
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Rohan Bopanna Australian Open Final

Indian Tennis legend Rohan Bopanna after winning Australian Open men's doubles final match

Kolkata: Exactly 100 years back, John Mallory perished during his third attempt to climb Mount Everest. When questioned about the obsession to reach the peak, he famously said ‘ because it’s there.’ A very good reason why Rohan Bopanna is the oldest man to win a Grand Slam title, after 60 attempts.

Apart from every other courtly tribute, the Indian’s feat has valuable lessons for many obsolete views of leadership. Especially, the new-age malaise of ageism, a strange affection for same-side goals by those empowered with succession. As if their careers as mentors depend squarely on demolishing their tenures in the boardroom or the playing fields, as per vocation.

Rahul Dravid, seemingly an erudite ringmaster, has been an unlikely advocate of demographic discrimination. Saha, Pujara, Vihari, Rahane, and Easwaran have been clearly discarded for Jaiswal, Patidar, Bharat and the ilk. At the cost of genuine meritocracy, one may well surmise, in an era of subliminal physical fitness. Kohli and Sharma continue due to broadcaster centricity, apart from being widely prolific.

Old timers, ironically, may well argue that these are better tidings compared to the tenancy regime of yore when the once-selected refused to be evicted. Retirement had to be enforced, by selectorial warrant or battlefield carnage. Bedi and Company were demolished by Zaheer Abbas in 1978, Kapil Dev was entertained till his milestone was attained and even Ganguly received his final burst of oxygen after the papers were signed - Gavaskar the glorious exception even in this matter.

What one is truly seeking is the Bopanna-Mallory equilibrium, where ability and intent are the only variables for enlistment. Far too much sport is played nowadays for grooming to be a constraint, in the foremost arenas only the best must prevail. By laws of nature, hyper-intensive cardio sports like athletics and soccer may well witness a natural affiliation to the young, while the stop-and-start disciplines like Tennis and Cricket will witness pure skill enjoy a longer shelf life. Chess is a fine example of an untampered meritocracy, where 18 can easily be at par with 68, as long as faculties are fierce.

The largest culprit is actually the corporate sector, where an obsession with shareholder perception building and ill-advised management presumptions have led to a dangerous culture of ageism. Boardroom policies, abetted by HR, often believe that the forties, ideally the right side, are the solitary sweet spot for the CXO suite. Arguments are many although invariably flawed. Youthfulness, as a state of mind, has long surpassed youth, as a state of body, in terms of being the most proven success variable. With much gratitude, one can observe a slender but significant change in mindset, after fingers and balance sheets have been burned at the cost of too much to too many.

At this point, it is apt to dwell on certain demographic data points. Current life expectancy in India hovers around the 70 mark, this was in the region of 62 in 2002. In many countries, the population growth is lower than the global replacement rate of 2.1, Japan being a notable use case. After multiple bursting of bubbles, experience is now the stock in trade for decision-makers, which further accentuates the case for ageism to be decreed extinct, in conventional formats as we know it.

As per the latest evidence, Mallory may well have been the first person to climb Everest, albeit with no photographs. As per visible prudence, Bopanna is the oldest person to ascend to Grand Slam heights. The Bopanna-Mallory equilibrium is beyond sport, it is an annexure of civilisation. Where Darwinism merges with both natural and artificial intelligence to build a palatable world order, room for everybody and belief for all.

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