Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Are Indians better off in individual sports?

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

Karnam Malleswari, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Pullela Gopichand, Sania Mirza, Vijender Kumar, Abhinav Bindra, Sushil Kumar Anju Bobby George and the latest in the list Pankaj Advani. Does the names of these individuals ring any bell in your ears other than the fact that they have earned laurels for India. Well all the above mentioned names are champions in individual sporting disciplines. This bring us to the question – Are Indians better off in individual sports?

If a deep study into the Indian sports scenario is done we will comprehend one peculiar pattern that we have honed our skills in individual sports but barring cricket we have tasted only failures in most team sports. The situation has become so bad that in the last two and a half decades we have almost forgotten our national game hockey. Yes the same game where India had won 5 Olympic gold medals in the past but even failed to qualify for the Beijing Olympics last year.

The same is the fate of Indian Football despite a Nehru Cup win our FIFA rank stands at a dismal 156, and in basketball we stand at 49th spot. Considering the way bodies like Indian Football Association and Hockey India are run, these results are not surprising. These bodies serve as dumping grounds for failed politicians and retired bureaucrats. The reason we do well in cricket is not only restricted to its popularity or the flow of money but the way in which the BCCI is run. The board looked into the development of the game and India is today the hub of global cricket.

Coming back to the performance of individual sportsman, many of them were hardly beneficiary of any government run programmes. Most of them excelled at the international level due to their hard work and private bodies which got into training these individuals. Beijing gold medallist Abhinav Bindra had trained in his own private facility while boxer Vijender Kumar learnt his punches under the guidance of Jagdish Singh in Bhiwani, Haryana. Sushil Kumar was a product of our desh akhara and not Sports Authority of India.

All these factors makes sure that Indian players seldom excel in team sports as most of the time they are let down by the system itself. However there seems to be some ray of home amidst this mess, the success of individual spokespersons has proven that Indian sports doesn't lack talent. The need is to spot this talent early and train them under a proper system. After all a billion strong country can definitely have a football team with a better ranking than 156 globally!


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