Eden Gardens can rival many good stadiums around the world, including the likes of Lords and Nou Camp. Unfortunately, this is not the case with most of the sports facilities in India. Even in the case of Cricket, which is followed with a religious zeal, number of aspirants who have access to a quality training center is not commensurate with the popularity of the sport. More importantly, we still carry the false notion that merely a well maintained edifice or stadia and a well-equipped gym can be qualified as a strong infrastructure. Intangible aspects such as technical understanding and healthcare knowledge are as intrinsic to sports as those signified by metal gears and pulleys, cement pillars, and wooden fittings are.
Indian Grand Prix, Chennai Open, and ISL are popular events, but revamping of sports and sports-infrastructure will require much more than handful
of famous tournaments and events.
Even though we can boast about hosting Cricket world cup, Indian Grand Prix, Commonwealth Games and Chennai Open, we cannot overlook the fact that the reach of such events is too frail to inspire nation-wide development of sports. On one hand, success stories of batsmen and bowlers from small towns have time and time again motivated the youth of India; on the other hand, the same stories reveal that even the most famous sport in India is not completely accessible to small town and rural population. The plight of Tennis, which is obviously much graver than that of Cricket, can be explained along the same lines. Chennai Open and ITPL may be world-class events that feature some of the accomplished players, but entire nation cannot be served by few courts in Chennai, New Delhi, and other big cities. Events such as Asian Games and Commonwealth games generally lead to development of new facilities and to upgrading of existing ones. Such headway is carried out keeping a long-term use, of the refurbished and newly created odds and ends, in context. However, in case of CWG 2010, almost entire construction was quite counter-intuitively solely for the event.
Private resources and sacrifices by family members were the most critical elements in their triumphs.
Judging by the way things panned out in Beijing and London summer Olympics, one can reasonably fathom that the most of the individual medals were won despite the system and not on the back of it. A well maintained shooting range, gym with state of the art arrangements, and conditioned practice areas are prerequisites for almost all the Olympic sports and hardly any of the above mentioned has ever been provided up to the extent necessary for earning the highest honors. Myriad of reasons can be highlighted for explaining the corrosion of organizational and physical structure of resources, the latter probably is the expression of the former. The chief factor has been the lack of transparency and accountability. The primary purpose for having a segmented sports administration might have been to discover young talent, spread awareness about sports, and manage operations efficiently and effectively across the length and the breadth of the nation. But over a period of time the entire administration has become bureaucratic in nature, defeating the afore-mentioned objectives.
Although every year a significant amount of money is allocated for development of sports and physical education, complaints regarding lack of government aid have been a long-standing problem. 2010 Commonwealth games fiasco can easily be viewed as summary of the actions of the Indian sports administration in past four decades. The inconsistency between allotment of money and its usage is too conspicuous to be ignored and clearly indicates that the sports administration is riddled with rampant corruption. Even if funds somehow reach - through the jungle of redundant formalities and double-dealings - destination, the responsible workforce is unaware of the needs of the sportsmen. Hardships of professionals are further aggravated by the absence of a conveyor, ideally a decorated and tenured athlete, who can effectively communicate their needs and concerns. Performance of Indian sportspersons is affected not only by lack of amenities at home but also by difficulties in adjusting to modern equipment during international events.
Crucially, achievements of some of our athletes at Olympics and international meets have acted as a fount of motivation. Despite the fact that their cumulative medal tally is not proportionate to the humongous population of India, their feats are awe inspiring because they were accomplished in an inclement environment. A drastic overhauling of the current system and sports culture is essential to realize the true potential of the nation in the field of sports. The most objective parameter, which is also the most demanding one, to evaluate the utility of infrastructure is the medal tally at the highest level. Such accomplishments are almost impossible straight off the bat; hence, a gradual approach with quantifiable touchstones will be a critical factor in paving the way.
A strong system was as important as Dhoni's inherent ability in establishing him as an internationally renowned player.
Moreover, creation of a constructive sports culture, at school and university level, and promotion of sports as a profession cannot be isolated. A reliable infrastructure is vital for convincing an individual to convert his or her non-academic interest into a life-long pursuit. At the school level, coach, parents, and responsible sports bodies should ensure that a budding talent has access to fitness provisions of highest order. At higher levels the role of coaches and sports authorities/bodies become more pronounced as it becomes their prime responsibility to differentiate between daily fitness clubs/centers and conditioned setups for Olympic medal and world title hopefuls. The shape of sports in India is not ideal, but at the same time it’s not beyond redemption. Stimulus for change can come from anywhere, an individual or an institution. But, creation and expansion of facilities will be at the core of the change. We still need to travel a great deal before we can pat our self for creating a nationwide system that can serve all types of sportsmen, from a 14 year old precocious talent to a 35 year old legend in his twilight years.