As a nation of over one billion souls, I feel sorry and totally embarrassed to think that India is nowhere on the top in the world of sports and, in fact, it is somewhere on the bottom. There was a time before and after independence, my country – a country that I love, cherish and never thought of leaving to make a permanent home elsewhere in this wide planet – was for a considerable period of time a dominant force in hockey.
Hockey, unlike cricket, is an international sport that is played and known the world over. Moreover, hockey is an action-oriented sport and however long a match may be drawn out, but it would end within 90 minutes to two hours at the maximum. In yester years, India has produced great players and who can forget Dhyan Chand, the legend and the most outstanding players amongst Indians..
When will my countrymen realize that winning medals in Olympics and world and international meets is more important to catapult the country on the international arena and make it a dominant sporting power, rather than cricket? Cricket was introduced by the English colonialists in India, when they used to play this game amongst themselves for the sake of leisure, pastime and recreation. Later on Indians took this sport, when they formed gymkhanas on religious lines.
Corporate houses, financial institutions and others should encourage sports that are known internationally, namely football, hockey, basketball, volleyball, tennis, table tennis, athletics, aquatics, boxing, wrestling, karate, judo, billiards, snooker, gymnastics, etc.
When we, as a nation, will realize that winning medals in sports at international meets is what matters. Trophies and awards won in cricket – a game played by a few countries, namely Australia, Bangladesh, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, West Indies and Zimbabwe – do not mean much as they do not have international recognition or stature. Moreover, it is played at a much, much lesser scale in a few other countries and whatever indications we have show that cricket does not have the strength to spread all over the globe. Further, matches played by stronger countries against weak oppositions like Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, end being one sided or a cake walk. Any frontline opposition batsman or a strike bowler will either be able to notch up big scores or take bagful of wickets against weak oppositions without much effort..
It is high time for the Sports Minister to ensure that all sporting bodies and associations in the country are totally accountable to it and elections held for appointing office bearers of sporting associations are done under its total supervision. Further, running of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (B.C.C.I.) should be answerable to the Sports Ministry, rather than being an independent or autonomous body that is not answerable to anyone, as is the case today. Very few people are privy to the working of B.C.C.I. and there does not appear to be any audit to find out how much money is earned by this body and from where it is generated, how it is spent, are there any rules and guidelines for spending of money and preventing embezzlement, fraud and misappropriation of funds.
I am just amazed to see that India can spend billions of dollars for holding test, 50 and 20 over cricket, resulting in everyone from the President of B.C.C.I., their office bearers, administrators, cricketers, umpires, commentators, etc. raking in millions. Most cricketers playing for the country are multi-millionaires, but no one cares for other sportsmen. Why are the organizers, administrators, media, people and the Central and State Governments only focused in promoting cricket? What about promoting other sports? Who will take the initiative?
On 08/08/2008, we saw the Indian squad taking part in the Olympic march past and the scene was utterly disgusting and pathetic. First of all, they were not in uniforms. Secondly, they did not march smartly. Thirdly, they were totally sloppy and gave an appearance of ambling on the beach. There are 56 sportsmen representing India at the Beijing Olympics and accompanying them were 42 officials. Were this many officials required? Of the 42 officials accompanying the team, why was not a single official given the responsibility of ensuring that the delegation wore uniforms (and not something that struck their fancy) and marched smartly as the image of the country was at stake? All the erring sportsmen should be heavily fined for taking things in a lackadaisical manner and not allowed to take part in the next Olympics. Would China have tolerated such a lethargic and take-it-easy attitude from their sportsmen? For all you know they would have ended up in jail.
It is also the duty of the Sports Ministry to ensure that all office bearers controlling various sports are ex-players who have distinguished themselves in their field of sports and possess transparency and integrity in their dealings. Further, there should be annual audit of all sporting bodies. The constitution of these sporting bodies should clearly spell out that no politician can stand elections or be on the body of these committees.
In short, the duty of the politicians is to serve the people, improve the economy of the country and also the standard of living of the people, especially the poor and downtrodden, etc. Politicians and others are fighting tooth and nail and like snake and mongoose to get elected into B.C.C.I., even by resorting to devious means. If they really want to improve the level of cricket, then why not try to head other sporting bodies where there is a lot of room for improvement and raising the standard of sports?
In conclusion, I wish to proffer my heartiest congratulations to Abhinav Bindra, who won the gold medal in 10 metres air rifle event in the shooting competition at the Beijing Olympics, India?s first medal and the first time the country is winning a gold in an individual event and also the first gold since the 1980, when the hockey team emerged triumphant. You have done the country proud, Abhinav Bindra, by winning India?s first gold medal and creating history of sorts in a sporting event that is extensively played and competed in virtually all the countries of the world, both by civilians and military.
Nelson Lewis, Bahrain
Author: Nelson Lewis- Bahrain