By Samyak Purkait

Edited By Michelle Cherian

The game of cricket is our religion and for years we have worshipped our cricketers. Nothing is wrong with that except for the fact that it is a sad state of affairs for a country with 1 billion population not being able to produce world class sportspersons in most other disciplines of sports. No other country in the world with such a huge population is so much single sport centric as is India. If we take the example of big countries like Australia, South Africa etc., we notice that they are good in cricket but are also good in other sports and are recognized world over as sporting nations. It is, therefore, hardly a surprise that we hear questions like, “Sachin, who?”, a query which caused a national outrage! Instead of getting peeved, the die- hard cricket fans should have done some introspection and asked themselves if it was worth blindly following a sport with such little recognition and visibility.

It is not that we do not follow or like other sports as will be evident from the recently concluded World Cup Football finals which broke our domestic viewership records. The performance of India in the just concluded Glasgow Commonwealth Games is encouraging. Parupalli Kashyap brought the curtains down on India’s campaign in the Commonwealth Games to a thunderous applause, winning a historic gold in the men’s singles badminton title. This has made us all proud and we are, justifiably, heaping our praises on the achievers. Yes, there are people who, despite huge odds, train and participate in other sporting events and make us proud with their achievements. On the lines of our professional cricket league, we have started hockey and kabaddi leagues. A big bang football league will also start soon and it is time we asked ourselves the question, “Is the wind of change blowing?” Maybe yes and it’s time we shifted the focus to other sports disciplines too.

We have a tough job at hand as it seems that the people who matter (the big bosses of sports administration) have their interests in matters other than sports. The bureaucracy intervenes at every level and the aspirants face insurmountableobstacles. A recent example of this can be the case of an internationally acclaimed sportsperson like Saina Nehwal asking for the money she so rightfully deserves. Incidents like this are a shame and they thoroughly discourage budding sportspersons who want to take up professional sports as their careers.

It is indeed a welcome change that we are making our mark in sports like badminton, wrestling, shooting etc. at the international level. We can boast of some names who have made us proud in the above events. We should not let this momentum slip away. The Government should work towards development of these and the other sports. We thrive on a system where the administrators, quite often, have little knowledge about the sport they manage. This should, as far as possible, be stopped and only dedicated sportspersons of repute be made administrators. The government should provide the players with all the facilities they need to train to become world class athletes. More and more sponsors should be encouraged to sponsor these players. We should ensure that these sports are as remunerative as, say, cricket. Corporates should, apart from sponsoring these players, choose their brand ambassadors from the players of these sports which, in turn, will increase their visibility thereby increasing their individual popularity and also the popularity of the sport they are associated with. We have no dearth of talent and the incentive of sports will go a long way in attracting fresh talent. The administrative bodies should be more active and visible. For example we should be able to hear equally, if not more, about the All Indian Football Federation or the All India Tennis Association than about BCCI.

We have set our sights on a spectacular GDP growth in the hope that this will propel us to become an economic powerhouse. But a formula based on an all round development model is important to achieve our target. In this context, it is not surprising that all major economic powers are sporting powers also. We should not forget that sporting events and competitions can generate economic activities and, ultimately, sports can be made a self financing proposition. Moreover, this will enhance our visibility which will, again, generate business. It is, therefore important for the Government to play an active part in the development of sports which, in our country, always gets the priority of the back burner. We should remember that the promise of “Achhe Din” cannot be achieved without overall development of sports.

Samyak is someone with wide variety of interests from social work to politics to sports etc. A fun loving extrovert sort of person, he is always willing to participate in constructive forums which help hone his soft as well as hard skills. A keen observer of political events and always willing to scratch the surface and go deeper into the political actions of politicians.

Posted by The Indian Economist | For the Curious Mind