Why did cricketer Gautam Gambhir keep his pads on till the end of the IPL-5 final match? Why is tennis player Rafael Nadal particular about the way he lines up water bottles at a game? Why does golfer Tiger Woods wear red to big tournaments? Being superstitious seems to come with the territory for superstars of sport. Here's why they do
Quirks on the arena
Last Sunday, when most of India sat glued to the idiot box as Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) dethroned reigning champs Chennai Super Kings in the fifth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), one constant visual caught the attention of many — seated in the dugout, KKR captain Gautam Gambhir continued to wear his batting pads till the end of the game, a superstition that he admitted to having observed to ensure his team was safely home.
The India connect
It’s a known fact that Indian cricketers and their superstitions are as integral to the game, as bat is to ball. Take batting legend Sachin Tendulkar’s example: He always wears his left pad first, before a game. Swashbuckling opener Virender Sehwag chooses to wear a numberless jersey on the advice of his numerologist. Gambhir, who admitted to the media after that famous IPL final win about his superstition, had reason to follow this one. Interestingly, the only occasion when he removed his pads after getting out, KKR lost.
Others are doing it too
If you thought this was a cricket phenomenon, think again. In the ongoing French Open, observe Rafael Nadal during breaks. The Spaniard is known to bring only two water bottles to a match, with identical labels. After each set, he sips from each of them, and lines them up beside each other, such that the labels face the baseline of the side he is playing! American Serena Williams is believed to bring her shower sandals to the court; she even ties her shoelaces a specific way and bounces the ball five times before her first serve. Former World Number One Belgian Kim Cljisters is known to eat at the same restaurant whenever she is on a winning streak.
Swiss tennis icon Roger Federer is known to be obsessed with the number eight: eight aces before he can begin the game, eight towel-rubs after a set, eight bottles of water (Evian only) and eight rackets in his bag. On the contrary, the number eight isn’t a favourite with Indian Formula-One driver Narain Karthikeyan. He has been quoted in the press that he considers it a bad omen. He never stays on the eighth floor of hotels and avoids room numbers that add up to eight.
Spain’s football team captain and Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas observe a ritual in which he touches his own crossbar whenever his team scores a goal. For some like golf legend American Tiger Woods, it’s about colour. He wears red on Sundays because his very superstitious mother once told him that it is his lucky colour. Portugal and Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo won’t be caught dead with a bad hairdo each time he steps out on the field. One of the world’s richest footballers doesn’t like to jinx a scoring run. To ensure he is on a winning streak, he follows a pre-match ritual of getting his hair cut right. England and Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney has a similar routine. What’s more amusing is the fact that he insists on getting his hair cut by a barber called Daniel J!
No one wants to leave anything to chance: Dr Anjali Chhabria
All of us, no matter how confident we are, possess certain insecurities. We are anxious and always depend on something ‘extra’, if we think that will make things work. As far as sportspersons are concerned, they are part of high-stake games, where along with skill, luck plays a crucial role. For example, Gautam Gambhir’s superstition about him not taking off his batting pads till the end of the IPL final, stemmed from this.
In such high-pressure games, no one wants to leave anything to chance. In his case, they won the match and I don’t think he will take those pads off during a match ever again. At the end of the day, nothing succeeds like success and if one feels that something is working then you tend to go with it. In fact, taking a cue from him, other team members are also likely to develop their own superstitions, because they might feel that it works.