As yet another edition of the Olympics draws to an end, India is yet again left high and dry gasping for increasing the medals tally. The previous edition at Beijing gave us one Gold in the name of Abhinav Bindra. This time London Olympics saw India ending up with 2 Silver medals and four Bronze. Despite being a meagre tally where India ended up 56th on the medals table, this is still a better performance compared to our previous conquests.
Every time a sports debate, especially pertaining to individual sports rake up, one constant argument has been India’s inability to win medals in the competitive games. While lot of reasons have been put forth, it is usual to see a few coming up with the blame that cricket as a sport is killing the development of other sporting events in India.
Before going on to the cricketing aspects, let us remember the basic fact that in the major event in these Games, namely the athletics and the marquee track events, are never our cup of tea. The developmental makeup of Indians is not suited for track events as much as the Africo Americans who are ruling the sprint events. Our best choice is to compete in longer runs for which the stamina is a big factor. It is here our athletes lack in a big way compared to the Africans or Americans.
Indian athletes face lots of hurdles before they can compete in their events. Before facing the 110 metre Hurdle, an Indian athlete would have faced a lot tougher situations in life. Right from proper practice facilities available to the selection and qualifications, an athlete has to go through lot of fights. The life of an athlete in general and a sportsman in particular is never easy apart from few elite sports like cricket or tennis or chess in India.
The authorities are culpable for this situation. The selfish motives and murky politics involved in the organization of Indian sports were evident to the World in the way we conducted the Commonwealth Games in our capital Delhi, couple of years back. While it should have been a great spectacle to showcase our organizational skill to the world, our men in power made sure that they filled their pockets making India a laughing stock in the process. Wasn’t the head of Indian Olympic Committee jailed for the scams involved? What bigger shame can a nation beget than this?
The Government run sporting bodies in India are perfect examples of how a sporting body must not function. Right from the top most position to the lower hierarchy, corruption prevails. Politics, factionalism, regional bias, favouritism and what not do we miss in these processes? The authorities concerned have been totally negligent of their duties to the players, sports and the nation in general. They have been solely aiming at making their purse grow at the expense of the sports. A sportsman to get a job or an admission through the Sports quota must have considerable backup, money and his talent is least required for display. While not generalizing, this has been the situation prevailing in India predominantly.
Our national game of hockey is a perfect example of attrition in the organization. While we ruled the world in Hockey few decades ago, we are nowhere a force to reckon with now. The consistent blame games and hatred has led to the downfall of the national sport. No wonder Hockey has very few takers today.
Coming to the female athletes, it is lesser said the better. It might not be much reported but there is no denying the fact that they are treated more shabbily. The advantage of their being the weaker sex is well exploited. Sania Mirza was not wrong when she accused the chauvinistic attitudes of a few important people recently. The personal egos of established stars paved way for the losses in Tennis this time. The authorities, instead of mending the situation, played their part in deterioration.
At this juncture, it has become a common habit to blame the one sport that thrives in India, i.e., Cricket as the reason for all the ills. The BCCI is the strongest in the game right now and more often than not acts as a “Big Brother” and a bully. They hold the keys of International Cricket and has its own share of controversies and scams. Neither are its heads saints nor is its functioning transparent.
Yet, the cricket board has achieved in its role of developing the game in India. From the time Kapil’s Devils piped the mighty West Indies in 1983, the game has been on the ascent. The advent of legends like Tendulkar, Kumble and Dravid has played a major role too. The team was built around the committed stars and the performance gained heights.
Meanwhile, Dalmiya and his slew of successors hit the right spots in marketing the game. The game became a part of the national schedule with perfect marketing strategy. The commercialization of cricket might have dented the soul of the game but the sport has evolved and reached the masses like anything.
If today a mediocre performer like Ravindra Jadeja or a Rahul Sharma enjoys a wealthier life than a proven star of other sport like a Vijay Kumar or a Sushil Kumar, the credit goes to the authorities at BCCI who marketed the game. The media has always been about sensations and hits; Cricket provides them a wonderful one.
Blaming the fans for being partial towards cricket is not always right. A common man will always go towards the best product and cricket is the one sport in that bracket in India. Whose mistake is it that Mary Kom’s Bronze is highlighted lesser than India’s T20 selection? Can a fan be questioned on his sidelining? Frankly, how many of us know the basics of boxing when compared to the batting average of Rohit Sharma?
The social condition in India is also not so conducive for the development of sports. We are still a nation known for our academic excellence. The high proportion of Indian professionals in multi-national corporations across the globe is a simple indication. A common parent will always love to see his ward being an academician rather than a sportsman, thanks to the socio-economic conditions prevailing in India.
A sport like chess has always been a game of elites and is still one. It is just recently that it has started expanding its horizons to involve the middle classes. Tennis also falls under this category, where an athlete usually comes from the lower socio-economic conditions predominantly faces many hurdles to even develop his own game, let alone make a living.
Here, cricketers had been nurtured by the public and media following the heels of proper marketing by the Board. An average cricketer today is assured of a decent living once he breaks through a First Division or First Class Level. Although the attitude of the Board has left a lot to be desired in many fronts, the BCCI had made sure that their game hogs the limelight and is treated special by the public.
For this one very reason alone, we need to salute the BCCI. They have made sure there is alteast one sport where India holds the ace, where India dominates. Cricket is one sport where we can say with pride “We are World Champions” (Right now, aren’t we?). Our team may go through tumultuous period now, but India is the favoured destination for the professionals today. We have broken barriers and have come atop. BCCI has won where most other Sporting bodies in India have failed. Olympics may be a dream but let us feel happy for being World Champions in one game atleast. For this reason alone, Long Live the BCCI!