In the wake of an Alia-esque pop quiz disaster, Maria Sharapova has bowed down to global pressure over her lack of sporting knowledge and is apparently mulling a yearlong break from tennis.
In a press conference yesterday, she has expressed shock at the propensity of protests around the world for her lack of information about national sporting icons. She looked utterly disgusted with herself , tears rolling down as she said, “I spend most of my childhood and teenage solely to hone my tennis skills, (sic) far away from home and was very proud, until now, having reached the pinnacles of the game. But now I realize that Sachin might be only a tip of the iceberg, the iceberg being all the things that I missed out all these years”.
Thereafter she dropped the bombshell that she is quitting tennis for the time being to spend a year watching only ESPN. She has also indicated that an elaborate plan is being prepared as we speak wherein she will divide her time to watch various sports, popular and obscure, to know more about the names, faces and achievements of major global sporting personalities. Needless to say, she expects this will enhance her much damaged public image which is closely linked to her career in endorsements, which in turn can guarantee her earnings beyond her tennis career.
The entire hue and cry over her not so blissful ignorance started shortly after her press conference at Wimbledon, where she dumbly said, “No, I don’t”, when she was asked if she knew Sachin Tendulkar.
Tendulkar, as anyone with remote knowledge of cricket would know, is considered one of the greatest players the game has ever produced. Her reply and the widespread criticism she faced thereafter in Indian press alarmed the sports lovers of various countries. The events thereafter blatantly exposed her lack of grasp over global sporting newsmakers. Even her fellow countrymen, particularly the Russian cricket captain Ashwani Chopra termed the incident as a “svyatotatstvo” (sacrilege) and a “neuvazheniye” (disrespect). Meanwhile journalists and sports administrators from around the world thronged into Sharapova’s residence in Bradenton, Florida with queries about their respective national sporting heroes and asked her to identify their pictures.
Although Sharapova obliged and tried to recognize the pictures, she failed to identify most of them. A New Zealand reporter was in tears when Sharapova mistook Kiwi rugby legend Jonah Lomu to be actor Cuba Gooding Jr. Hostilities broke out in true ice hockey tradition as effigies of Sharapova were punched and then burnt in Toronto’s Roger’s Arena and other hockey stadiums shortly after she thought all time great Wayne Gretzsky to be Princess Diana’s brother. However, even in the midst of all the paparazzi blitzkrieg she got the better of an English reporter who held a Steven Gerrard picture in her face, just to be sure. She apparently knew who he was but chose to shrug her shoulder and murmur some joke about a tea bag lasting longer in the cup than the three lions. Representatives of various sports like camel wrestling, mountain uni-cycling, toe wrestling, chess boxing and underwater hockey were seen among the bemused crowd. Having failed to muster the courage to ask Sharapova any questions about their respective sports, they were seen leaving after handing out brochures about these sports.
The BCCI, on the other hand, very proactively advised beforehand the Kabbadi, Kho-Kho and Indian Hockey federation representatives to learn from the Tendulkar experience and not embark on the trip to Florida. In a joint press conference in New Delhi, the representatives of the cash strapped sporting bodies expressed their gratitude to BCCI for saving them the round trip air fare from India to the USA. The BCCI itself has however played down the entire the “who is Sachin Tendulkar?” episode and welcomed Sharapova’s decision to invest a few year in sporting academics. “She is a talented individual and we await the return of her wiser self in 2015 Wimbledon. And we will not be surprised if she hops in teenage excitement on spotting a Hemang Badani or a Debashish Mohanty in the centre court at the All England’s next year”, a BCCI spokesperson said. He further said that at the end of her education, BCCI might consider using Sharapova to popularize cricket in Russia and also use her new found expertise for the development of the sport.