More often than not, Indian sport can easily work as a perfect backdrop for a gut-tickling comedy; at times, it can set the pace for a heart-breaking Greek tragedy too. And cricket is no different from that.
Just look for example at this delightful irony, the Indian cricket board has already raised over a billion dollars for its yet-to-be tested IPL. Corporate czars, silver screen divas and ambitious media houses have pledged a further $60 to $130 million each just to own a team. At another place, the country’s richest golf event, with over $2.5 million as prize money is unfolding right now. Most other sports, however, need dole from the government or its various agencies to merely keep themselves going. We see an important national camp being cancelled as the badminton association couldn’t or didn’t want to raise a measly Rs 1.5 lakh for shuttlecocks.
So what does all this mean? Is it safe to conclude that Indian sport will do well only if it is beyond the clutches of our mai baap? Should the mechanics of market forces decide if a sport should live or die? Sadly, the answer in either case is not an emphatic yes.
Like a mangled web, there are too many knots and too many parasites within that are gnawing the sports’ souls out. Most of them have plunged so deep that they can’t even hang on to hope. Only a revolution, a total reversal can put some of them back on track. And like always, it has to start from the very top.
The truth is sports in India are just not administered properly. For far too long, we have had powerful politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen presiding over their little fiefdoms; sadly, almost every one of them just doesn’t have the time, inclination or passion to make a difference.
You only have to look at Indian football’s pathetic state to get the picture. The country is hooked on to the English Premier League; it even comes to a standstill during the World Cup; its world body and Asian counterpart keeps pumping in mega bucks but neither the quality of soccer nor its infrastructure is showing any sign of improvement.
Worse, the Indian footballers look like a bunch from Somalia, especially when they line up against the Europeans or Africans. Why does the planet’s most beautiful game not attract enough people to its I-League? Why are the matches held at sub-standard stadiums? And cricket has millions of dollars to help it at any time. From International standard stadiums within the country to world class training institutes, while sadly other Indian sports are deprived of these privileges.
Basketball and volleyball two other universally big sports just can’t seem to grow out of their limited, if not rural, confines in India! As for hockey’s diving state, the less said the better. Tennis and chess at least have a calendar and regular tournaments. But that is about all you can sing in their praise.
It would be interesting to see if the IPL can provide that much-awaited revolution. The only way we too can have a truly domestic world-class competition is by treating the paying patrons as kings and a definite amount of media highlighting the game. Everyone seem to know a certain Dhoni or a Sachin and what is happening in their private life, but are left clueless when asked if they know a certain Dilip Tirkey or K. Malleswari.
At the moment, though, most of the stadiums just have the most uncomfortable seats possible, nothing else. Can Lalit Modi tackle these issues in such a little time? If yes, he should probably be made the sports minister; or better still, the CEO of Indian sport. At least then, Indian sport will stop being a laughing matter, or indeed a joke.