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A sporting revolution can take place in India only if our sportspersons are backed wholeheartedly.
The closing of the 2012 Olympics games just as India entered its 66th year of Independence saw the country flush with victory - with its largest ever haul of medals at the games. Every news channel and publication across the country showered praise on the six medallists who brought us glory, and for good measure. With this, the tally of total Olympic medals won by India rose to 21.
Yet its time for some serious reconsideration about sport and society in India today. In 65 years as a nation we have excelled in almost every domain, be it our ability to prove our credentials in the manufacturing sector, revolutionising agricultural production, rising to become a services hub and develop indigenous capabilities in fields like IT, science, defence and even space technology. Despite many troubles, our development indicators have improved as a whole and our cities are throbbing with growth. Clearly, all major indicators have only steadily gone one way, up. Except in sport.
As a country of over a billion people we have gone into a frenzy over a grand total of 6 Olympic medals won. Even if it is indeed India's best ever Olympic haul the number does put us in a fix, as it forces one to contemplate, "how much a matter of cheer is this number, when compared to the size of our population and our other achievements?"
The Olympic euphoria has raised several points about what can make us a bigger and better sporting nation. In my opinion, the biggest step we can take is to adopt a more all-encompassing and, well, sporting attitude towards sports. We can make a great start just by changing our general approach to sport as a nation: from one of 'play for success' to play for skill or sportsmanship.
We are well known to be over-critical and highly judgemental of performances and set very high levels of expectations;and frankly there's nothing wrong with wanting the best. However it is our 'instant coffee' attitude that turns sportspeople into heroes in one match and zeroes in the next. It devastates player psyche too. This approach is a complete paradox of what sports stands for, which is accepting both winning and losing with grace;and to look above petty competition.
A career in sport is impossible without objective support and guidance. The sweep of emotional jingoism that makes us root for one sport over the other, for one player over another, destroys the spirit of both the game and also that of the player. To thrive, both sports and sportspeople need uniformity and an even keel. The six Olympic medallists are the toast of the season but forgotten is the rest of the 81-strong Olympics squad. It is such sidelining that hurts sport the most.
Crowds and public cheering form the backbone of succour for any sport and sportsperson. Besides, when the crowd roars, sponsors listen and money flows into the game. There is no dearth of talent in our country;I can say this from experience too. What there is a dearth of is our lack of unity.
We sadly differentiate even in our admiration of sports. It is this partisan attitude that at the root of the rut. We love cricket, therefore sponsors love cricket and therefore for many an Indian parent, a career in sport means a career in cricket. Adopting an equitable attitude to supporting all sport and talent is the only way we'll be able to get ready for the big game.
When the cheer for champions rises, and we all learn to scream our support for a game, whatever it might be, is when India will see many more racquet stars, shooters, archers, wrestlers, boxers and athletes. I believe we do harbour the potential to win in every sporting arena, from tennis to hockey, and from badminton to individual sporting championships. And we must indeed look to back-off from temporarily glorifying winners. Instead, we must constantly back them.
Of course, it cannot be emphasised enough that India needs huge investments in sporting infrastructure, institutions of sport and much more. But above all, what we need is the gumption to encourage talent from the vast corners of the country, the future winners, who will put us on the map as a reservoir of great sporting talent. We have seen India become a force to reckon with in its various revolutions - be it the green (agriculture), white (milk), blue (aquaculture ) or yellow (oilseeds) revolutions. It's time to make another revolution happen: a rainbow revolution, in which sport of and in every form, colour, or indeed stature is supported. A small but definite start may be made by rising as one voice, one nation with one cheer - a good loud cheer for our champions.
The writer is a former Indian test captain
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