Cricket, cricket, and some more cricket, that’s what the Indian sports ministry, media and sponsors are infatuated with. The amount spent on developing cricket all over the country – and in the sport as a whole – surpasses the amount spent on the development of many other sports (taken together!), such is the cricketing craze in the nation. This is also the reason why the achievements of Indian athletes in sports other than cricket will always be special – and also be a result of their, their families and coaches hard-work, dedication, and determination.
The obscene amounts spent on cricket compared to all other sports in India is not just a cause for worry, but also a major disappointment for all those athletes who are toiling with blood, sweat and tears to be at the top of their game and their sport, so that they can do their best for their nation on the world stage, and hopefully win some medals, so that India can raise its head proudly. But what can sportspeople do when their own country fails them time and again? Are they the poorer, ignored and unloved sons of a parent who only loves its eldest (cricket) to the detriment of all else?
But this is not a post meant to bash cricket, no sire. Indeed, the country can give as much attention and affection as it wants to cricket, it has after all brought us joy time and again over the decades. However, that does not give the nation, its ministry, and its denizens a free pass to ignore all other sports, or cast an indifferent eye upon them. This, readers, is the real issue. Love cricket all you want, but until and unless other sports are equally appreciated, or at least given a tithe of the love and support that cricket is, the achievements in those fields will belong only to the athletes and those who directly supported them, and the nation and sports ministry taking any of that sportsperson’s reflected glory brings shame not only upon themselves, but also upon the country and its dismal sporting policies as a whole.
The achievements of India’s super women at the Rio Olympics in 2016 are thus not because of the country and its sporting policies and developmental strategies, but rather despite that dismal structure. PV Sindhu, Sakshi Malik, Dipa Karmakar are not a result of the Indian Sports Ministry’s fortitude, but a success despite the uncaring attitude of the ministry.
Until there is grassroot level development, proper long term planning put in place, creation of good infrastructure in all the states and major cities, the achievements of Indian athletes will continue to be special, built on their own, through blood and sacrifice and obdurate determination, and will in no way belong to the country as a whole, which only rose to hug them with gratitude after they succeeded.
Until there is a change at all levels of the sports ministry and development occurs holistically, these achievements will remain rare, and will remain special, and that is in no way a good thing.