Author Archives: rishabh

The need to develop a “Sports Culture” in India

India is a land of many talents, but sports isn’t really one of them.

The performance of our sportsmen in the last 6 months or so has been really astounding – the Nehru Cup in Football, the Asia Cup in Hockey, a good show by Sania Mirza in Tennis, the Twenty20 World Cup in Cricket and most recently, Vishwanathan Anand becoming the World Champion in Chess. This euphoria generated in the wake of such performances could provide a perfect ground for sowing seeds of a sports culture – a dimension sadly lacking in our national life.

As a nation we are proud of our ancient civilization. Our religious culture has produced great scholars and seekers of salvation, enlistment the world over look to India for advice in religious matters; matters related to the soul, the atma. But sadly, we have never had what could be called a sports culture. Not even in the Maharashtra days did we have a sports culture. Archery, boxing and wrestling were used as war weapons. But no contests were held even in these disciplines. And training in these was restricted to the elite, mostly the princes. An Eklavaya with immense potential was refused admission to the training classes of Guru Dronacharya.

The childhood activities of Lord Krishna were tending of cows, stealing butter, playing pranks and the flute, not active sports. Lord Rama did learn ‘Baan Vidya’ seriously but not as a sporting activity.

Sporting excellence was used to kill or subdue the enemy or the adversary and not for promoting the higher, the faster and the stronger concepts, the hallmarks of modern sports.

With stress on spiritual matters we paid more attention to the soul and the other world, neglecting the body and the material, physical world. We forgot that a noble soul should have a worthy, strong body as well.

With the advent of modern sports and the Olympic movement, Indians did put in serious effort in some sports. Dhyan Chand led the hockey crusade and India ruled the roost for three decades winning seven gold medals. Milkha Singh broke the world record in 400m at Rome in 1960 (but unfortunately three others did the same, ahead of him). P.T. Usha showed the world that Indian women are capable of competing with the best. Prakash Padukone beat the world single-handedly winning the All-England and the world title in badminton.

But all these are stray cases of excellence and none of them are products of sports culture. They are all self-made greats.

India can at the most claim to have a cricket culture. But the prevailing Cricket Culture is not Sports Culture and it is more a bane than a boon to Indian sports.

If we had a sports culture in place, Dingko Singh would continue to do well, Paramjit Singh would not vanish into thin air, Gopi Chand would have come on the scene much earlier and P.T. Usha’s records would have been long broken.

The world’s second most populous nation behind China ranks dead last worldwide in the number of Olympic medals won per capita. Paraguay, Nigeria and Iraq have done better. How bad is India’s sporting scene? When international officials stopped by recently to review New Delhi’s progress towards hosting the 2010 Commonwealth Games, an Olympics-like sports competition for former British colonies, they noted that the infrastructure work was pretty much on track. But they suggested, not so subtly, that India might want to pay more attention to preparing its athletes, to ward off embarrassment. India, as proud and nationalistic a country as they are, can’t seem to get out of the starting blocks when it comes to the race for an Olympic Gold.

Why should that be, particularly with a potential talent pool of 1.1billion people? India does funnel a respectable amount of money toward its sports federations, bureaucratic structures set up to manage competition in each sport and train athletes. But unlike in China, Russia or Cuba, where state-run training programs focus on turning out finely tuned athletes, India’s sports centers spend much of their budget on salaries for bureaucrats, while athletes complain about lack of money for track improvements, coaches and better running shoes.Athletes’ feelings of being less than a priority were compounded recently when New Delhi officials announced plans to shut all of the city’s stadiums over the next few months to facilitate renovation in advance of the 2010 Commonwealth Games, leaving Olympic contenders scrambling to find other practice grounds.

It’s time the Sports Authority of India, the state associations and sports federations prove their credibility and worth and put a sports culture on firm footing.

India win a thriller in Twenty20 against Pakistan

India team after winning the bowl out

India 141 for 9 (Uthappa 50, Asif 4-18) beat Pakistan 141 for 7 (Misbah 53, Pathan 2-20) in a bowl-out 3-0 after match tied.

India defeated Pakistan in a bowl-out after the archrivals played a heart-stopping tie during the Twenty20 world championships on Friday.It couldn’t get bigger than what we witnessed on Friday in Durban. India Vs Pakistan in twenty 20 group D match. As expected the stadium was overflowing with spectators and support for both Asian teams was spectacular. Everyone anticipated a close finish to the match. India and Pakistan were playing each other after the gap of two years. Pakistan won the toss and elected to field first. Asif was on target and destroyed India’s top order. A sensible batting by captain MS Dhoni and Robin Uthappa provided some stability and later few big hits by Irfan Pathan and Agarkar ensured the India reach a respectable score of 141 in 20 overs.

India came out to bowl to ensure that they dont loose match in less than 14.4 overs to save elimination from tournament. Indian bowlers were good and did early damage to grip the match. Pakistan were never in groove to chase the Indian score thanks to some good bowling by Pathan and Agarkar. 42 runs were required of last 3 overs. Afridi was out and then a less known Misbah-ul-Haq played an extraordinary innings and Pakistan required 12 of last over to be bowled by Sreesanth. Two boundaries reduced the target to 1 off last 2 balls. Sreesanth then bowled a dot ball and single was required of last ball. Misbah mistimed the shot and was run out on the last ball and the match ended in a tie.

For 40 overs, two equally matched teams scrapped all they can, taking the inclement and irritating weather in their stride, batting with gusto, bowling with plenty of zeal and firepower, and even fielding with the kind of competence generally not associated with teams from the subcontinent.

Now the result was to be decided by a Bowl Out. India picked Uthappa, Sehwag, Harbhajan, Pathan, Sreesanth as their bowl out bowlers. Pakistan went with their bowlers Asif, Arafat, Afridi, Gul, Sohail Tanvir. India won the toss and lead the bowl out. Sehwag hitting the stumps. Arafat missed. Score read 1-0. Then Harbhajan hit and Gul missed. Score read 2-0. Finally Uthappa hit the stumps and Pakistan needed to hit all 3 next bowl out abut Afridi missed the stumps and India won a nail biting match in Bowl out by 3-0.

The crowd could not have asked for more. This is what which makes Indo-Pak encounters so special. Both Pakistan and India qualified for the Super Eights round after ousting Scotland from the race.The Twenty 20 world cup has got great start which was missing from the world cup in Carrebean in March. The stage is set for some explosive and real nail biting cricket and who knows India and Pakistan may meet again in the later stages.

There is a buzz that Twenty 20 is the future of ‘fatafat’ cricket and if we go by this sort of entertainment it is about to be that way.

Happy days are here again for Indian Hockey

Jubiliant Indian Team after winning Asia Cup 2007INDIAN HOCKEY had gone blind. Like a once-beautiful woman choosing to be oblivious to the havoc age had wrought on her, hockey had refused to acknowledge and arrest its decline. It was a free fall into an abyss. That’s Indian hockey for you — governed by a body conducting matters in a manner that could remind you of the Middle Ages. The last year ended with India finishing last in the six-nation Champions Trophy in Chennai and thereby crashing out of the next event in Spain in July. The year also ended with the International Hockey Federation (FIH) President, Els van Breda Vriesman blasting the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) for being the worst national body among the top nations.

The IHF has not changed its style of functioning but the Indian hockey players have changed their ways in the last six months or so. First they won a bronze in Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament. India retained the Asia Cup giving South Korea a 7-2 drubbing on Sunday. The decisive manner in which the victory was scored has given the coach Joaquim Carvalho plenty of cause for optimism ahead of next year’s Olympic qualifiers. The win has brought the smiles back to many hockey fans and staunch supporters of the game. The number of people that turned out to watch the finals was also encouraging. The face of Indian Hockey will certainly change with a few more victories like this. The Indian Hockey team looked like a changed unit as well. The fitness level, the energy, the team spirit and the aggression was all there. Carvalho also hailed his players’ fitness and teamwork after the former world power rattled up 57 goals and conceded just five over seven games, beating South Korea twice and edging out surprise Asiad silver medalists China on the way to glory. It is difficult to single out any Indian player for appreciation as each one of them contributed, playing their roles to perfection in India’s win. They were rightly given a standing ovation by the spectators at the overflowing stadium.

The sports ministry, a few months back, withdrew hockey from the list of priority sports. The decision was not a welcome move for our national sport. Hockey has been the most successful sport in India. It is the only sport which has got gold medals for India at the Olympics. Now after a few good performances, the IOA President wants hockey to be back in the priority list. The President, Prime Minister, MPs, etc have congratulated the team on its splendid performance.

The reactions all over the world to the win have confirmed one thing – if India starts winning again in leading tournaments, it will help hockey’s revival in In-dia. Hockey is India’s national game with a very rich legacy. It was going through a lean phase, but from all indications it is on a comeback trail. The revival of hockey, or any sport, can happen only if more people play the game at the grass roots level build the infrastructure to make that possible. Let us have more grounds for our children. Let schools inculcate a sporting culture in students. We will then have better players and better teams.