E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: I spotted the Ace Sports Specialist (ASS) at Gangothri Glades, answering questions from enthusiastic kids about the Davanagere lad, R. Vinay Kumar, who has just made it to the Indian squad for the Twenty20 World Cup.
I thought this was an opportune moment to get ASS’s views on ‘What Ails Other Sports’ in our country.
We sat on a bench at the Kukkarahalli kere not far from where a crocodile made its majestic appearance recently before going back into the lake after laying eggs.
“Why is the Commonwealth boxing champion Vijender Singh so disgusted with the boxing federation that he calls it a “hell”? Other sportsmen too have voiced similar opinion about their federations.”
“Most sane people will agree with that. Sports minister Manohar Singh Gill finds time to only criticise cricket which is not his business anyway. He hardly has time to run his own business, sports, but he has plenty of time to write the last-page diary for Outlook magazine now and then.”
“Vijender says his federation is always crammed with busybodies who have nothing to do with boxing and wonders who these people are and what they have to do with boxing!”
“Come on, Ramu, you know better. Isn’t this quite common with most federations headed by politicians? Their chamchas just hang around to pass time. They are only answerable to their political sugar daddies, not just of the Sharad Pawar kind.”
“Let me be specific. What is our sports minister doing to lift the hockey team from the 8th or 9th position to the second or third position? Is there a plan? Why aren’t we being told what that plan is? Why did coach Ric Charlesworth go back without taking the assignment as hockey coach?” I asked.
“May be the minister doesn’t have the time.”
“Or, for that matter, why doesn’t Gill do something about football in which India is languishing at the 3rd or 4th position—from the bottom,” I persisted.
“Look! He is otherwise busy. First he was busy wondering if he would be nominated to the Rajya Sabha again. Now he is busy wondering whether Amitabh Bachchan should be the brand ambassador for the Commonwealth Games when namma Udupi boy Suresh Kalmadi has already made it clear he will not, probably because amma is keeping a tab. I understand the Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan is so scared he goes to sachivalaya climbing the water pipes behind his office because of the fear he might bump into the Bachchans.”
It was time to change the topic.
“Even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh approached his Brazilian counterpart once to help us out in football.”
“I know. Had Gill had followed it up, Brazil’s coach Dunga would have landed here along with Pele to teach ‘bicycle kicks’ to our boys. Instead he is just happy criticising the IPL commissioner Lalit Modi and predicting that IPL is doomed to fail one day!” ASS wailed.
“Such a pity! What is his routine in the sports ministry?”
“Who knows? Kee farak painda? When DDCA was criticized for ‘under preparing’ the Feroze Shah Kotla cricket pitch Gill pounced on it forgetting the CWG was heading towards its own disaster. Gill, if anything, should be more concerned what’s happening in his own backyard, i.e. the various federations.”
“What exactly can he do?”
“To start with he can shake up a couple of sports federations which have drug addicts as athletes on their rolls and the federations just sleepwalk when WADA catches our athletes time and again. Next, find out what ails the badminton federation which cannot arrange shuttlecocks for camps before an international event! Or the winter Olympics team which landed up in cold Canada without warm clothing.”
“Naga-beda kannaiah, it’s not a joke. These things have happened. And nobody knows why our shooters cannot get bullets and other gear earlier but only while driving to the airport before a competition!”
“Elementary, as Sherlock Homes would say.”
“I hope you know Holmes never said that in any of Arthur Conan Doyle‘s books, but you’re right. We have many Watsons holding important positions. Dr Gill should do the elementary things first for sports and not bother about how many Bollywood stars should dance, if Amitabh should be there or not. We seem to think cultural shows are the main thing in sports and athletic meets,” ASS interrupted me.
“Finally he could make sure deserving sportspersons are not left out of national awards. He could tie up with industry to ensure other sports are also encouraged by business houses. There is no use blaming cricket has become commercial; at least the players are looked after very well. When will we realise other sportspersons too need to be properly looked after?”
“So true,” I concurred.
“Anda haage, Ramu, don’t be so harsh on Gill. He has a Mysore connection. His younger daughter was born here. In fact, her name is Kaveri,” ASS said as he departed with a wink.
Photograph: courtesy Commonwealth Youth Games