The Perfect Match


What it means to be a star sportsman’s wife – especially during a nail-biting contest? Kausalya Santhanam talks to Arti Sehwag, Rhea Pillai and Aruna Anand

The World Cup 2011 final is on. Flags waving, crowds cheering — the excitement rides sky high. But in just the first few overs two of the star batsmen are out. There is pin drop silence as thousands of spectators react with stunned disbelief. The aspirations of a billion Indians seem to go for a fall as the batsmen walk back to the pavilion. The tension is palpable. For the onlookers, the identification with the player and the game is enormous. But what about the ones closest to the players emotionally – their wives who are with them through good times and bad? What do they go through when their partner is engaged in the big fight? What does life with the champion mean?

A chat with the star wives of three leading players, in cricket, chess and tennis – the spouses who score with their support:

Aruna Anand (wife of Viswanathan Anand): I have been with him for 90 percent of the matches he has played during the past 12 years. You can’t help being nervous as the stakes are high for the World Championship in Chess and it means training for 10 to 12 hours every day for one year. It gets very personal for me. The 2010 World Championship in Bulgaria was very conflictive. Playing in their own country is an advantage for home players, but sometimes those from outside have to face hostility. Just as we were leaving for Sofia, the volcano erupted in Iceland and flights were canceled. We reached Sofia, exhausted after a 40-hour bus journey. It was a 12 match event – Anand and his opponent were even till the last game. Both of us went for a walk on the evening before the decisive 12th game and we could almost hear our hearts beating. When he won, it took some time for it to sink in. For me, the feeling was one of extreme relief more than anything else. Anand is very pragmatic and even when things don’t go well, he will to the gym and then start to work on his chess. When a player loses, it is worse for the wife than for him. When he is in a bad position, journalists and other players try to rub it in and you have to face it coolly and calmly. As for feedback, one keeps one’s eyes and ears open, and then there is the woman’s intuition. Most people think it is very glamorous to be the wife of a well-known sportsperson. But the other face of sport is the constant struggle. Every result matters. Anand has had every achievement; he does not compare chess or himself to any other sport or sportsman.

More here.

Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar
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