Last week I received an interesting email from India-born scientist Arnab De who lives in New York, USA.
Arnab has just defended a PhD at Columbia University in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. He developed new animal models to potentially study cancer. The 32-year-old also discovered a new biological pathway essential to defend against bacteria and viruses.
But that’s not why we are discussing his science here.
Arnab went ahead and dedicated his PhD to Sachin Tendulkar, perhaps a first in the world of science where a hard-core Ivy league thesis was dedicated to a sporting icon. And why, you will obviously ask, did he do something as inconceivable? “Not for his cricketing achievements, but for the way Sachin has inspired history and impacted the social psychology (and confidence) of the Indian youth today”, Arnab explained in the e-mail.
On the face, it would look like another crazy fan pulling a quick publicity gimmick. But the young scientist defends his action. “There have been other dedications to Sachin in different fields. However, this is the first PhD to be dedicated to Sachin. I do believe that this article will be widely quoted internationally in different contexts in the future with the growing clout of India, especially as the legacy of Sachin Tendulkar is bitterly debated.”
This different stroke got Arnab some media publicity as well.
Well, you’ve got a point there, young man! Might appear a tad twisted to many, but that’s always the risk when you follow your heart, I guess.
Arnab considers Sachin Tendulkar the greatest batsman of the post World-War era “just as Bradman has been proposed to be the greatest pre-war”.
At the cost of drifting away from his science to sportingly accommodate his effervescent spirit, I quote him further from his email: “Cricket is evidently a British-Australian game and there is wide-spread reluctance to concede this. Hence the argument that Sachin is as good as a Ponting or Lara, probably a little better than them, but certainly not as good as Bradman. To counter such assertions, it might be good for our media to publish the peripheral influences of Sachin (such as this dedication). This is something that the western media has done in the past.”
I have no hesitation in admitting that Nature India considered publishing a scientific analysis of Sachin Tendulkar’s cricketing genius on the day of the legend’s retirement. We considered talking about any patterns in his cricketing career or of other legends such as Sir Don Bradman, any scientific papers that unravel the best techniques used by successful cricketers or why he has been a great cricketer and not such a great cricket captain.
But we stopped short of what would have been a story purely driven by popular demand rather than scientific insight after hearing from Bruce Elliott, Head of the School of Sport Science, Exercise and Health at the University of Western Australia. Elliott, an internationally-acclaimed expert in the biomechanics aspects of performance enhancement and injury reduction, brought our editorial team down to terra firma with a single-line email in reply to our frenzied queries: “While I fully acknowledge Tendulkar’s greatness, I am not able to add anything to the story.”
Though I do not quite agree that media makes a man beyond what he stands for, or that dedicating a PhD to him would alter Sachin Tendulkar’s (or Arnab’s) fate dramatically, I am willing to take the enthusiastic scientist’s spirit positively. It is always a pleasure to see someone add that zest to science by thinking differently, in this case by trying to connect his varied passions — science and sports — in a small way.
That’s precisely why this blog is even featuring Arnab De. He certainly has added a zing to biological pathways as we know them!