By far cricket is the most popular sport in India. The youth admire this sport due to some real cricketing heroes who have performed consistently well, often brilliantly, at the national and international levels for decades. Lala Amarnath, Kapil Dev, Mohinder Amarnath, Gundappa Vishwanath, Sunil Gavaskar – to name just a few, are cricketing legends who have inspired countless aspiring cricketers. And the most important personality thanks to whom cricket has gained such popularity in India is – who else — none other than Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.
Sadly, India lacks such a galaxy of sporting personalities in other sports disciplines like swimming, cycling, long jump, high jump, rowing, athletics, table tennis, football, gymnastics. Is the reason behind this is a dearth of adequate facilities or adequate guidance ? All kinds of financial support is now being provided to every sport in India. But proper utilisation and application of this money is required. For example, a Formula One (F1) Grand Prix will be taking place in India for the second time this month. Thanks to the thoughtful planning of infrastructure and other qualitative inputs which have gone into it, F1 car racing is now on the radar of many young Indians and many admit to new dreams of a career centred round motor racing. Likewise, the Pepsi T20 Football tournament which was organised in June 2012 was also a good initiative and boosted the motivation of young people to include football in their future career options.
It goes without saying that India is a very big country and so obviously a huge amount of talent is available in India. But proper guidance is required to utilise that talent. China is our neighbouring country and also very big, area-wise and population-wise. But if we look at the performance of China in 2012 Olympics, we will get a clear idea about how advanced they are in sports. In total, China has won 88 medals including 38 Gold medals, 27 Silver medals and 23 Bronze medals. In comparison India has only 6 medals (2 Silver medals and 4 Bronze medals). Why is there such huge difference? Both the countries are South Asian. Despite this China is far, far better than India. Whether it is swimming, cycling, athletics, gymnastics, football etc. in all of these China has produced substantial results.
According to data, in total 83 athletes represented India at the 2012 Summer Olympics, but India managed to win only 6 medals. It is such a shameful thing. At the International level India’s performance is just not up to the mark. In the 2010 Common Wealth Games (CWG), India won a commendable 101 medals in total including 38 Gold medals, 27 Silver medals and 36 Bronze medals. But if we compare it with the 2012 Olympics, then India is nowhere near the medal tally of the 2008 CWG. Why was there such a huge difference ?
If we look at India’s performance in cricket then, India has won two cricket World Cups, first in 1983 and the second in 2011. India has also won the inaugural 2007 Twenty20 World Cup. Moreover India is also ranked fifth in the world in Test Internationals, third in the world in One-day Internationals and also third in Twenty20 Internationals.
So why is India lagging behind in other sports? If we look at the rankings of India in other sports, then we will find how poorly India is ranked.
As Rahul Singh, writing in Khaleej Times, commented, “Just one sportsman – US swimmer Michael Phelps – has won almost as many Olympic medals – 22, 18 of them gold – than the total number of medals won by India, 24, in all the Olympics! To me, that embarrassing statistic alone highlights the pathetic standards of Indian sports at the international level (forget cricket which is played seriously by just nine countries). How can India improve its miserable sporting standards?
Firstly, by overhauling the various sports federations, dominated by politicians and bureaucrats, who know little about sports and are there only for the foreign travel and other perks they get. These federations, if they are to exist at all, need to have more sportsmen in them. Cricket gets too much attention and funds, thereby detracting from other sports. Finally, a far better sports infrastructure has to be put in place in India, which means more stadiums, gymnasiums and public playgrounds. India could take a leaf out of China’s book. The difference is, Beijing has a ruthlessly efficient government. New Delhi sadly doesn’t.”