Apart from the rich culture and diverse arts presence, India has tremendous experience in different sporting activities such as athletics, cricket, shooting, hockey, chess, badminton, boxing, golf, kabaddi, wrestling, swimming etc. Besides this the country has respectable traditional sports such as boat racing, kushti, gilli-danda and others. But the most popular sport in the country is cricket. This sport is played at all age groups starting from the grassroots right up to the international level. The game has given rise to popular personalities such as Sachin Tendulkar, Kapil Dev, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Irfan Pathan, Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag, Sunil Gavaskar, Dilip Vengsarkar ,Yuvraj Singh, Virat Kohli etc.
Apart from the players the sport has given rise to the popularity of coaches and even commentators. Cricket players are given a lot of attention by the media and advertising companies. India wins one match against Pakistan or Australia and there goes the line of cash prices and cheque’s being showered on them by ministers and state governments. Even in terms of incentives, the other sportsmen and women lag far behind the cricketers.
Hockey is our National sport, but has lost importance in the past few years; it even failed to qualify for the Beijing Olympics. In the London Olympics 2012 the Indian hockey team came out last losing all its matches. Not only hockey, but tennis, football, golf, badminton all shares the same pathetic condition. Neither are the sponsors interested in financing them, nor does the government raise enough funds. The Hockey team receives a meagre sum for every goal that they score, whereas those given to the cricketers do not require a mention. Even football has lost its importance to a great extent except for Goa and West Bengal; no other states are interested in football. In short, no sport in India except cricket is well managed. Indian sports are trapped in politics. New controversies arise almost every week.
The most recent embarrassment to Indian sport is the suspension due to the fact that officials tainted by corruption charges win influential positions. For example Lalit Bhanot, who spent 11 months in prison after allegations of corruption following the 2010 games, was elected as Secretary General of the Indian Olympic Association. If the ban is not overturned, India will be banned from competing in any Olympic events, including the 2014 Winter Olympics and, more worrisome from India’s perspective, the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio. It is really shocking to see politicians and ex-bureaucrats holding positions as Chairman and Committee members for several decades most of them having no clue about the sport in general With the government of India pumping several crore rupees into the various sports bodies for promoting sports and encouraging the sportsmen, these sports bodies have become fertile ground for the politicians and ex-bureaucrats to make money. What is even more disturbing is that even after the stinging observations made by the international Olympic association, the office bearers are still holding on to the positions and have not thought it necessary to quit the job.
Dynasties seem to rule Indian sport. There are many examples that show how politicians and their families run committees as if it’s a family get together. Parminder Singh Dhindsa of the Akali Dal is president of the Cycling Federation of India and the son of Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa is currently president of the Punjab Olympic Association. The Chautala brothers Abhay Singh and Ajay Singh have heralded an era of total politicization of the sports federations. Between them, the two brothers control the Indian Amateur Boxing Federation and the table tennis federation of India.
In 2008, Kamakhya Prasad Singh Deo stepped down as president of the Rowing Federation of India. He was replaced as president by his cousin, CP Singh Deo. When CP Singh Deo ended his term, he was succeeded by his wife Rajlaxmi Singh Deo.
Similarly is the case of N Ramachandran, vice-president of the Indian Triathlon Federation (his wife is the president). He is also president of the Tamil Nadu Cycling Association, World Squash Federation, the Tamil Nadu Squash Rackets Association and the vice-president of the Tamil Nadu Olympic Association. Jadgish Tytler, a Congress leader, has been at the helm of the Judo Federation of India for nearly 20 years on a trot. “There is hardly anyone in the judo body who dares to say anything against Tytler.
Sport’s is one area where India lags behind even some of the poorest nations in the world despite a huge pool of talented sportsperson. At the junior levels, our boys and girls can compete with the best in the world in almost every sport. However when it comes to the senior levels, where the actual capabilities of our sportsperson are tested, we fail miserably.
Even though, huge amount is spent on training and grooming of the players we still have not been able to achieve the desired results. The prime reason for poor performances is corruption & political interference. Due to this many time a good player is left out. The government and the Respective athletic boards are the main culprit for letting down India. Most of them are corrupt, lack professionalism and very biased. However the fundamental problem lies in the absence of a sporting culture in India. Sports in India are considered a secondary and supplementary activity. This explains to a large extent, the apathy on the part of the government machinery towards sports. The corporate indifference too stems from the fact that they are not sure that the sponsorship money will be efficiently used in promoting the game and the welfare of the players.
Those who suffer due to such sordid conditions are the athletes, who have the talent and desire to compete and excel themselves in the international arena but they need to be given proper grooming and training which they have been denied. The ugly conditions in the sports bodies have been repeatedly revealed by several stories such as the coaches misbehaving with women athletes, selecting people in the team based on favoritism and bribes etc. People in India have been watching helplessly and with sadness, while the sports authorities have been behaving as if they are not accountable to anybody and neither the government nor anyone else can touch them.