– V.N. Balakrishna | November 25, 2013
Ahmedabad | What ails Indian sports is as complex as what ails the political system. During my school days I was keen playing football and participating in state athletics meets in events such as long jump. My parents never approved of it and often I heard them saying which translates to “nothing like being an engineer or doctor in life.”
Today can a child aspire for being part of national hockey, football of volleyball teams? Surely it will shock parents given the politics, corruption and indifference. A career in sports is fraught with grave risks without money or right connections. Cricket or tennis is tantalizing provided you can make it to the big league.
India’s sports policy is in disarray thanks to ad hocism. When it comes to Olympics or Asian Games shortage of talent is citied as excuse though India is brimming with budding talents. Politics and corruption bedevils every sport, including crème de la crème cricket. If budding talents are identified it is through Under-16 state level selections be it for track & field, football or hockey. There are several cases when those who qualified fell by the wayside in final selection because 18-year-olds took their place with birth-certificates giving way to money power or the certificate itself being fake.
I remember participating in School Athletics meet of Under-16 in Hyderabad. Whenever a boy with scrubby beard came to take his turn in long jump the referee mocked saying, “mera baap aa raha hain.” The boy probably was Under-16 if going by his birth certificate. But the fact is India is surfeit with bogus certificates robbing chances of those who want to contest on merit. It shatters self-confidence of losers.
Like politics a dynastic officialdom rules India influenced by extraneous regional factors the offshoot of which was the 2010 Commonwealth Games Scam. Despite India putting good show coming second to Australia and crossing the 100-medal mark for first time, what shocked was over Rs 2,300 crore going into corrupt pockets, according to the CAG report. Could this not have benefitted talented kids who would have been now in mainstream sports?
We are psychologically trained to compare ourselves with lowly Pakistan and never with China. Our cricket milestones flatter us to such an extent that a rare honor such as Bharat Ratna had to be given to a cricketer. Cricket is a rich man’s game, if roadside cricket is ignored. Imagine China playing cricket and honoring its cricketers!
If anyone deserves top state honours it is our heroes like Vishwanathan Anand or hockey greats like Dhyan Chand. Till he lost to Magnus Carlsen recently, Anand was undisputed World Champion even in multiple formats such as classical, knockout and rapid. No player won in multiple formats as he did. He also defended his title from three challengers for seven years and easily ranks next to Bobby Fischer or Gary Kasparov.
His winning the World Junior title in 1987 at 17 more than rivals Sachin Tendulkar’s achievements. For over two decades he has been on top consistently being one of the best players in the world. Even legendary Kasparov bid farewell at 41 when Anand won a World Championship at 43 and still continues to play.
Ironically such greats as Anand leave India further depressing Indian sports. He settled in Spain and is now treated as Spanish citizen. In the match with Carlsen he was not enthused though playing in his [once] home town of Chennai. There was something amiss in facing young Carlsen. Was it the “chalta hai” attitude that permeates Indian subconscious?
Sports deserve full autonomy and professionalism. Olympics can offer a lot to our kids and to the nation as a whole. Can Indian Establishment afford kids growing without playing and by just watching cricket?