Wednesday, July 06, 2005

"Padoge likhoge banoge nawab, kheloge koodoge hoge kharab"

This oft repeated saying captures the essence of typical Indian mindset about sports. But for a few exceptionally talented and committed people and gifted backgrounds for others, India would not have at all made any mark at the international sports scene.

Perhaps anyone on the street can cite the reasons for lack of even a single Olympic gold in past 20 years. The prime among these reasons is lack of money and professional management in Indian sports. The sponsors say that without necessary following, it will be a waste to put money for charity's sake in sports. There was this international Volleyball tournament going on in Chennai. The game is popular in that part of the country as was evident from the TV news footage. And mind you, in sports other than cricket, football or tennis, this is a rare sight. Still the federation found it difficult to find sponsors to support the event. Reasons unknown.

Even if the tournaments are able to support themselves financially, there seems to be no will whatsoever that ground facilities could be provided so that the game can actually grow and finds enough young talent to sustain itself. An international fencer who is forced to sell 'chuski' on road and still his passion keeps him motivated enough to find time to teach local youngsters. But there is no appreciation of his service for past so many years. Not even a mention in the list of Dronacharya nominees.

There are other hockey stars of yesteryears who are forced to sell their hard earned gold medals to get some food. Star player pledges that he will never allow his son to follow hockey. Then there is the honourable president of IHF who switched career from police service to Hockey admin and is not relenting his claim over the 'throne'. Can success in ousting terrorists in Punjab help any bit in defending goals from opponent strikers? Perhaps.

There are some leading legacies in sports today. There is Padukone father-son and Prakash Amritraj's academy of tennis. There are people like Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and Anju Bobby George who constantly keep winning without any significant world-level support. And then there are people like Bhupathi who are working to bring the international talent to India by organising perhaps a WTA tourney.

These are not just exceptions. Even the monarchy of IHF has recently organised the 'Premier Hockey League' with the support of ESPN-Star Sports to bring the glamour back into the sport of Hockey. There are silver linings. Sometimes quite a few. But surely this is a long way to make India a great sporting nation. I just remembered a comment by a former Arjuna awardee for TT, Indu in 'We, the people' (NDTV) " The sporting culture is just missing in India. Even if there are some sporting stars, most of them consider themselves too lucky to be there on the horizon". Well, that just captures the essence of it.

Update (26th Nov 2010): It is amazing to re-look at this post 5+ years later. We just finished second overall on home ground in CWG 2010 with 38 Golds (101 overall.. wow!). And of all the sports, we are scoring Golds in Track and Field events in the Asian games. We have virtual monopoly in Boxing as I write this. I mean WOW, when I wrote this post, Athletics and Boxing were nowhere in my mind. This have indeed changed, we have come a long way. But look at China - they are close to getting 200 Gold medals alone in these Asian Games. Way to go! But our progress is nothing less than remarkable. Mera Bharat Mahan!