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19 Mar 2010, 12:30 IST

On my way back to Mumbai from Chennai a few months ago, I met a co-passenger, Mr. Kadir Ali. He was travelling with a badminton racquet and I assumed he must be a sports enthusiast who was carrying the racquet for reasons of his own. After interacting with him, I came to know that he played a sport called ball badminton for Western Railways. Apart from the sense of surprise, I started thinking about the condition of sport in India. And if you are thinking this is another article lamenting about the lack of facilities and politics that’s playing spoilsport, well, you are in for a change.

Ball Badminton

Ball Badminton

Away from all the limelight and the media frenzy ( which I despise and am very critical of), organizations like the Railways, government banks and a few private entities have been supporting various sports for quite some time now. The talent that they have been attracting from the unheard parts of our country is truly amazing and I began to appreciate the system more as I thought more about it.

I’ll try and explain this system to you using the reference that I have of Mr. Kadir Ali. He used to play ball badminton, a team sport, in a village of Cuddalore district in Tamil Nadu. After participating in various tournaments and winning a good number of them, he signed up to be a part of the Western Railways ball badminton team and based on merit and vacancies available they selected him. Now, he has a full time job, gets sufficient time to play, attends almost all the tournaments held across India on behalf of his team and this is with all the right support in the form of facilities, proper coaching, financial support…name it and he has it.

The best part is that this system works at its level. The fact is any sportsman from any part of the country can now lead a life which is contrary to popular perception and what the media reports and continue pursuing the dream of making it big on the international level if made aware of what the system has to offer. Now, it may not be tempting but definitely good enough in a country where one can think of diverting resources to more basic needs of the teeming millions out there.

Thousands of athletes are being supported by above mentioned entities and continue to do well for themselves.  At this point, one may ask as to why is it then we don’t do well on an international level. My answer to that is: we are a young nation with many more important things to care for. Forget us as a nation, even as individuals we would prefer giving more importance to academics and other interests when compared to sport. And for the record, in 2008 Summer Olympics, we did better than developed nations like Ireland and Sweden.

My point is: a system for choosing and grooming talent for international events is necessary and is in the making. But let’s give it time. Sport is being taken up seriously now compared to what it was 15 years ago. Things are out in the open when it comes to mismanagement and action is taken accordingly. As individuals too there is change. For instance, there is a start up that scouts for talent and grooms players with the help of corporate support. And then we have our very own Sports keeda which keeps our interests alive and helps us meet people with similar interests in sport. These things matter too when it comes to developing a sport.

This bit of writing definitely isn’t looking the other way when it comes to the plight of Indian sports and I am not living in a fool’s paradise. But let’s appreciate what’s happening around us and hope that things will improve.

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