MS Dhoni stretching like a gymnast to prevent himself from being stumped in the last T20 International versus New Zealand was synonymous with him stretching to save his career in international cricket. Our Indian cricketers are showered with expansive life style, adulation and demi-God like status which is so hard to give up most of the times. MS Dhoni reached the pinnacle of sporting success by hitting the winning six in the 2011 world cup much to the ecstacy of cricket frenzy Indian public. There were delirious celebrations among the fans after the victory and Dhoni was put on a very high pedestal almost equivalent to one reserved for SRT till then but life seems to have come a full circle for this sporting icon in November 2017. But this phenomenon is not restricted to Dhoni’s case alone, it has plagued Indian sport for umpteen numbers of years and there seems to be no panacea for this disease. Had it been an Australian cricketer he would have long been axed for they don’t keep somebody who is detrimental to the cause of the team. In cricket or in any other sport, team is paramount. Individuals, records, careers or advertisers money cannot dictate the way a team is selected. Case of Ricky Ponting or Adam Gilchrsit in point. Both could have continued creating record after record but Australia winning world cup was more important than some individual records.
Something similar of the sort happened when Sachin Tendulkar was given a long handle to keeping raking up immaterial numbers when he could have well retired in 2011. He could pick and choose series and matches, when to play and when not to. But then he was God and not demi God, God can have such privilege one presumes, Kapil Dev was made to play match after match to enable him break Richard Hadlee’s record of 431 test wickets.
The nub of the matter in all the above instances is that we as a nation are starved of sporting success and if somebody manages to be world class in our country it is because of sheer individual brilliance rather than the efficacy of the system.
Apart from cricket and to some extent hockey we have not seen many sporting successes. One name which comes to mind is that of Abhinav Bindra who won the Gold in Beijing Olympics but then again it was the sheer brilliance of the man coupled with razor like focus which brought in the laurels. National rifle association of India had very little role to play in that. So what is that plagues Indian sports and why India continues to languish in the world of sport despite it’s billion people and a flourishing economy.
Not enough Talent in the country:
No matter how much we scream from our roof tops but there is serious dearth of talent in our country. Leave cricket aside, how many world class performers have we produced in athletics except the prodigious Milkha Singh and PT Usha. In football we are languishing somewhere around 100; in hockey after 1980 Moscow Olympics we have not even featured in semifinals at world stage. Shooting was supposed to be the bright spot but our shooters also disappointed and returned with a wooden spoon in 2016 Rio Olympics. How can we produce sports persons when almost one third of our children are under nourished? World Bank estimates that India is one of the highest ranking countries in the world for the number of children suffering from malnutrition. The prevalence of underweight children in India is among the highest in the world, and is nearly double that of Sub Saharan Africa with dire consequences for mobility, mortality, productivity and economic growth. Sports persons have to be supremely fit to win medals at international level and we seriously lack here.
Either we don’t respect our sports persons or we worship them, scoring a century or winning an Olympic medal is sure short recipe to earn millions of dollars. Medals of Karnam Malleswari, and Saina Nehwal, now with standing. They reached the pinnacle of sporting success but never scaled the heights again because they were showered with excessive adulation. They were showered with gifts, money, land etc. so much so that zeal to win another Olympic medal simply vanished. Even small amount of sporting success means we started worshipping our sports persons.
Lack of sporting culture:
In our country we don’t encourage children to take up sport as a profession. Sport is seen more as a hobby than a career option. The risks involved in taking up sports as a career options far outweigh the benefits of academics because of lack of career options. Off course things have improved slightly with the advent of global sporting leagues in the form of IPL, Pro Kabbai League etc. but still it will take at least another 20 years for us to reach up to the level of good sporting nations.
Our petty politics towers everything else, politicians have taken control of almost all sporting federations’ right from state associations in cricket to wrestling federations to TTFI. Boxing which was once considered bellwether sports which will catapult India to become a sporting powerhouse is in doldrums. In fact boxing association remains suspended and poor boxers continue to suffer because of political squabbles which have got nothing to do with sport. Situation is not much different in other sports as well wherein budding sports persons never rise to their true potential because of meddling by politicians.
No matter how much we brag about our vegetarian diet but vegetarian diet is mostly carbs and it is impossible to get right amount of nutrients from a vegetarian diet. Our children lack protein intake which in turn affects muscle building which is an impediment to growth. For normal people vegetarian diet can work but sports persons need heavy dosage of energy to work out and vegetarian just doesn’t suffice and can never meet the requirements of sports persons.
Poor infrastructure and support:
Even though we have top notch corporates like Reliance Industries, Adani Industries, Tatas etc. but all these top notch business houses are averse to invest heavily in the development of sports. Olympic Gold quest is the case in point but how much of the money is spent in grass root development is still questionable. If top corporate houses come to whole heartedly support our sports persons this will go a long way in establishing sports in our country.
However all is not lost, we are improving our rankings albeit ever so slowly, 2012 London Olympics was an aberration wherein we had some extremely talented athletes who won us so many medals but we could not do much in 2016 but this does not mean that we are going downhill in sports, our graph is still showing an upward trend but push has to come from all quarters before we can become a force to reckon with in world of international sport.