India has achieved many milestones in the field of sports and is recognised as one of the upcoming nations in the international sphere. The country has secured a distinct position in world championships with many of its sportspersons displaying spectacular performances.
Various initiatives have been taken up by the union as well as state governments to improve the sports infrastructure, establish training centres for the youth keen on taking up sports as a career option. The Netaji Subhash National Institute of Sports Scholarship is one of the pioneering bodies providing financial assistance in the form of scholarships to the budding talent. Similar programmes have been undertaken by the S.A.I (Sports Authority of India) like building up hostels, stadiums, facilitating cash rewards for outstanding performances in international championships such as the Olympics, Commonwealth Games etc. However there is another side to this bright and sunny picture of Indian sports in the present scenario.
While we have all been a witness to the spurt in the popularity of cricket, we have shown a blind eye to the other sports. Gross negligence of sports like hockey which is our national game has become a cause of serious concern for the country. Growing discontentment and the treatment given to players other than cricketers is paving way for a lot d controversies.
Another issue that needs to be handled is the inadequate encouragement to the women’s teams of various sports which fail to get recognition by the media as well as the authorities. Women sportspersons like Sania Mirza are a few exceptions and this matter needs to be given immediate attention. Despite nearly 60 years of independence, sports is not yet a viable option in India as a career; either one is a prey to the regional favouritism which our power brokers are too adept in playing or one simply lacks the support from the system which should be helping the youth in realizing their dreams.
Our neighbour China has done far better in the field of sports. For us bagging a medal in the Olympics has become a farfetched dream, while China has made a phenomenal comeback in the Olympics and various other world championships with dedication and effective policies taken up by the state to patronise sports. India has miserably failed in inculcating a belief among its people that sports persons are not going to be beleaguered by the ruling class and that they will not end up in one room dungeons waiting for a measly pension amount and die in some government hospital without anyone attending them. Heroes like Anju George, Pankaj Advani , Rathore have been long lost and forgotten.
Hockey was once a very popular sport in India with 6 consecutive wins at the Olympics between 1920’s and 1950’s.
How can we explain the terrible downfall in the performance of our hockey team? Autonomy seems to be absent as the honorary positions are held by various politicians who do not even know the rules of the game they are spear-heading!
Norms of accountability are not in place and there has been a major collapse of the administration of these federations. P.T. Usha made a very relevant remark. She asked other federations to become as successful as BCCI, before crying foul. Hockey has everything to become as popular, or more, as cricket. Only if the federation has the skills and vision BCCI has. Football can do a million times better if the games were managed better. What happened with our tennis players? Not too long ago, we had a decent volleyball team. Our reasonably good fencing and archery teams are already killed. So are Weight Lifting and Boxing. Shooting will be shot down soon.
It isn’t that the facilities aren’t available. As mentioned earlier, the govt has initiated a wide spectrum of institutes, training centres and there seems to be no paucity of funds but the irony is none of these initiatives have been able to make an impact. It is time that we do something to break the power structures which is crippling sports.
We must not indulge in accusing cricket of stealing away the limelight from the other sports. It is just an example of successful marketing by the B.C.C.I which has been very efficient in its working on account of freedom from the bureaucrats and politicians. Constant public scrutiny is one of the other factors that have played a significant role in making the board’s administration free from malfunctioning.
We do realise that there is a long way to go before India could provide its’ people enough incentives to make a career in sports their choice. We could find the present performance of the cricket team very heartening but we just can’t afford to remain content with that. A lot needs to be done to bring other sports at par with cricket. There is no disagreement to the fact that cricket has become a religion in India and cricketers receive undue attention but that could be attributed to their glorification as heroes by the media.
The only way is to give the other sports adequate promotion and assistance and freeing them from the clutches of politicians and corrupt bureaucrats.