Indian sports beyond the realms of cricketing frenzy that engulfs the country are an afterthought that would spring to life in the conscience of us all when an Indian does the nation proud at an international sports meet and at other times conveniently be put on the back burner until another incident of international acclaim to an Indian sportsperson comes along and we get back to cheering them after they have won.
So what is common to Abhinav Bindra, Gagan Narang, Vishwanathan Anand, Vijendra Singh, MC Mary Kom apart from the fact that they represent India at the international level in sports? If you say that they are all world champions or Olympic medal winners then I would have to concur with you but the answer that I seek is a little more subtle. All of them have had a tryst with the apathy of the Indian sports authorities and faced a detour through the crippled infrastructure of sporting venues to rise to the very perch of their respective sports.
The above mentioned personalities show the two conflicting sides to the same story, one that there is no dearth of talented sports persons on the Indian shores and the other that no matter how much the ‘talent’ might spring out of you, you ought to toughen up and fight out the lack of even the most basic facilities, almost negligible incentives and even worse the nonchalance of the men at the helm of sporting affairs.
Changes are needed in the way that sports are run in India and the changes ought to be immediate to spur India’s push for more Olympic medals in the years to come. And while ‘change’ might sound a simple word, but in a context such as this it is a herculean task.
From the people who run the sports bodies, to professionalizing the non-cricket sports in India so that sports is no longer played just for the ‘quota’ that it gets you in institutions of higher education. More steps towards developing infrastructure to provide better training and medical facilities to the athletes, and offering higher incentives and rewards to them. Measures need to be taken to bring Indian sports in better light.
However, the most elemental change ought to be brought in at the grass root levels towards the nurturing and scouting of talent spanning across various sports, any inspiration if needed can be derived from our great rivals China who have built a sporting culture all by themselves over the last few decades whose rewards they now reap with global domination in the Olympics.
Organizing domestic competitions and tournaments for young athletes as well as sports camps would go some distance in elevating India’s rather precarious situation and the rest is for the media to publicize, promote and cover more sports rather than focusing on their go-to sport of cricket which earns them their mega buck, not that the media must not cover cricket but the other sports should be elevated from their pedestal of being sideshows.
The great men say the most important thing for an athlete is not whether he wins or loses but the way that he walks out of there. The greatest can fall and the ultimate underdogs can upset their naysayers and overcome the odds. Likewise, India needs to nurture talent, some might flatter to deceive but many others shall surely prosper and unfurl India’s tricolor at the grandest stages in world sport. The journey of zooming towards being a sporting superpower would be a long and tumultuous one but with the resources and potential that India has, right planning, utilization of talent could surely take India to the pedestal it wants to be at, right at the very top.