Indian sport without cricket is a pathetic story, says PN Vijay
No nation honors its athletes as much as we do. Nowhere does the Prime Minister – a man beyond the reach of ordinary people – grant a special audience to a Paralympic Games medalist – an event largely ignored for its triviality by the world media. We are one of the few nations that has a separate sports ministry. I’m glad we do (any achievement is to be appreciated) but I see the irony of it all; a 135 crore nation “clinging to the straw” when it comes to sports.
The history of Indian sport over the past 70 years has admittedly been quite bad. We won gold eight times in the Olympic hockey games from 1928 to 1956 before Pakistan beat us with a single goal at the Olympic Games in Rome in 1960. We won again in Moscow in 1980, but very little. teams participated. Abhinav Bindra won shooting gold and Neeraj Chopra recently won javelin gold. We won some silver and bronze medals and some great performances like Milkha Singh who finished fourth in the 400 meters and PT Usha also finished fourth at hurdles. That, I guess, sums up our past performances at the Olympics for 90 years up to Tokyo. In other areas, India of science, technology and liberal arts, India of course has come a long way.
We have had significant successes in cricket, although it must be admitted that cricket is only played in about ten Commonwealth countries. Even then, our accomplishments are commendable. Success draws crowds and it’s no wonder crowds flock to cricket games and families stay glued to televisions for hours.
Companies buy time at usurious prices. Dhoni and Kohli are household names and rival Bollywood stars in popularity. “IPL” is considered by many to be the most successful Indian brand in the world. Why is Indian sport without cricket such a pathetic story? For each failure, many reasons are cited and Indian sport is no exception. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons and look at some possible solutions. Sport is not seen as a viable career option due to the lack of compensation and job security for athletes. As a result, parents are reluctant to choose it as a profession for their child and rely more on academic excellence. I remember a joke a friend told me when we were discussing this topic. A mother comes and asks her husband, “Shruti wants to take advanced swimming lessons. If she succeeds well, she will be selected for the Nationals ”. Father frowns “Are you stupid?” She must prepare for her NEET exams ”. There ended a beautiful prospect of swimming.
In addition, there is no reservation of seats under sports quotas in the highest educational establishments in the country, which goes against the practice followed in the world. For example, the prestigious American colleges are a hub of athletic excellence and academic excellence, while the IITs and IIMs in India, which focus only on academics, are not. As a solution, all state-owned enterprises, including PSUs, should be invited to employ athletes on a certain percentage of vacant positions.
In addition, the private sector should be encouraged to employ more and more athletes. In addition, the government should provide for the payment of an allowance to state, national and international players, something similar to the “sports allowance” in many countries. In addition, to increase old age security for athletes, the govt. should provide pensions for retired sportsmen. A sense of security is the sine qua non of any success.
The bodies that control sport in India have long been dominated by influential politicians and big businessmen. A political big man has been president of the Indian Archery Association for almost 40 years without knowing how to shoot an arrow with a bow. There is no common law governing the administration (elections, financing, timetables and events, qualifications and deadlines for the various administrative positions, etc.) of the different sports associations. As a result, they are neither transparent nor fair to the athletes as well as to the officials. A law should be enacted to remedy this, which would include rules for the basic administrative structure for all sports.
The lack of representation of former sportsmen in administrative bodies has been a problem common to all sports in India. Most associations have their official staff who have no idea of the sport. This leads to the dissatisfaction of the players as their issues are not understood and solved by this superimposed staff. As a solution to this problem, a minimum quota of 50% should be reserved for ex-athletes occupying administrative positions in all associations.
Another major concern of Indian sports is the lack of an organized mechanism to identify talent from the local to the national level. There is no system to identify and nurture talent at the school, block, and district levels, and then promote talented athletes to state and national levels. As a result, many gifted athletes are unable to reach the highest echelons of the sport and are lost.
To put it in the immortal verses of Thomas Gray’s Elegy in a Country Churchyard: its sweetness on the air of the desert.
The lack of sports infrastructure at the local level makes matters worse. Sports associations should be established at the islet and district level which will oversee the respective sports academies at this level.
These academies will provide infrastructure and other athlete needs like proper nutritional plan, anti-doping awareness campaign, fair and timely selection trials, conditioning camps, overseas exposure, etc. These academies would become a breeding ground for future champions. In India, funding for sport is insufficient by global standards. For example, we only spend a quarter of what China does on sports. In addition, most of the funding in India comes from the government compared to the United States where 90% of the endowment comes from private organizations. Although the Indian business sector is willing to give more financial support to Indian sports, due to lack of spending transparency and adequate incentives, they are refraining from doing so.
Sport is important for a nation. It builds national pride and promotes unity. It creates citizenship with a healthy body and a healthy mind.
The author is an investment banker and political commentator. The author is an investment banker and political commentator. His Twitter handle is @pnvijay.
Posted on: Wednesday September 22, 2021 10:04 am IST