September 15, 2006

Why Indian Sport Struggles ...

September 15, 2006 Posted by Vijay 4 comments
Why does Indian sport struggle ? With a population of 100 crores, India still hails one Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore for just a single silver medal for a nation this big at the Olympics. It has been so for nearly sixty years now. And it is tough to see his getting better, unless India mends it's ways from emotionalism, sentiments and cult hero following.

That, I had to pull out these observations from a sport like cricket is expected, since it is one sport where India has done well, but that too only sporadically. For a sport which is not even in the Commonwealth Games, the whole of India roots. Not that there is anything wrong, but this shows the lack of fan following for any other sport ! And when Pankaj Advani gets the Khel Ratna ahead of a cricketer, the whole cricket fraternity, and even the whole of India, which knows only cricket, goes up in arms ! Really, quite disappointing to see the kind of monopoly that Indian cricket has over the entire Indian sporting arena.

Indian Hockey, being the national game, has been relegated to such a state, that when Indian cricket team sets out for a series which is not even like a World Cup, the hockey world cup gets only second priority. And when Indian Hockey, is in the doldrums, everyone starts bashing up the reputation of the team, but hails a Dhoni, a Yuvraj a Tendulkar, a Dravid in the Indian cricket team. Note the usage of the 'a' in the above sentence. That is what Indian cricket has come to be. A team full of stars,stars and stars, each of them blown out of proportion so much that they eat into whatever little reputation a hockey star could have had.

When Sachin Tendulkar struck his 40th ODI century, it was all over the news channels, newspapers and where not. Sachin has made a century. I saw most of his innings yesterday, and the way he plundered the West Indies in the slog overs was a treat to watch. And to think that he struck nearly a run a ball 140 odd, at an age which is on the wrong side for cricketers, and that too after a 6 month break due to injury,was quite astonishing I must admit. Hats off to Sachin for his exploits yesterday.But what happened of the match at the end ? India lost, even after having scored 309 in 50 overs. Admitted it was through the weird D/L (Dusckworth Lewis) system where sometimes, the team chasing wins by a margin of runs rather than wickets.Sounds strange, but that's how cricket is played, and that's how the D/L system works.

That is not the point here.The point is how individual stars are born overnight in Indian sport. True, there are stars like a Beckham,Michael Jordan in other countries too. But for all the stars that U.S and England boast of, they have other sports, where there are stars who excel. Mind you it is stars, and not star. The plurality of the word star is important to note. When India lost even after scoring 309 due to D/L, people were more keen on discussing Sachin's 40th century, than dissecting the problems plaguing Indian Bowling. The Indian bowling was appalling. Pathan, R.P. Singh, Munaf Patel and even Agarkar to a certain extent were all over the place. There was no control on the swinging white ball, they either bowled short AND wide, or overpitched, and kept bleeding runs wherever the Windies batsmen wished they wanted to score. Going at over seven an over, in 20 overs, even if there is power play for 20 overs is absolutely unacceptable. Still beats me why Sreesanth was dropped in place of R.P. Singh, when even Sreesanth would have equally sprayed the ball as badly as R.P Singh.

Yet, the Indian newspapers were more bothered about Sachin's 40th hundred, his 75th International century !! Well, if stars are not made by the media, who else makes them ? Dhoni exploded with a majestic century less than an year ago. Though I wish he is the answer for an Indian Gilchrist, I wouldn't be surprised if he fails miserably in Australian conditions. His technique is adept only for front foot play, and will struggle against the short pitched stuff. But, I do believe he has the temperament and the attitude to get stronger and better. Indian bowling has been quite shabby and at times mediocre in the past 7-8 months. All of the Indian bowlers' economy is way beyond 4.8 per over. But yet, when India wins, the Indian batsmen get the credit, not the bowlers, who for once would have fared marginally better than when India would have lost previously.

What happened to Sania Mirza this year?She was hailed like a cult heroine after she stormed the WTA with her exploits against Petrova and Kuznetsova. She was ranked 31st and she always maintained that her target was to be in the top 50 or top 25. But after she slipped from 53rd during U.S Open and then to 70th after the open, she started commenting that rankings do not matter. What a major contradiction. The whole nation roots for one tennis star, raises them to levels even they would never have dreamt of, endorsements galore, money, lots of it. And then, soon, the slide starts. The pressure builds on the one star a billion people of a country has.

That the Indian society is knowledge and education driven has been known for years. But it is high time things changed. Sports like hockey need to be given better chances of proving its worth as a national game. That India and Indians fare well only in patches and there is a distinct lack of consistency is something of a naked truth. Shock the World Champions one day and then lose hopelessly to a lesser ranked team. The kind of pressure and expectation that India has from its handul of stars is enormous. Which is why, not all sports stars can cope up. Fears of failure, drive players into getting selfish and playing to keep their place in the team safe. It is tough to change the Indian mentality. But what needs to happen is at the grassroots level.

The kind of exposure sportsmen and women get should be at the grassroots level. Passion and aggression is fine. But mental strength, a sense of ruthlessness and clinical ability is something which lacks in most of the Indian sportspeople. Be it conceding as many goals as to relinquish a lead, and then go on to lose a game in the dying minutes of a hockey game, or losing a cricket match after having the opposition at it's mercy at 39/6. It all boils down to a mixture of complacency and each of the above said factors. Ruthlessness with which the Aussies are associated with, is needed to be consistent forever. And most important of all, self belief which needs to be cultivated, which will enable sustained creditable performances. Unless Indian sport is given this kind of a direction, and the Indian society at large recognises that sport does pay and recognise, and the government gives enough faith that sporting achievements will be duly recognised and rewarded, Indian sport will continue to struggle.


Gautam said...

True, it is sad that the Indian women's hockey team is leaving for the world cup is struggling for basics such as shoes and equipment.

Huzaifa said...

Hi Vijay. Nice posts on the problems facing Indian sports. You highlight some valid points.

By the way, I would like to invite you to be a part of It's an online community for desi bloggers. People post their views and opinions on a variety of subjects ranging from films to sports to news. I think you could really contribute to this site.

If you are interested, check out this link: Become a Desicritic ( ) or send me an email (huzaifadas (at) hotmail) if you want more info.

I hope you sign up, we need (esp in the sports section ) good writers :-)

Anonymous said...

dont gripe, we all know our problems - give solutions

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