Sports

Strengthen the domestic sports set-up

| | Updated on: Aug 26, 2012

It has become fashionable to deride that a 1.3-billion-strong nation can win only six Olympic medals! Unfortunately, medals are not awarded to a nation on the strength of its population but on the strength of its sporting excellence in the international arena.

For a country that is obsessed with international sporting glory, its priorities are more on academic distinction rather than sporting achievement.

Gone are the days when colleges and schools encouraged sports. There were many sportspersons who went on to represent the country, the glorious example being Sunil Gavaskar. This collegian was drafted into the Indian cricket team on the strength of his scores he achieved in the inter-varsity tournament. Gavaskar went on to become the top run-getter on his maiden overseas tour, starting an illustrious career that became one of the most celebrated ones.

There were many in other sporting disciplines as well who made it to the top from schools and colleges. At present, the most successful system is in tatters. Sports in schools and colleges have become a non-starter. The sports quota system is the most abused as young talented ones use it to corner seats in professional colleges to progress further on the academic front rather than in the sports field.

More avenues needed

In this background, the sporting hopefuls need an avenue to display their prowess. In the absence of a viable outlet, the National championships of different disciplines have emerged as the most important destinations for India hopefuls. Consequently, each sporting discipline, under the National Federations had begun to have competitions for different age-groups. This has helped the grassroots talent to emerge stronger as it progressed unhurriedly through the system to the senior championship, the ultimate point where the best in the country converged to test the strength against each other.

Unfortunately, this system was a victim of corrupt officials and dishonest coaches, who, encouraged and supported sub-standard and undeserving candidates as against genuine talent which withered away owing to lack of patronage.

A few good talents beat the odds to make it to the top. Competing in a weakened system such talent was robbed off the real competition. That is why the best of the Nation challenge failed to shine in international arena like World Championship, Olympic and Asian Games.

Such talents are good enough only in regional Games like South Asian Games where India thoroughly dominates.

To the many stakeholders in Indian sport, the need of the hour is to strengthen the existing system. Genuine talent has to be encouraged. Stringent measures have to be adopted to strengthen the competition in National championships. Uncompromising attitude among officials and coaches in supporting the deserving will only bring back the best to compete in the National meet.

The discomfiture of Indians in archery, hockey and other disciplines where an Olympic medal eluded largely owed to lack of real competition at the National level. There is none to stretch Jayant Talukdar or Deepika Kumari in archery. The National grass-court and hard-court tennis are a charade to be conducted where the competition is pathetic. The less said the better about hockey which does not even have a National championship for many years now!

> sabanayakan.s@thehindu.co.in

Published on August 26, 2012

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