Sports

Posted by Writu Bose in Sports

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By Writu Bose:

Did you know that 12,000 feet above sea level in Ladakh, India has a National Ice Hockey Team? I bet not. It is not stardom, but sheer passion that drives a number of spirited young boys to fight against odds every day to up India’s name in the game.

Despite issues that come with high altitude and lack of basic necessities, the team, called ‘Himalayan Hockey’ has refused to give in and is now aiming for an international win in Kyrgyzstan! So why haven’t we heard of them?

“India doesn’t get behind a team that they know is going to lose. They want to get behind a team that will make them proud,” Adam Sherlip, the coach gives a reality check. But now that we know, here we are, cheering all the way to Ladakh and hoping that they come out victorious!

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By Aritra Mukherjee:

actor-salman-khan-dabanggThere has always been a ‘tu tu main main’ relation between Bollywood and the Indian sporting fraternity. That is, of course, if we leave cricket out of the debate. Not because it has anything to do with the recent turn of events but it is the only sport which can throw a tough challenge to Bollywood in terms of popularity, and the Hindi film industry is well aware of that. But when it comes to sporting mega-events like the Olympics, Indian sportspersons have maintained a conscious distance from movie stars. So, the Indian Olympic Association’s (IOA) sudden decision to appoint Salman Khan as the goodwill ambassador for the 2016 Rio Olympics cannot be accepted with open arms.

First of all, was there a need to appoint Salman? Does he have a significant contribution to Indian sports? Is he funding Indian Olympians? If the answers to the above set of questions are all in negative, then only the IOA can find logic to justify Salman’s appointment. Clubbing Bollywood into every single matter can only attract unnecessary controversy detracting audience from the actual event and further insulting those who are truly involved; in this case our athletes.

In his upcoming film Sultan, Salman plays the role of a wrestler. Surely, that can’t be sufficient for him to qualify as the ambassador of the world’s biggest sporting event. His father and famous writer Salim Khan must have been confused between his son’s silver screen avatar and the real one because he recently tweeted thus – “Salman Khan may not have competed but is an A lever swimmer cyclist and weight lifter.” – defending his son. No wonder it started a Twitter battle, with Olympic great Milkha Singh leading the way.

Nothing against Salman, he is undoubtedly one of the most popular superstars of the country. But what value additions can he offer to the Indian Olympians, is surely questionable. If Bollywood personalities like Hema Malini and Kirron Kher are to be believed, then Salman Khan’s presence will add to the popularity of the games. Well, surely it will. But will people turn up to watch the game or to catch a glimpse of their favourite star? The presence of ‘Bhaijaan’ is more than enough to attract whistles and applause but the likes of Yogeshwar Dutt and Mairaj Ahmed Khan would want a small part of that cheer too. We are certainly not giving the right message to India’s first Olympic gymnast Dipa Karmakar or to Rower Dattu Bhokanal, who have fought against all odds to grab that Olympic participation. They might never be invited as chief guests to the Filmfare Awards, but showbiz stars can surely strut into other’s world for the sake of ‘goodwill’.

It is high time we stop using the popularity of movie stars to grab eyeballs. It is not only futile but also a kind of disrespectful to the sports-persons. Officials must come forward and give the front seat to the deserving. After all, watching an athlete receiving a medal at the Olympics is no less than seeing a superstar receiving an award; and many would say it is a much greater glory.

India's Dipa Karmakar reacts after a successful vault during the women's gymnastics vault apparatus final at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, July 31, 2014. REUTERS/Phil Noble (BRITAIN - Tags: SPORT GYMNASTICS) - RTR40TZT

By Saswati Chatterjee:

India's Dipa Karmakar reacts after a successful vault during the women's gymnastics vault apparatus final at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, July 31, 2014. REUTERS/Phil Noble (BRITAIN - Tags: SPORT GYMNASTICS) - RTR40TZT
Dipa Karmakar Source: REUTERS/Phil Noble

India has another Olympics star this year: young Dipa Karmakar who has become the first Indian gymnast to qualify for the Olympics. This is a great time for us to shine a light on women in sports in India or basically ask, where are they?

Ask anyone to name five Indian sportswomen in action today and after the inevitable Saina Nehwal and Sania Mirza, there’s a bound to be a lot of awkward clearing of the throat. Some will mention Mary Kom (and why not, after all, Priyanka Chopra starred in a movie about her) or reach further into the past till P.T Usha. But as for the rest, many remain stumped. On the other hand, ask about male athletes and the answers come flying: Tendulkar, Gavaskar, Paes, Bhutia, Milkha Singh, the lot. The question arises: do we not have enough Indian female athletes or are they simply ignored?

How many people would have heard of Mithali Raj (first woman cricketer to score a double hundred), PV Sindhu (first woman to win a medal in World Badminton Championships) or Heena Sidhu (pistol shooter)? These and more are among the top ranked Indian sportsmen but it is very unlikely for most to have even heard of them. This year, the Indian women’s hockey team qualified for the Olympics, a first since the 1980 Olympics, yet there is hardly any news about it despite the fact that hockey is our national sport.

Indian women are breaking records everywhere and yet their achievements are swept under the rug. Part of it comes from the stigma associated with women participating sports at all, leading to difficulties in maintaining one’s training. We might look at the case of Karmakar herself where, despite all her hard work and talent, she nearly did not reach the Olympic Games due to a lack of funding and government interest. While government treatment of nearly any sports (that is not cricket) is abysmal, it is worth noting that it is frequently female athletes who suffer the most.

One of the most recent cases to hit the papers was the controversial defeat of Sarita Devi, a boxer, at the 2014 Asian Games in South Korea despite her having put up a strong show against her opponent Park Ji-Na. She was suspended for a year by the AIBA, for refusing to accept the bronze medal. One would think at a time like this the Indian government should rally behind its representative but not only did she not receive any assistance from the authorities, she and her husband had to borrow funds in order to lodge a complaint. Hers is not the only case of governmental neglect either. Rishu Mittal, another gold medalist in boxing, works as a domestic helper due to lack of government funding to help her pursue her passion. Situ Saha, who won two bronze medals at the Athens Special Olympics now helps her mother sell gol gappas rather than continue her training. Bronze medalist Nisha Rani had to sell her archery equipment to continue supporting her family.

Not only do these women often not receive the spotlight when they deserve it, they are often underpaid when compared to their male compatriots. As the recent statement by Novak Djokovic reveals, this is something which is treated as normal. Our question would be, do woman’s sports not make as much money because of the women themselves, or because of the dramatically reduced press they receive? Do we care about women in sports at all, unless it’s a select few big names?

Dipa Karmakar was the exception in this scenario, because she struggled against overwhelming odds and succeeded. This is not true for most sportswomen, for no fault of theirs. For sportswomen to keep up, they need to be in continuous training and have access to proper equipment. None of which appear to be available to women right now. And yet, despite all of this, India continues to produce remarkable sportswomen who would be the pride of any Indian. What we need to do is to show our gratitude properly and help them achieve their goals. One can only imagine what wonders they will achieve then.

Posted by Atul Kumar in Sports

simmons-no-ball-large_trans++qVzuuqpFlyLIwiB6NTmJwfSVWeZ_vEN7c6bHu2jJnT8

By Atul Kumar:

simmons-no-ball-large_trans++qVzuuqpFlyLIwiB6NTmJwfSVWeZ_vEN7c6bHu2jJnT8Lalit Modi, the Indian cricket czar, in an interview to Rajdeep Sardesai a few months back, categorically stated that international cricket was being run by mafia and betting syndicates controlled by Dawood Ibrahim and Chota Shakeel. Modi, the star insider, must have known what he was talking about, for the accusation was also substantiated in the report of the Mudgal Committee.

How would betting syndicates run international cricket? They would likely do so by ensuring that the matches were fixed from start to finish, in order to get maximum proceeds from the bettors fooled by fixing – something called Session betting (betting on number of runs scored in a bracket of overs). No bookie would do what they do if matches were not fixed. In fact, ex-Pakistani wicket keeper Rashid Latif even demonstrates how this is done through detailed mathematical calculation and rational analyses in an article titled ‘How cricket matches are scripted’.

A lot has been said and written about match-fixing over the years. Veteran journalist Mr. Shantanu Guha Ray’s book ‘Fixed! Cash and Corruption in Cricket’; an article in The Statesman titled, ‘Cricket in Massive Fix?‘; another book with a thrilling name, Bettors Beware (Match-fixing in cricket decoded) – the sources are plenty but an uncomfortable hush always seems to envelop anything which barely mentions betting. India seems to be talking about cricket corruption while diplomatically not talking about it at the same time.

In another related development, a SIT on black money informed the Supreme Court of India that about rupees 3 lakh crores in black were being transacted annually through cricket betting in India. Further, 1.9 lakhs crore rupees were being remitted from at least one crore Indians in India to one foreign betting website betfair.com alone as found out by our Enforcement Directorate. Putting such pieces together would mean an international fraud worth tens of lakhs of crores of rupees per year, unfettered.

Mudgal and Lodha committees appointed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India have meant nothing as far as stopping cricket fixing is concerned. Petitioning to the highest authorities under the Constitution of India has resulted in nothing (appeals to Supreme Court of India, Prime Minister of India, and President of India by me remain acknowledged without any action for years). Members of Parliament have also been sleeping over this immensely relevant public issue, both for its sensitivity to the masses and continuous generation of large scale black money.

Are cricketers the only ones responsible for this fraud? Even though Lalit Modi himself isn’t such a reliable source, yet it is hard to ignore a man who had been so involved in this process when he repeatedly alleges the involvement of a number of Indian politicians like Arun Jaitely, Rajiv Shukla, Anurag Thakur, Jyotirditya Scindia in the betting mafia. However, the Indian media seems to have developed the art of side-stepping crucial matters. It does bring out stray incidents of match-fixing now and then but forgets them in a hurry.

Nothing has ever been followed up to reach a logical conclusion. It is this behaviour of the Indian media, politicians, activists, crusaders, and celebrities that seems most worrying since it means that there can’t be any hope for a country where everyone prefers to turn a blind eye to the greatest proven fraud of all times impacting and affecting hundreds of millions of citizens.

A striking example of this is how the media is currently dealing with the captain of the Indian Cricket Team. M. S. Dhoni’s name has surfaced for fixing in the media time and again, and he was clearly found guilty of making a false statement under oath to Mudgal committee about Gurunath Meiyappan not being a CSK team official. Yet, he continues to be the captain, glorified with highly publicised biopics.

When we choose to keep quiet or ignore an openly massive fraud involving the who’s who of India, it feels naïve to pour into streets for candle light marches protesting against crimes committed by lesser mortals readily in the grips of the law of the country.

Posted by Venkatesh in Sports

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By Venkatesh:

Harsha_bhogleDear Harsha,

Every time I hear the name ‘Harsha Bhogle’, the image of a man holding a mike with a cheeky smile hits me. I have always tried imitating your voice though I have badly failed at it. Your inimitable sense of humour, lovely free flowing language, sharp analysis of the game and the way you narrate the story between the bat and the ball has inspired a generation of this country to be a cricket broadcaster like you.

I always believe that commentators add ebullience to the game. Vikram Sathaye in a crisp stand-up comedy routine rightly pointed out the impact commentators have on their audience. “Half of Tendulkar’s achievement is due to Tony Grieg.” They were profound and funny at the same time. Similarly, your commentary has created the image of ‘Dravid’s’ or ‘Laxman’s’ that we have in our mind.

Harsha, you have been ousted from the IPL commentary this season, sadly, because the malaise and the prejudice that rules the administration of cricket in this country only seeks for yes-men. Though you have abided by the BCCI injunction that commentators should refrain from any criticism on air, you have been vocal off-field many a time.

I still remember when you questioned ‘why only former cricketers are commentators?’ during a live IPL match. “A lot of kids come to me and say that I want to be a commentator but I say that there isn’t any space for you; it’s quite tough.” In 2013, when the BCCI, in act of imperialistic arrogance, first threatened to withdraw from a scheduled tour to South Africa and then agreed to a curtailed tour, allegedly because Cricket South Africa had the temerity to appoint Haroon Lorgat as its head, you wrote a remarkable column that blamed the South Africans for failing to develop “parallel revenue streams” and allowing themselves to become financially dependent on the BCCI.

The three reasons floating for your expulsion are absolutely grim. As I said earlier and as I say now, a commentator must be objective; he is a representative of the sport not merely the nation he belongs to. I don’t know whether the BCCI has tried to appease the ego of a putative president, who allegedly loves investing in Panama and thinks that a commentator should speak only about his nation. When the ‘pseudo nationalists’ wanted to hear the jingoistic hyperbole of India’s triumph you chose to analyse the game and here you went wrong for them. These days being a cricket bhakt is not enough. You have paid the price of not screaming nationalistic slogans from the commentary box.

The second reason being speculated for your termination is the verbal altercation you had with a Vidharba Cricket Association official as you wanted them to keep the door of a VIP box open for the ease of movement of the commentators. Even if this incident has triggered your expulsion, you have rightly alleged that no one heard your part of the story. As the Hindi and English commentary boxes in Nagpur were separated by the president’s enclosure, you had to rush through several flights of stairs after every stint and at times you panted as you went on air just because of that closed door.

The third reason cited is that an unnamed but ‘senior’ player had asked for your expulsion. This only proves that even constructive criticism is intolerable for our players.

There has been no official word from the BCCI explaining your expulsion. Actually, you have been fired for no fault even without the pretense of due process; without the courtesy of an explanation for being objective and neutral. The BCCI only seeks for yes-men. The moment you dissent, you are banished.

Leaving you out of the IPL demeans a self-made Indian who has always made us proud. In a response to Geoffrey Boycott when Tendulkar’s name was excluded from the Lord’s Hall of Fame, you rightly said, “It is a loss of Lord’s, not Tendulkar.” Similarly, your absence is a loss to IPL, a loss of cricket lovers’, not particularly yours. Harsha, you are a true brand ambassador of cricket, a mixture of prose, poetry, cricket and witty one-liners. Your voice always remains etched in every cricket lover’s memory. The BCCI has ended your contract for IPL but the contract of love will never end between us. You have always been the storyteller but now we are going to tell your story to the world. We will be as classy as you are.

Hoping to see you soon (on air!)
An ardent admirer of your voice

Cricket - India v Pakistan- World Twenty20 cricket tournament - Kolkata, India, 19/03/2016. India's Virat Kohli walks off the field after winning their match against Pakistan. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri  - RTSB8F8

By Ameya Ranade:

Cricket - India v Pakistan- World Twenty20 cricket tournament - Kolkata, India, 19/03/2016. India's Virat Kohli walks off the field after winning their match against Pakistan. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri - RTSB8F8
Virat Kohli. Image credit: Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri.

He hit the ball square, through extra cover, on the rise, without any thought about the pitch being slow or the ball gripping. He showed the full face of the bat to the ball, into a straight drive, the shot that he owned like his fingerprints. He stepped down to Murali and Dharmasena at will, hitting them over the infield, immune to the roars of a 100,000-strong partisan crowd at Eden Gardens. Sachin was in the ‘zone’, as comfortable as Lord Natraj, with a fearless and elegant performance tempting the audience by the sheer virtue of his glamour.

While he was at the crease, India reaching the finals of WC 1996 seemed to be a mere formality. Batting seemed like child’s play on the field that people worried had demons planted in it. It was only after his wicket that the landmines in the pitch exploded as Sri Lanka spun its web around the batting that followed. The horror of the collapse was unbearable to the crowd that began rioting, leading to the game being infamously truncated and awarded to Sri Lanka, ending the dreams of India reaching the finals of the World Cup.

Exactly 20 years later, again in a World Cup, same venue, in front of the same crowd, Team India was again chasing, an easier score but made stiffer by a top-order batting collapse. Though not a semi-final, it was a knockout game for India and if not a knockout for Pakistan, surely a do-or-die one, given the history they have against their arch rivals in World Cups across all formats. So, the enormity of the occasion was not lost on the minds out there, the 90,000-strong crowd in the stands and the billions of spectators glued to the TV sets. This time, if not by spin, India were torn apart by the brute force of the Pakistan pace attack. The passions are so out of control in these high-voltage bilateral encounters, that had India lost this one, another fire riot was unavoidable.

But, as if oblivious to all this, stood Virat Kohli, crafting a magical innings, carving yet another memorable chase. Extremely consummate in his approach he was more interested in showcasing his finest skills like a painter in a trance drawing out bold strokes of bright colours. But it was not till he reached his much deserved 50 that the real drama unfolded. The flood of emotions engulfed everyone as he bowed down towards the stands and the cameras focused on the glowing face of Sachin. India, yet again, defeated Pakistan in a World Cup encounter. The sense of joy in this moment had so much power that it erased the painful memories of that forgettable match from the past.

Cricket - India v Pakistan- World Twenty20 cricket tournament - Kolkata, India, 19/03/2016. India's Virat Kohli takes a bow after scoring his half century. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri - RTSB8HY
Kohli takes a bow. Image credit: Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri.

That bow was not just out of respect for the legend in the stands but also a reassuring statement Kohli intended to make, “You carried Indian Cricket on your shoulders for 24 years, now it’s my time to take the legacy forward from where you left.” That night, when Sachin would have been alone, he would surely have leaned back with relief, eyes closed, and felt satisfaction in the core of his heart.

Further on in the tournament, we saw Kohli almost singlehandedly take India to victory during a tough chase against Australia, again bringing back the memories of Sachin’s Sharjah magic in 1998. He again unfurled a signature innings against West Indies in the semi-finals. Unfortunately, some brilliant batting performance from West Indies halted the progress of Team India at Wankhede. But the breathtaking performances from Kohli won him a well deserved Man of The Tournament award.

The baton indeed has been passed but the run hasn’t yet been completed, the finish line far from reached. While in the shorter format we see Kohli breaking records one after the other, the Test average of 41 just isn’t good enough. This surely has to go up, at least above 50, before the comparison with previous masters can be justified. On one hand, he has piled up huge scores in the longer format against the formidable Australians in their own den, on the other, England seems to have got the better of him allowing him to score a measly average of about 13 in their own backyard. In the upcoming Test Series this year, in the Caribbean against West Indies, he would like to live up to his reputation and pile up huge mountains of runs, where in the past he has managed only 76 runs in his 5 Test innings.

All the greats who have played the game have scored against all the teams, all over the world, in different conditions. That’s a feat that this ambitious cricketer must be desperate to emulate. Though we know it’s just a matter of time before he breaks these barriers, purists will wait for that to happen to put him in the league of those extraordinary gentlemen who have graced the game.

Now, there will be loads of expectations each time he walks onto the pitch, with each innings of his being scrutinised under the microscope. With each of his failures raising eyebrows. Criticism can be gut-wrenching and can exert a huge amount of pressure. Bowlers from all over the world shall be searching for the chink in his armour to penetrate and get the better of him. But he has the talent and ability to conquer these obstacles, the work ethic of continual improvement and, above all, the much-needed passion for the game to see him through. All these qualities helped those legends from the past and we wish this ‘legend in the making’ takes his career to ever greater heights.

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By Vartika Puranik:

maxresdefaultWe know that Anushka Sharma and Virat Kohli were dating each other until quite recently. Since the beginning, the troll army took to social media in full swing, not sparing a moment to degrade Sharma in some way or the other.

The trolls and memes about Anushka reached a new height of ignominy during the 2016 Aus vs. Ind ICC World Cup semi-final match in Sydney when she was at the stadium to cheer Kohli. Even if the audience hardly cared about the starlet being there supporting her beau, the camera continuously focused on her as though the game would be incomplete without such visuals. Cricket matches in India do not need cheap maneuvers for TRP (with fans already being so obsessed), yet media tends to escalate frivolous issues to excite viewers, frequently crossing limits of decorum.

She wasn’t only trolled that day but some cricket fanatics, with no personal connection to Virat or Anushka whatsoever, abused the actress using rather derogatory slangs. They blamed her for Virat’s performance on Twitter (a place I find to be full of negative people channeling their energy to bullyrag others at the drop of a hat).

Now, let me draw a parallel hypothesis for this – you go to an examination, and your parents accompany you for moral support. You don’t perform well in this exam and score the bare minimum. This is when everyone starts blaming your parents for your poor performance. Pure logic!

But of course, Anushka and Virat are not the first ones in the league. Remember Sangeeta Bijlani and Azharuddin? According to the media back then, she was the reason for his steadily deteriorating performance, terming her to be a “bad influence” on him.

Ridicule, insult and direct blame. As per some, the success of a man is because he works hard but the failure is because the woman distracted him. It’s intriguing how this equation shifts exactly 360 degrees round for women. A woman’s success is dependent on the man, and how he helped her out and stood by her but her failure, of course, is simply the result of her being born part of an incapable gender – destined to fail.

This shows us the medieval mindset that people are stuck with even today. A clear manifestation of sexist tropes. This prejudice is not only present in our culture. Most women who date a famous personality are seen to be at the receiving end of public ire; irrespective of the woman’s own profession and the challenges she faces at her work.
Let me bring other similar instances to light.

Let’s look at yet another incident where Jessica Simpson became the “Jinx” because of which her ex-boyfriend Tony Romo displayed the worst performance of his career apparently. The horrible old ‘kulta‘ angle. Even in America. Imagine!

Recently during the T20 India vs. Australia match, Anushka yet again became the target. This time, she wasn’t even at the venue cheering Virat. But that didn’t stop the troll army or the memes because the gravity of the situation was much worse than ever before this time. According to these people, Virat Kohli performed well this time because Anushka Sharma broke up with him so that he could focus solely on his game.

Woman throughout history has been delegated the role of scapegoats for men’s shortcoming and failures. Yes, scapegoat, because clearly it is too difficult for society to accept that men can fail to deliver (not to mention the pressure it puts on men). For people, a male always performs exceptionally well in his profession because his biological gender has designed him for ‘winning’. “A man always gives his best“, so we can’t blame him, but hey look! We can always blame the woman right?!It is also a case of gender Performativity. Men are expected to optimize their physical strength to perform and give their best every time. We tend to forget that celebrities/athletes are humans like us. They are doing their job, just like you and I do. We have our bad days and good days. If any day your performance was not up to the mark, is it okay for people to blame your partner for this?!

By feeding these trolls, by ‘sharing’ and ‘liking’ what memes, etc. they come up with, consciously or unconsciously we are only encouraging this calcifying misogyny. So let’s not anymore because it is neither fair nor logical.

India's cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni smiles during a news conference in Mumbai, India, January 5, 2016. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui - RTX21473

By Ameya Ranade:

India's cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni smiles during a news conference in Mumbai, India, January 5, 2016. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui - RTX21473
Image source: REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui 

Back in January 2001, a full strength Australian Team, riding on the record success of 15 consecutive Test wins, toured India raring to go for the ‘Final Frontier’. Neither Indian players nor the selectors were willing to leave any stone unturned in shaping up for ‘The Series’ and the Duleep Trophy Tournament. Cricketing stars like Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman, Srinath, Prasad had all turned up for crucial preparations. Their only hope – Australians had never won a series in India since 1969!

Far from this tumultuous environment, Chhotu Bhaiyya, a sports goods shop owner in a small and lazy town where nothing exciting ever happens, received a phone call from a friend in Kolkata congratulating him for his friend’s selection in the East Zone team for the ongoing Duleep Trophy Tournament.

The twist in the story, of course, was that nobody, not even the player himself, knew about this miraculous selection. Some said that it was bureaucratic negligence of state Cricket Association while some blamed it on conspiracy – one can’t really be sure. Anyhow, the promising 20-year-old cricketer had no time to speculate or celebrate for he was left with just 20 hours to join the East Zone cricket team in Kolkata from where he would then board a flight to Agartala with the rest of the team and stand against the South Zone.

The last train going to Kolkata had already left town. Chhotu Bhaiyya promptly hired a car for an overnight journey to get his friend to his destiny. But fate had other plans or maybe it’s the duty of cars rented from sleepy towns to break down in the middle of the road. The journey had to be abandoned that night.

Deep Dasgupta replaced our 20-year-old protagonist and played for the East Zone at Agartala that time. And just a few months later he even went on to make his Test and ODI debut. But what about Chhotu Bhaiyaa’s friend? Well, that ‘unlucky’ young man is now ironically hailed as a ‘luckiest’ captain of Indian by some sections of the media and people in general.

Considering the crisis of wicketkeepers in the Indian team back in the days, it would have been relatively easy for Mahendra Singh Dhoni to make his debut for the national team if he could have made it to Agartala that time.

Instead, he joined the team as the 12th man in Pune against team West Zone led by Sachin Tendulkar. Sachin and Kambli scored massive centuries that time to crush East Zone by an innings and a mountain of runs. Dhoni was a huge fan of Tendulkar and had a life-size poster of him besides his bed. He dreamt of one day playing with or against Sachin. Dhoni recalls an incidence from that match wherein he handed Sachin a bottle during the drinks break. This was the only interaction he could manage with his hero. Of course, then neither of them knew that exactly ten years in the future Dhoni will captain Sachin along with the rest of Team India.

Deep Dasgupta remained the first choice keeper batsman for East Zone the next couple of years denying Dhoni further opportunity (he already had bleak chances to make it big playing with Bihar Cricket Association). It was only when Pranab Roy, former national selector, put his own reputation, sleep and relations with other selectors at stake to push Dhoni into the East Zone team in the 2003-2004 season that things seemed to move forward.

If not flamboyant, then with steady performances Dhoni went on cementing the faith showed in him and earned himself a spot in India-A Team bound to Nairobi for the 50 over Triangular Series featuring Kenya and Pakistan-A sides. Dhoni scored two quick-fire centuries and a 50, all against Pakistan-A, including a ton in the Finals of the tournament to help the Indian team win the tournament. Being the top scorer, Dhoni was awarded the Man of the Series. The Triangular series was televised, and Chhotu Bhaiyya even recorded Mahi’s innings on his old VCR so as to watch it with his friend when he returned.

It was only after establishing himself as a hard hitting batsman and a useful wicket-keeper in the domestic circuit that he finally made his ODI debut late 2004. Considered to be the fastest runner between the wickets, he was run out on the first ball he faced in international cricket. Easily amongst the smartest wicketkeepers in the world, he was not able to grab even a single catch in his first match. An explosive batsman, he was able to gather only 19 runs in 3 matches from that series. But within a year he took the cricketing world by storm, scoring a blistering 148 off 124 balls against Pakistan and then breaking the World Record of Gilchrist’s 172 runs as highest ODI score by a Wicket Keeper when he scored 183 against Sri Lanka. From there he catapulted himself in the international arena grabbing Test berth, T20 Captainship, Inaugural T20 World Cup, ODI Captainship, Test Captainship, ODI World Cup, one after the other.

He surely had his limitations with batting outside the subcontinent, especially in Tests. The lack of technique to bat in conditions where the ball seams, swings, bounces and does all kinds of un-Indian things lead the bowlers to capitalize it against him. As a captain, he has faced some embarrassing losses in International Test series where the conditions were not suitable to Indian bowlers and was often criticized for his defensive captainship. But let us judge his character by his ability to rise above the weaknesses and failures in this fiercely competitive sport. Today he stands as one of the best Wicket-Keeper batsman India has ever produced winning the most number of ICC trophies as an Indian captain.

I feel surprised when people attribute these achievements to his ‘luck’. Where does one buy that stuff? Or does someone gift it to you? Or does one manufacture it on their own with the hard work that remains visible to very few? This wonderful cricketer has made his way into the Indian side against all obstacles, defying all odds and emerged as someone who will be admired and adored for generations. This Midas has ‘smithed’ his way, toiled with heavy hammers and hot bellows, to yield the gold that sparkles so bright that what commoners get to see is only the ‘Touch’!

india pakistan women cricket

By Annesha Ghosh:

women_s_india_pakistan_matchIf the hellish pitch at the Eden Gardens made life difficult for both the Pakistan and India batsmen here in Kolkata on the 19th of March, the Feroz Shah Kotla wicket unleashed its own demons during the ‬match between their female counterparts earlier. But not so much, perhaps, as could be made out by the uncharacteristically clueless strokeplay on the part of the India Women batting line-up, compounded by some tight bowling and sensible field-placements from the Pakistan Women’s team. Case in point: India were 7 for the loss of 2 wickets in the powerplay while Pakistan scored 39 for 1. Put to bat by Pakistan’s captain Sana Mir, juicy full-tosses were only jabbed at for a run, and easy singles were never converted into definite twos during India’s innings which ended at 66-7 at the end of 20 overs.

However, with their proven track record of having successfully defended similar low totals against Pakistan on previous occasions, the Indian eves came back strong in the latter half of the game, and quite dramatically so, with skipper Mithali Raj taking a superb catch at cover and wicket-keeper Sushma Verma effecting two stunning run-outs within a matter of just 10 balls. At 77 for 6, with their inexperienced lower-order exposed, the pressure was clearly telling on the visitors. Pakistan still needed 20 runs off 24 balls when it suddenly started pouring heavily and refused to cease until the cut-off time to resume play was well past.

Had the game reached its natural conclusion, the result would have been imminently different, for at the fag end of Pakistan’s innings, the momentum was clearly with the Girls in Blue. But, to the dismay of Raj and her girls, the rain-gods robbed the Indian eves of the chance of getting those two crucial points ahead of facing group toughies England and West Indies this week.

In light of the aforementioned things, the events that preceded my first live stadium experience of an India versus Pakistan ICC World tournament face-off at the iconic Eden Gardens on Saturday seem to bear some import.

Earlier at 11 a.m. on Saturday, when my friend and I had gone to the Mohammedan Sporting Ground, right opposite Eden Gardens, to collect the two tickets I had won through the online lucky draw, we were greeted by a platoon of journalists from leading national and international media houses. They went about interviewing many an individual from among the 500-strong crowd of people that had queued up to collect their tickets to the historic encounter.

At one point during our wait at the counter, an English journalist from the BBC, followed by his team of Indian camerapersons walked up to us and asked if we were willing to answer a few questions regarding the much-anticipated ‘clash of the arch-rivals’. While we did go ahead with the interview and spoke for about four minutes each, both my friend and I were disappointed at the fact that all the questions were invariably centred on the game between the India versus Pakistan Men’s teams. It almost appeared as though there wasn’t any acknowledgement, let alone, the importance that the ‘Other(ed)’ ‘clash of the arch-rivals’ at the Kotla deserved to have been accorded to.

What panned out between the two teams led by M.S. Dhoni and Shahid Afridi, needs no recounting. Following the celebrations that accompanied the night’s heroics by Virat Kohli and company at the Eden Gardens, I woke up next morning reminiscing the memorable scenes that I was fortunate enough to have been able to witness live at the iconic stadium in Kolkata amidst 65,000 odd spectators. The feeling, admittedly, is one of joyous disbelief and is likely to linger on until…I don’t quite know when.

However, somewhere within, I could not help but mull over India Women’s ‘undeserved’ loss, courtesy the shenanigans of the ever-unreliable D/L method. A little mercy from the heavens above could have helped them fashion what most, if not all, ‘Indian cricket supporters’ were praying for, as occasions like these are rare and possibly the only realistic shots for some at making the world take notice of their existence.

A fan’s journey from anxiously sitting before a nondescript television set at home till as late as 6:45 p.m. and watching 11 cricketers donning the blue jersey and fight it out before an 8000-strong crowd at the Feroz Shah Kotla, to rushing to the Mecca of Cricket minutes later, where the gods themselves had descended amidst great pomp and passion, was so close to being the kind of perfect she was praying for it to be. So close.

And yet, she’d be cheering her team on when they come out to play against England Women’s team on Tuesday, March 22, at the HPCA Stadium. “Go for glory, India Women! Win it for yourselves, your fans and the generations of women cricketers to follow. Praying for your triumph this World T20 over the best teams in the fray and over all the discrimination you’ve ever had to contend with.”

shamsher5

By Bharat Misra:

It all started on the 2nd of October last year when I chanced upon an article on a sports news website. It told the story of India’s first Olympic swimmer, Shamsher Khan, who represented the country in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. Prior to that, he had set national records in all four strokes, or categories, as well as in water polo and diving, making him the only Indian to do so!

One of his contemporaries happens to be Milkha Singh, whose victories are celebrated and remembered by the entire country. On the other hand, Mr. Khan languishes in anonymity. Nobody in the country knows his name or is even aware of his whereabouts. The article identifies his village as Islampur, situated in rural Andhra Pradesh.

After reading the article, I was determined to document his untold story on camera. I decided to visit his village along with four of my friends and attempted to make a documentary on the forgotten legend.

Over the next few weeks, we pieced together Shamsher, our tribute to India’s greatest swimmer. In a series of interviews, we conversed with his contemporaries, family members, well-wishers and finally, the man himself. We encountered an interesting variety of opinions not just about his life, but also about the lack of recognition sportspersons get in India. What started as a documentation of the life of one forgotten sportsman became the story of countless unknown athletes who struggle to get by on the back of their glorious achievements.

In the end, we were faced with difficult questions about the current condition of sports in the country, to which we found no easy answers. Our only hope is to spread more awareness about Shamsher Khan, and his services to a nation that refused to recognise him.

Nikolay Davydenko of Russia returns a ball to Martin Vassallo Arguello of Argentina during the second round match at the Orange Prokom Open ATP tennis tournament in Sopot August 2, 2007. REUTERS/Peter Andrews (POLAND) - RTR1SGO8

By Aparajita Upadhyay:

Nikolay Davydenko of Russia returns a ball to Martin Vassallo Arguello of Argentina during the second round match at the Orange Prokom Open ATP tennis tournament in Sopot August 2, 2007. REUTERS/Peter Andrews (POLAND) - RTR1SGO8
Nikolay Davydenko. Source: REUTERS/Peter Andrews

The Australian Open, also known as the ‘happy slam’, was rocked by allegations of a widespread match-fixing racket. With BBC and BuzzFeed news publishing a report exposing evidence of widespread speculation of match-fixing, the atmosphere at the Australian Open has been anything but cheerful.

The average fan may not be aware that tennis is the most gambled on sport in the world. It allows mid-match bets and the scope for match fixing is immense. Fixing a match in tennis is easy, as it deals only with a single player and doesn’t necessarily depend on losing a match. A player could take money to drop a set or for double fault!

Although none of the players were named, the report alleges that the sixteen players have been ranked in the top 50 and have won a grand slam in single or doubles tournament. What is disturbing is that the report also states that the sport’s governing bodies have been aware of the suspicious activities involving numerous players, but have been anything but enthusiastic in addressing the problem. These players have been flagged as suspicious time and again to the Tennis Integrity Unit, but no action has been taken.

The report draws from the August 2007 Orange Prokom Open match between Nikolai Davydenko, ranked fourth, and Martin Vassallo Arguello, ranked 87th, in Poland. Davydenko was the overwhelming favorite, yet during the match and hours before it started more than $5 million was bet on his opponent. Appearing to be cruising to victory, Davydenko retired early in the third set, raising speculations of fixing. Investigations did take place and although both the players were cleared of any charges by the Association of Tennis Professionals (A.T.P), the new report reveals that Davydenko had refused to cooperate in the investigation and his opponent was found to have extensive contacts with the members of an Italian gambling syndicate.

Aug 7, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Marian Cilic (CRO) plays a forehand against Roger Federer (SUI) on day four of the Rogers Cup tennis tournament at Rexall Centre. Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports - RTR41N8G
Marian Cilic. Reuters/Peter Llewellyn

The lack of transparency in governing bodies is another obstacle the game is facing. The above is not the only instance of the governing body remaining silent. In 2013, Marian Cilic withdrew from Wimbledon stating a knee injury when the actual reason was a failed drug test in the previous tournament. Why was he allowed to cite an injury for a withdrawal when a failed drug test was the real reason? Andre Agassi failed a drug test due to the consumption of crystal meth in 1997. The public got to know about it in 2009, that too by reading his autobiography. If the governing bodies themselves indulge in such shady activities, who gives us the guarantee that our beloved sport is clean or, at least, attempts are being made to clean the muck.

Former world number one tennis player Andre Agassi from the U.S. wipes his face during a media conference in Melbourne January 13, 2004. Agassi, speaking at a media conference for the Kooyong International tournament that starts on Wednesday, claimed that tennis was leading the way in the fight against performance-enhancing drugs, revealing that he had been drug tested 13 times in the past year. His statement comes in the wake of Briton Greg Rusedski testing positive to a banned substance. REUTERS/David Gray DG/CP - RTRR6QK
Andre Agassi. Reuters/David Gray

Those close to the sport are not surprised. Rumors of fixing have been doing the rounds for quite some time now. In an interview with the BBC, a player, who featured in several tour matches last year and is now a coach said, “This (match-fixing) is like a secret on the tour that everybody knows, but we don’t talk about it.”

Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, Juan Martin del Potro and Marin Cilic are the only grand slam winners in the past decade. If any of these players were involved in match-fixing, it would be a calamitous blow to tennis. But the very fact that some of them have come forward and demanded names gives us solace that they might not be involved.

Andy Roddick tweeted: “In the age of leaks and social media, I don’t think secrets exist.” We certainly hope this secret is revealed, for no one wants tennis going down the controversial path football, cycling and cricket did.

WWE world wrestling entertainment

By Sahil Sharma:

Three months ago it was announced that the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) would be coming to India for a live event after a gap of 13 years. The last time was in Mumbai in 2002 and while I was living there my parents wouldn’t let me as that year was my Class 10th board examinations.

Fast forward to November 2015. The announcement is made that WWE superstars would be coming to Delhi and performing at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium. The early bird tickets are announced and I join the virtual queue to book my tickets. After a short frenzy of “which tickets to buy?” or “damn these are expensive tickets!” I bought three tickets for the event.

WWE wrestler and meHere, I want to admit something. Like thousands of people in the country, I have grown up watching WWE, then WWF (World Wrestling Federation). I have ‘choke-slammed’ my brother on the bed, hit him with pillows as if they were ‘steel chairs’ and pinned him 1,2,3 to win the fictional championship belt.

While most people my age are over the WWE fan craze, I still follow the live entertainment show on a weekly basis. During my career as a sports journalist, I even had the chance to meet WWE stars like Big Show, Kane, Batista (who gave me an original championship belt – one of my most cherished possession) and of course, the Indian sensation – The Great Khali.

Coming back to the live event. The excitement was fever pitch as I, my two brothers and 15,000 crazy fans like us, went to the Indira Gandhi Indoor stadium to watch the live event. As we entered the arena, we were greeted with the entrance theme of Kane, the masked red giant that we all know in the WWE. And who he was facing — The Big Show.

As they both stood face-to-face, the capacity crowd in the arena chanted their names on top of their voice and it was spectacular. My first ‘live’ WWE fight was between the Big Show and Kane, two of the biggest guys you will ever see. They punched, they kicked, they choke-slammed each other once and it was the ‘the big red machine’ Kane who won the bout, with a vicious chokeslam from the top rope to the 500 hundred pound (roughly 250 kgs) Big Show. Trust me the entire arena shook.

WWE world wrestling entertainmentEven though I did miss the emotional commentary that we hear on the TV, while watching WWE, the live action was non-stop.

A total of eight matches were held during the two-hour show, which also included a 10-minute intermission.

I don’t think the Indira Gandhi stadium has ever witnessed the decibel levels it experienced for this live event. The audience cheered for their favourite superstars and booed the one’s they didn’t care much for. There were also some whistling when the WWE Divas Championship was defended by Charlotte, daughter of the legendary wrestler Ric Flair.

In the main event, Roman Reigns defended his WWE World Heavyweight title to the delight of the crowd. An enthralling match, which saw the referee being knocked down, steel chairs being used and Reigns fighting against all odds to retain his shining belt.

“I am honoured to have come to Delhi and performed in front of this amazing crowd. Thank you India,” were the final words by Reigns before he acknowledged the crowd and his theme music ended the evening.

As I walked out of the arena and saw people still posing for selfies in front of the posters, the chants of “this is awesome” stayed with me. A dream realised because it was truly awesome.

anurag thakur

By Ankita Mukhopadhyay:

When Shashank Manohar took over the BCCI, he refused to let the Indian cricket team play the bilateral series against Pakistan in UAE. This led to a huge uproar over social media, with many viewing this move as a larger diplomatic stand that India takes against Pakistan, dragging sports into politics.

Anurag Thakur, current secretary of the BCCI, in a candid interview with the Indian Express, answered questions about this controversy recently.

For Thakur, on a very personal level, he would like the bilateral series to happen, but he also believes that forcing a series down the throats of dissenting elements is not possible. He also pointed out that India will be playing Pakistan in the Asia cup, and on the international forum India will play Pakistan and will abide by international sports rules.

But, with regards to playing within India, he believes that the problem is massive and sports can’t be dissected from politics, for many reasons. Watch Thakur’s tete-a-tete here:

Image source: WordPress

By Annesha Ghosh:

After a 3-2 defeat to South Africa in the One-Day International series, courtesy a scintillating batting performance by the Proteas in the decider at the Wankhede Stadium on Sunday (25th October, 2015), critics are expected to unleash their swords, yet again, on India’s limited-overs captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni for everything that hasn’t gone right for the team so far.

Image source: WordPress
Image source: WordPress

What was touted to be a cracker of a finale, turned out to be a one-sided show of supremacy, abetted by some exceedingly ordinary bowling and sloppy fielding on the part of the Men in Blue. In the post-match press conference yesterday, a visibly unhappy Dhoni expressed his disappointment at the inconsistent runs of form put on display by his frontline pace bowlers throughout the course of the 5-match ODI series.”If you see any other nation, Test or ODI, the fast bowlers come and in one or two years, they graduate to the next level. They become their striker bowler. They know their strength and bowl according to it. We aren’t able to do that. Once you put in a lot of effort in an individual and if he doesn’t come good, then again a vacuum gets created where you are forced to look for individuals,” rued the Indian skipper.

Apart from lack of consistency amongst his available resources, particularly in Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Mohit Sharma, Dhoni’s woes as a captain have been compounded by injuries picked up by some of his most bankable players. While Mohammed Shami had to be ruled out much before the start of the series, a painful side-strain sustained by off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin — arguably India’s best bowler across all formats this year- during his second spell in the Kanpur ODI, further reduced Dhoni’s options, robbing the bowling attack of the little teeth it possessed.

In the run-up to the ODI series, much was talked about if Dhoni should promote himself up the order, given the element unreliability surrounding the middle-order that is now beginning to gather more currency in the mindspace of the followers of the game with each passing fixture. Following his innings of 92 not out that guided India to a 22-run victory in the second ODI at Indore, a seemingly relieved Dhoni had articulated this concern at the press conference: “Once I left Tests I thought now I want to enjoy my ODI cricket. I want to bat up the order but when I see my team, I find it very difficult to just promote myself. Who is going to bat at No 5, 6 and 7? I find it very difficult to put pressure on some of the youngsters in the team. After playing so many ODIs, if I can’t do it, then there are not many in the team who would do it. It’s something that I have to do.”

Shikhar Dhawan and Suresh Raina’s abysmal form, coupled with a general lack of consistency in the performances of star batsmen Rohit Sharma and vice-captain Virat Kohli ensured that the South-African bowlers could guide their team to a measly 5-run and 18-run victories in closely-contested games. Given that 5 out of 6 top and middle order batsmen in the Indian line-up have averaged under 50, as opposed to a 65-plus average by the South African trinity of de Kock, du Plessis and de Villiers, it would be incorrect to train the guns at the Indian captain on account of the generic unsatisfactory batting performance by the team and pin all the blame on him, now that the series has been concluded.

After the 2-1 series loss to Bangladesh earlier this year, and now, with the T20 and ODI series defeat at the hands of the mighty Proteas are far from being a purple patch for one of the finest finishers in world cricket and India’s most successful captain. Dhoni is far from finished.

Even when detractors came out all guns blazing at the 34-year old skipper, with former cricketer Ajit Agarkar insinuating that Dhoni has increasingly become “a liability” for the team and going on to question his place on the side following the T20 series defeat, Dhoni, staying true to his style, chose to let his bat do all the talking.

In what was panning out to be a collective catastrophe fuelled by the failure of the top-order in the Kanpur ODI, Dhoni’s aggressive, unbeaten knock of 92 gave India something to play for and subsequently helped register their first win ever since their first encounter against the visitors on October 2 in the Mahatma Gandhi- Nelson Mandela Freedom Series.

As has been the congenital propensity of the larger lot of Indian cricket fanatics, one may expect the whole of India to go for Dhoni’s blood one morning and yet the minute he plays a match-winning innings, he’s showered with praises galore. In an international career spanning more than 10 years, with over 12,000 runs to his credit, Mahendra Singh Dhoni has become an old hand in this game of bouquets and brickbats. Judging the merit of the man and the amount of cricket left in him solely by his recent run of performances can, therefore, by no means do justice to the contribution of the player and captain who has, in the past, led Indian cricket to the pinnacle of glory, winning the inaugural World t20 in 2007 and the 2011 World Cup; guided the team to the semi-final of the 2015 edition Down Under and also triumphed in the Champions Trophy in 2013.

Even as he begins to embark on his journey into the sunset, safeguarding the team’s interests bit by bit, one can expect Mahendra Singh Dhoni to continue answering his critics in his trademark fashion, breathing fire with his willow and taking the fight to the opposition, every time he walks out onto the cricket field.

volleyball india

By Khabar Lahariya

KL Logo 2 (1)Editor’s Note: Editor’s Note: This article is part of the collaboration between Khabar Lahariya and Youth Ki Awaaz, where you the readers get to read stories from the hinterlands of the country’s largest state – Uttar Pradesh. Here, India’s volleyball players tell you why it is a popular sport in the country’s rural areas, despite sports like cricket or football grabbing media and public attention.

वौलीबौल को भले ही भारत में टी.वी पर ना दिखाया जाता हो, भले ही बच्चे बच्चे की ज़बान पर वौलीबौल खिलाडि़यों के नाम ना हों, देश के गांवों में इस अंतर्राष्ट्रीय स्तर के खेल ने अपनी खास जगह बना ली है। महोबा स्टेडियम के वरिष्ठ लिपिक और खेल की दुनिया से कई सालों से जुड़े बृजमोहन वर्मा कहते हैं, “अकसर क्रिकेट और फुटबौल जैसे खेलों में मैदान और सामान की ज़रूरत होती है, व्यवस्था करनी पड़ती है। वौलीबौल गांव में लोग आसानी से खेल सकते हैं – लोग दिनभर के काम के बाद साथ में आए, दो खम्भे गाड़े, एक बौल ली और मनोरंजन शुरू। यही कारण है कि छोटे – छोटे जिलों से भी इस खेल के इतने खिलाड़ी निकलते हैं।”

वौलीबौल की शुरुआत 1895 के आसपास अमेरिका में हुई। खेल के नियम बनते बदलते रहे। 1964 में इसे अंतर्राष्ट्रीय खेल प्रतियोगिता में मान्यता मिली। भारत में इस खेल को पहचान आज़ादी के बाद 1951 में मिलना शुरू हुई।

नूर मुहम्मद

जिला बांदा। बांदा के गोयरा मुगली गांव निवासी नूर मुहम्मद ने आठ साल की उम्र में वौलीबौल खेलना शुरू किया क्योंकि उनके दादाजी इस खेल के शौकीन थे। नूर ने 1994 में गोरखपुर में ट्रेनिंग की और 1998 में राज्य स्तरीय प्रतियोगिता में जीत भी हासिल की। वे हिमाचल प्रदेश, चण्डीगढ़ और कर्नाटका राज्यों में भी खेल चुके हैं।

उन्होंने बताया, “कई प्रतियोगिताओं में हमारी टीम में पर्याप्त लोग ना होने की वजह से हार का सामना करना पड़ा। तीन साल पहले घुटनों में तकलीफ के कारण मुझे खेलना बंद करना पड़ा। मैं मानता हूं कि इस खेल को ग्रामीण स्तर पर और बढ़ावा देना चाहिए। इसके लिए गांव में खेल समितियां बनाने की ज़रूरत है।” खुद इस खेल को प्रोत्साहन देने के लिए नूर बांदा के गांवों में वौलीबौल प्रतियोगिताओं का आयोजन कराते हैं।

जहां एक ओर नूर मुहम्मद वौलीबौल में और लोगों को जोड़ने की कोशिश कर रहे हैं, बांदा के युवा कल्याण अधिकारी रामजियावन ने बताया कि जिले में वौलीबौल खेलना लड़कियों को भी पसंद है। पर उनके लिए छात्रावास ना होने के कारण अकसर उनके परिवार उन्हें ट्रेनिंग के लिए नहीं भेजते।

जिला महोबा। कबरई के बरीपुरा गांव के राजू का नाम महोबा में वौलीबौल से जुड़ा हर कोई जानता है। राजू मानते हैं कि वौलीबौल सबसे सस्ता खेल है जिसमें हर तरह का व्यायाम हो जाता है। “मैंने पहली बार हाईस्कूल में जिले स्तर पर महोबा डाक बंगला मैदान में सुकौरा के खिलाफ मैच खेला था। 1991 में राज्य स्तर पर कानपुर के खिलाफ खेला था जिसमें ट्राफी मिली थी। कई बार झांसी स्टेडियम ओर छतरपुर में भी मैच खेले। आज देखा जाए तो वौलीबौल बिल्कुल खतम होने की हालत में है। इसलिए स्कुलों में इस खेल की प्रतियोगिताओं का आयोजन करना बहुत ज़रूरी है।”

Brought to you in collaboration with Khabar Lahariya.

Image source: Twitter

By Rashi Kakkar for Youth Ki Awaaz:

The giant was sleeping. It had been sleeping for some time now. A large number of people around it had given up hope. They were convinced that it was dead. ‘It will not get up again, let alone rise.’ They had left it to rot. As a few stood and watched, others taking advantage of the sleeping giant started taking away its belongings. Profiting from the giant in its state of quasi death. The fact that you could still make some money off this giant was enough to distract most from the real issue the giant was dying and unless urgently given aid it would never recover.

Image source: Twitter
Image source: Twitter

This is the state of Indian Football today. Each minute it is progressing fast towards its impending death. 0 out of 5. That is the number of games the Indian Football team has managed to win in its 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign.

For those not in the know, India did qualify for the 1950 FIFA World Cup finals, it is separate story that due to a lack of funds we could not send a team to Brazil to play the matches. In fact the period from 1951 to 1962 is often considered the golden era in Indian football. The Indian team won the 1951 Asian Games, finished fourth in the 1956 Olympic Games and went on to win the 1962 Asian Games. India was not just good at playing the game but also good at strategizing. India was the first team to field a 3-5-2 formation, a formation that was very successfully used by Brazil in the 1958 World Cup.

From the 1960’s, other Football playing nations charged forward through a focus on infrastructure and player and league development. Indian Football was left behind.

At the end of the day the health of any sport is equivalent to the health of the nation team. In the 1970s our team’s performance started deteriorating and it has continued on a downward slope since. Till this basic fact changes nothing can pull Indian football out of the quicksand it finds itself in” laments Debayan Sen, a multi-sport commentator & presenter for radio & TV.

Let us not let a shiny league (ISL) created with foreign stars (mostly retired) distract us. A two-month Football extravaganza is not enough to change the fate of Indian football.

Modelled on the Indian Premier League (T20 Cricket), The Indian Super League (ISL) featuring 8 teams was founded in 2013 by IMG Reliance with its inaugural season starting on 12 October 2014. The excitement around the ISL is more due to the celebrity owners such as Sachin, Sourav, John Abraham and retired international footballers such as Del Piero, Nicolas Anelka rather than due to the Football on display. Somehow Football is only secondary. The focus is more on which Bollywood or Cricket star attended the game!

Football anchor, Joe Morrison was very vocal in his disappointment with the league and questioned the league’s priority “The biggest League in the world the Barclays Premier League shuts down for International matches yet the ISL has a game the same night as India face Oman. What a farce.Joe Morrison, Football anchor.

Let us not let the 7 day visit of a Football legend (Pele) make us believe that just his sheer presence will inspire an entire generation to take to Football.

Pele’s visit to India is great for nostalgia lovers but will do little to improve our football skills or performance– Sundeep Khanna, Executive Editor at HT Mint, adds.

The ultimate solution has to be bottom up. In India we do have fans of Football but unfortunately hardly any fans of Indian football. All our solutions need to be created to solve this one problem – How do we get our national team to do better?

Until that happens we will be stuck in a state of limbo. A paralysis. Indian Football is sick and it needs to take the hard steps to fight the root cause of its problems. The clock is ticking.

Melbin who is currently working with Bengaluru FC as the Manager for their Soccer Schools feels “The major issue with development of the national team is the lack of initiatives and accountability from the local football associations. To develop a team we need solid grassroots development program. Playing football should ideally start at the age of 5. Focus areas in each age group is: 5-8 for motor skills and basic skills, 8-11 – advanced skills, 11-14 brain development and decision making, 14-17 physical training, social development and tactical game play. All this to make sure that by 17 a player can play football with a club in their first team. Development of grassroots players can happen only through coaches who can break down the details and communicate the same to children.

But coaching alone won’t solve the problem. Where is the infrastructure?” says Atishay, former editor Goal.com. “There’s a severe shortage of quality infrastructure when it comes to football. The lack of proper pitches is alarming. What’s worse is that even the best clubs in the country are failing to produce or maintaining quality football pitches. Poor pitches severely hinder the development of good football and footballers.

Indian Football is stuck in a vicious cycle. Indian football doesn’t find viewers because India is an extremely poor performer on the international stage. People don’t keep on watching defeats. Sponsors will come if there are viewers and viewers will come if the team starts winning. The team will win if the most talented players in the country play for the team. They will play if playing Football for India is a viable profession.

The only way to break this cycle, according to Aayush Dabas, Strategic Development, Marketing Division at FIFA is by “Pushing money into the market both from sponsors side and government. This will help develop infrastructure and show kids that football can be a long term future. That is the only way to retain talent and help improve the standards of the game. That is the only way Indian Football will get its own superstar. Bhutia & Chhetri have been India’s best players over the last decade or so, but neither of them have had the quality to make any sort of impact abroad. When an Indian finally makes an impact in the football world, it will inspire millions of Indians to watch, follow and play the game.

We need to inspire the next generation to play Football. What we need is not 2 professional leagues at the very top. What we ideally need is one strong 10 month professional league with a proper, structured network of leagues around the country. That would mean a strong 2nd division to feed the professional league, as well as a university and school level league network across India which feeds the 2nd division league. A pyramid that is top heavy will collapse. We need to strengthen the base.

Indian football is a sleeping giant. Unless the All India Football Federation and its partners understand the severity of the situation and start taking concrete measures with a long term view, this giant will very soon forever go to sleep.

You can tweet your comments to me @rashi_kakkar.

Image source: Google+

By Annesha Ghosh:

When a group of protesters under the banner of the Association for Protection of Domestic Rights (APDR), assembled outside Eden Garden stadium shouting slogans against Mamata Banerjee’s ‘intervention’ in the working of the state’s most reputed sporting body, their remonstrations were resonant of an unanimous sentiment, triggered among thousands of cricket lovers in the city, in the wake of a first-of-its-kind change of guard.

Image source: Google+
Image source: Google+

Two years ago, when the then Union Sports Minister Ajay Maken brought in the National Sports Code, the BCCI was quick to accuse the Sports ministry of trying to ‘assume control’ of sports federations. In no time, Maken was shunted out by a host of politicians controlling various federations, including the BCCI.

However, following the sudden demise of Jagmohan Dalmiya on September 20, when the West Bengal government intervened hastily to appoint Sourav Ganguly as the next president of the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB), no BCCI official came forward to slam the move, which showed up as a violation of BCCI as well as the state body’s autonomy.

The constitution of CAB, as a senior official pointed out to Gulf News on September 22, gave room for 60 days for the working committee to meet and choose the president. Sensing that there wouldn’t be any possible consensus candidate proposed by the association, the Trinamool Congress-led government jumped into the fray to secure a headway into ‘selecting’ a president.

There can be absolutely no doubt over Ganguly’s contribution to the Indian outfit in his playing days that proved to be a real paradigm shift in the history of cricket in this country. Neither can there be any reservations about his shrewd understanding of the game and its changing dynamics, as evinced in the clinical analysis he offers as an expert commentator. But, he is a cricket administrator now.

Was it not improper on the part of a player of his repute, to turn to the state’s most powerful person in order to occupy the top administrator’s chair in an autonomous organization, just like that? As the then joint secretary of the CAB, was it not incumbent upon him to let the election process take its natural democratic course?

It’s been only fourteen months since Ganguly has donned the role of a cricket administrator. As a joint secretary serving his first term, Ganguly has jumped the queue to assume the President’s chair, bypassing many veteran officials who have been part of CAB’s administrative set-up for years.

Although no CAB official was willing to say anything on record, the general feeling within the body was that the autonomy of the board should not be meddled with. Earlier, incumbent CAB treasurer Biswarup Dey, who was seen as a possible presidential candidate, had told in an interview that “any political pressure will be a bad precedent for an association which has always managed to stay away from the clutches of political bigwigs.”

The chief minister, on her part, was categorical in reiteration that she had played no role in Ganguly’s installation as the CAB boss. “Sourav has been an Indian cricket team captain, now let him lead Bengal cricket. Make no mistake that I am not making a decision for CAB, it is my way of supporting cricket, which is not my cup of tea.” Banerjee told reporters on September 24.

We are going through a big crisis after his (Jagmohan Dalmiya’s) death. Somebody has to head CAB. So, it is important that somebody close to him (should run the show). My only request to all of you is that you must be together, remain united and take Jagguda’s legacy forward,” Banerjee said.

Despite her efforts to dispel any doubts that she had created pressure on the CAB in this regard, the very build-up to the announcement, compounded by the whispers in the State Secretariat Nabanna’s vicinity, were indication enough that Mamata Banerjee was putting her weight behind Ganguly. It was thus, unmistakably apparent that the government interfered in what should have been the prerogative of the CAB alone.

What took everybody by even greater surprise was how Abhishek Dalmiya, the 33–year-old son of the former president was pitch-forked into the power corridors of CAB. Despite having no prior experience in cricket administration, he was inducted as the joint secretary of the board. In June 2013, Dalmiya junior had forayed into sports administration following his nomination to represent Rajasthan in the Indian Football Association (IFA) governing body. That he would be installed in a high-profile executive role of a cricket administrator, which is usually accorded to those who have spent considerable amount of time in districts or clubs, insinuates a possible degree of rule-bending that might have been carried out at the chief minister’s behest.

At a time, when the onus across the cricketing sphere in India is on both cricket administrators and players, former and incumbent, to restore the credibility of the game, Sourav Ganguly’s anointment as the president of CAB in the unmistakable shadow of Mamata Banerjee somewhat sets an alarming precedent. While the Prince of Calcutta is expected to showcase his aggressive style of play even in this new role of his, it may not come as a surprise in the foreseeable future, if Ganguly finds himself needing to compromise with the ethics of his office, once too often for his liking, in order to appease the impulses of the Mamata Banerjee government.

Even as every cricket lover in Kolkata has hopes on Dada to provide a much-needed impetus to Bengal cricket, there can be no two ways about the fact that the former India captain has unwittingly played into the hands of the state officials.

girls playing football

By Ankita Mukhopadhyay:

History was made when back in 2006, Germany played a friendly football match against Iran. What made this match historic was that for the first time ever, Iran’s women’s football team had played against another country. The mutual love for football got the two teams together, despite restrictions on clothing, compulsion to wear headgear while playing the match, etc. The initiative was a historic diplomatic feat, beautifully captured in the documentary, Football Under Cover. This match was not only covered by the sports section of the newspaper, but also featured in the political section. A group of young women in Germany then realised that football could also have a political impact and they started Discover Football, to promote football amongst girls as a means of empowering them.

girls playing football

Usually people associate football and other ‘manly’ sports like hockey and cricket with men. What we don’t realise is that playing a sport is empowering, not just for men but also women. It helps create spaces and positive narratives for women that don’t relegate them to the margins, affording them equal opportunities in sports as elsewhere. Many young girls leave sports like football and hockey at an early age because these aren’t thought to be sports a woman should take up professionally. Those who do take it up, hardly receive coverage from the media, as their male counterparts are always considered more ‘entertaining’ to watch because of the ‘manliness’ component they bring into the sport.

Discover Football is trying to change this patriarchal narrative through a small team of just under 20 women. As Lea Gölnitz who works with Discover Football explains: “We highlight barriers, what is stopping women from playing positive outcomes. We try to make visible positive success stories to inspire other women to enter sport. Football is a mirror of society. Gender inequality in football is a good example to make people understand gender injustice at large.

Soon after they came into being, because of Discover Football’s initiatives and the platform it was providing young women to play sport, Tibet Women’s Soccer (TWS) got in touch with them to participate in a football tournament. TWS is an organization that provides Tibetan women an opportunity to empower and express themselves through sport. With their help, the Tibetan Women’s soccer team played its first international game, and that too against the Chinese team, proudly representing their country. The initiative, in fact, united the Chinese and Tibetan women because their cross-cultural interaction made them realize that all animosity was being caused by governments, not by people.  And that’s what the goal here is –  to take the sport beyond political barriers – and connect women through the love of sport.

At Discover Football's Discussion Session In New Delhi
At Discover Football’s Discussion Session In New Delhi

In India too women face all kinds of barriers when they wish to pursue sports. Without the backing of a government association like the All India Football Federation (AIFF) or a state football federation, it is difficult to organize events. There have been instances when football matches have been stopped because the outfit worn by female players on the pitch angered local maulvis. Parents too oppose when a school introduces sports like rugby into the curriculum. The media also often portrays women players in negative and objectifying images, reproducing sexist stereotypes.

Playing a sport brings out a woman’s inner strength, makes her courageous and helps her stand up against discrimination – qualities which many girls and their parents are unaware of. Discover Football now wishes to expand into India, where it plans to hold a football tournament in 2017. They will be working together with Tibet Women’s Soccer and Indian female football players, and providing them a platform to play football. There are many Indian women who already play football and they aim to tap on that resource. They wish to make Indian women believe in themselves, and in the power to overcome societal stereotypes, that make them believe that sport is only the ambit of the males.

Money in Sport Infographic (Indian rupees)

By Asmita Sarkar:

In an ideal world Roger Federer and Serena Williams would be earning the same amount of money. In an ideal world wage gap between genders for the same work would not exist. In a 2014 BBC study, it was found that women are paid 30% less than men in professional sports.

While many sports pay the same prize money to both genders, such as the four grand slams, there are many more like football, boxing that perpetuate this sexist tradition.

The infographic below takes a hard look at the wage gap discrimination in various sports.

Money in Sport Infographic (Indian rupees)
Infographic via vouchercloud.

indian sports leagues

By Shruti Sonal

The diehard tennis fan inside me let out a squeal after reading that the legendary rivalry between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer will be on display during the second edition of International Premier Tennis League (IPTL). Even though the passes I could afford disappeared within 15 minutes, the fact that India would finally get its chance to witness superlative tennis at home filled me with pride.

indian sports leagues

The “sports league” fever in India started back in 2008 with the inauguration of Lalit Modi’s brainchild Indian Premier League (IPL). Not only did it redefine cricket’s format but also added oodles of glamour to the sport. However, it remained a safe bet as cricket already had a massive fan base in India. Thereafter, as the scam surrounding the Commonwealth Games 2010 was overshadowed by the 101 medals won by India during the Games, the country was ready to invest in other sports. Rise of bankable stars like Saina Nehwal, P. Kashyap, Vijendar Singh and Sunil Chhetri further gave impetus to the creation of other leagues on the lines of IPL.

In a bid to revive the national sport, Hockey India League sponsored by Hero was started in 2013, with 7 teams in the fray. In the same year, Indian Badminton League was inaugurated giving local players a chance to play alongside the likes of Naihwal and international stars like Lee Chong Wei. In 2014 it was the turn of football and, wait for it, Kabaddi to get their own leagues, in the form of Indian Super League (ISL) and Pro Kabbadi League respectively. The month of December saw the fulfillment of Leander Paes’ long cherished dream to bring quality tennis to India, as international premier tennis league was launched and graced by stars like Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Ana Ivanovic and Sania Mirza. Recently, another addition has been the Indian Table Tennis League, all set to start next June.

Launched amidst much fanfare, these tournaments have successfully raked in TRPs and continue to run successfully. On the lines of IPL, they are based on the franchise format, each team associated with a city. Like Pro Kabbadi League’s ‘Jaipur Pink Panthers’ and ISL’s ‘Goa FC’, they’re often co-owned by Bollywood stars, fusing two powerful industries together. With lavish opening and closing ceremonies and live auctions, they have led to the commercialisation of sports. As giants like Pepsi and Hero pump in their sponsorship money, the infrastructure for these sports has received a boost. Regular telecast on channels like Star Sports and Set Max has provided great exposure to local talents who’re slowly becoming household names. A cap on the number of foreign players to be included in each team has allowed these tournaments to be competitive, while preserving their indigenous identities. The fact that a local sport like Kabbadi, till now restricted to regional sports, has a tournament of its own has enabled people to take it up professionally. Overall, sports have become a source of revenue generation and wholesome family entertainment.

The critics of such commercial leagues have pointed out the risks involved in conducting tournaments at a grand scale, as shown in the aftermath of IPL scam exposé. Further, the commercialisation has been targeted for taking away the “true essence” of sports. The I-League club Churchill Brothers pointed out that tournaments like ISL will do more harm than good, as a two month duration isn’t enough to allow a competitive football league to be held.

However, instead of saturating the audience’s interest, the rise of these leagues has provided more choices to the viewers and great opportunities to the players. Not only has it helped in breaking the monopoly of cricket over the sporting imagination of the country, but also made it “cool” for a Manchester United fan to support Atletico De Kolkata with equal zest. Above all, in a country which largely believes in the saying “Padhoge likhoge toh banoge nawab, kheloge kudoge toh banoge kharab (only studying can make you great in life, playing sports will get you nothing),” it has once again fuelled dreams of making a living by doing what you love. One can only hope that they expand themselves to include tournaments for women, and sports like athletics and basketball as well.

Image source: Flickr.com

By Ankita Ghosh:

A sensation on the tennis court and quite curiously the same off it, Sania Mirza all of 28 has had a celebrated career ever since she went professional, debuting in 2001. India’s claim to fame in the Doubles circuit, most searched Indian female sportsperson alias Google Trends, Pakistan’s ostensible ‘daughter-in-law’, Mirza has donned many a hat. Reports of her being recommended for the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, has been received with timely fanfare. Within hours of its release, her big news has picked up a bigger debate centering on her credibility to feature in the running up to the country’s biggest recognition in the field of Sports. Aside of Cricket, Leander Paes’s individual Olympics win in 1996 had found a favor with the government. Mirza’s recommendation, other than bringing her back in news, has led fans to argue about her career graph and haters to argue against her hemline.

Image source: Flickr.com
Image source: Flickr.com

Smash hits

1. Sania Mirza has secured India’s Number 1 rank according to Women’s Tennis Association both in singles as well as doubles. She was former World 27 in singles, at the peak of her career, before pulling out from singles following a wrist injury. She’s currently ranked world Number 1 in doubles.

2. Mirza has crossed the 1 million US dollar mark in career earnings, is privy to 4 doubles titles (1 women’s doubles, 3 mixed doubles), a combined number of 6 Golds in Afro-Asian and Asian Games. She has also received esteemed Civilian honors, Padma Shri and Arjuna Award.

3. A remarkable record as a junior player, unmatched Grand Slam wins, Mirza an offensive baseliner made her Doubles breakthrough in the year 2009 with the Australian Open.

4. After winning the French Open (2012) and US Open (2014), Mirza won her first Wimbledon title in Women’s Doubles category with former World Number 1 Martina Hingis, thereby cementing her professional credentials.

5. She has been named on different occasions among the most influential personalities of South Asia and has an honorary Doctorate of Letters under her belt. Mirza was recently roped in as the brand Ambassador for the newly constituted state of Telengana, and as UN Women Goodwill Ambassador for South Asia.

Courting controversies

Mirza has conspicuously made more news for the wrong reasons than the right ones. Finding herself in the midst of controversies, she has frequently been targeted by religious groups for professional attire or public campaigns. In 2008 after being photographed with her feet up in front of an Indian Flag, Mirza faced a prosecution-scare under Prevention of Insults to National Honor Act. Her personal life has gathered ridiculously unfair amount of flak. Following her 2010 wedding to Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik, Mirza was attacked by politicians for betraying Nationality, and snubbed again after having been announced brand ambassador for Telengana. In her professional career she has a glaring number of setbacks and has to her disadvantage a prolonged period of struggle during which she kept dismally low form. The 2008-12 window was particularly dull with a series of loses and injuries, eventually making her give up her singles career. By 2013 she was stealthily making her way back to center-court with gaze set on the Doubles domain.

An undisputed achiever nonetheless, claim to an award of such prestige as the Khel Ratna becomes disputed once we pit Sania Mirza’s professional achievements against those of India’s unsung sports heroes that have never been given their fair dues. It is time that the Indian government constitutes more efficient sports bodies, reconsiders its historic tendency of favoritism and creates precedence for recognizing the talented. Few sports aces get away with claiming infinite and often more than their fair share of stardom simply because the state attributes glamour to certain selected fields or because the Ministry wasn’t keeping records of India’s powerhouse.

Update: Sania Mirza’s name, on 13th August 2015, has been officially approved for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award.

Are we always fair to our sportspersons? Check out: The Tragedy Of Being A Sportsperson In India: Once Olympic Winners, Now Vegetable Vendors

Posted by Arati Nair in Sports

sportspersons india

By Arati Nair

Amitabh Bachchan’s ‘Le Panga‘ theme song for the brand new season of the Pro Kabaddi India League tournament has taken the Internet by storm. As one of his die-hard fans, I bobbed my head in sync with the peppy beats too, though I’m hardly a kabaddi enthusiast. With the advent of such leagues for cricket, football, kabaddi etc., the sports industry has grown into a behemoth with passionate fans throughout the nation.

But erstwhile sportspeople of the country could care less about such glamorous developments. They are more concerned with the crushing poverty that haunts them and the means to get two square meals a day. India has had a chronic propensity for selective amnesia with regard to sportspeople of yore. To name a few:

Shanti Devi

Then – Kabaddi Player

Shanti Devi was once a pro kabaddi player in India. Making her debut for Bihar in the 25th National Kabaddi Championship in 1976, Shanti represented the state in ten national tournaments, serving as captain during 1983 and 84. She also won the silver medal in the Guwahati National Kabaddi League.

Now- Vegetable Vendor

But her feathered hat is useless today, for all her long forgotten historic achievements can do little to feed her and her family. The fall from grace became complete when she was compelled to sell vegetables at the local market in Jamshedpur to make ends meet. Married to a labourer with few fulfilling job prospects, Shanti continues to struggle to keep her family afloat.

A story in The Telegraph in 2004 highlighted her plight, but a decade later, the situation remains largely unchanged. Shanti Devi remembers her kabaddi days with bitter resentment. Numerous assurances made to her for a job by politicians, bureaucrats and activists have all turned out hollow. It is little surprise then that the catchphrase ‘Le Panga’ fails to enthuse her.
Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav

Then- Wrestler

khashaba jadhavNicknamed ‘Pocket Dynamo’, Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav was the first Indian to win an individual medal at the Olympics. At the 1952 Helsinki Games, Jadhav brought glory to his motherland by winning the bronze medal in freestyle wrestling. His journey to the Olympics was fraught with difficulties, but persevering against the corrupt officialdom, he eventually emerged victorious.

Now- Police Inspector

KD Jadhav joined the police force as a sub-inspector and retired as Assistant Commissioner. In his old age he was even denied pension and died in a road accident in 1984 with none the wiser. But another battle for dignity continues to rage after his demise. While all medal winning Olympians in India have been conferred with the coveted Padma Award, a glitch in the rules for awarding the same posthumously has deprived India’s first individual Olympic medallist of the honour.

K.D. Jadhav’s son, Ranjit, angered by the snub to his legendary father, has even talked of throwing away the bronze medal that has long been forgotten.

Rashmita Patra

rashmita patraRashmita Patra, a busy wife and mother, had her glorious football career snuffed out even before it could take off.

Then- Footballer

From the young age of twelve, she had been an ardent footballer with many accolades to her credit. Rashmita participated in many state and national level tournaments. Her team represented India internationally in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) for the under-16 women’s qualifier at Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia in 2008.

In 2010, the Odisha team won the national women’s football for under-19 in Cuttack, courtesy of her awe-inspiring performance. One year later, she again played for India in the senior AFC qualifying round and won the country an invitational series in Bahrain.

She was also part of the Odisha team that won the senior women’s football championship in Bhillai in 2012.

Now-Betel Shop Owner

But that is all ancient history now. Pitted against adverse conditions of poverty, she started a betel shop in Atul, Bhubaneshwar, detached from her favourite sport.

Rashmita’s past plaudits robbed her of an education when she took up football, forgoing her matriculation exam as well. Inept for a job herself, and married to a man without a fixed income, Rashmita was rewarded the short end of the stick with few takers for her cause. In an interview to the Hindustan Times, she candidly expressed how her passion for football was thwarted by financial constraints- “Football is in my blood but poverty has nipped my career in the bud.

Sarwan Singh

sarwan singhFor a man who made his country proud, Sarwan Singh’s fame is mostly unrecognizable. Today, many of us would flounder if asked about his athletic achievements.

Then- Hurdler

Swaran won the gold medal for 110m hurdles at the 1954 Asian Games. He crossed all 13 hurdles over the 110m track in a historic 14.7 seconds.

Now- Cab Driver/Agricultural Labourer

This hurdler, however, failed to jump across the tallest of hurdles in his life – poverty. Humiliated and distraught, Singh drove a taxi rented out by one of his friends to support his family. After a while, he took to farming to sustain his finances. His coveted Asiad gold remained a relic with no material benefits.

Offered a monthly pension of 1500 rupees, Sarwan Singh struggled to survive by doing odd jobs, working even at the ripe old age of 70.

Shankar Laxman

ShankarLaxman-486041A long time after retiring from hockey, Shankar Laxman did not feature on the media radar. But his death in 2006 left all news portals in a tizzy to draft the most heart-wrenching obituary.

Then-Hockey Player

Laxman was the star goalkeeper of the Indian hockey team during three successive Olympics (1956, 1960 and 1964) and also captain of the team which won the gold medal, trouncing arch rivals Pakistan, at the Asian Games in Bankok in 1966.

Now- Ex-Serviceman

However, Laxman’s acumen on the field was of little consequence in his life after the game. In those days, financial rewards were unheard of. In his final years, suffering from gangrene, this great player succumbed to the ailment with no money for proper treatment.

His prowess on the field could be replicated by few others and even in death his game spoke for him.

Sita Sahu

Then- Sprinter

sita sahuA spirited teenager who won two bronze medals at the Athens Special Olympics in 2011, Sita Sahu did the nation proud after securing third place in the 200m and 1600m race at the Special Olympics.

Now- Golgappa Seller

Amidst the jubiliation of having won those accolades, Sita was also desirous of some assistance from the government to help uplift her from poverty. Left to her own devices though, she now assists her mother make a living by selling golgappas at the local market.

This young girl from Rewa, Madhya Pradesh was promised an award of 1 lakh rupees for her achievement, but nothing has materialised thus far. The government and the bureaucracy are embroiled in a blame game of epic proportions to pay heed to her plight.

The ever-sensible mother of the girl did not wait around for non-existent monetary benefits. She deems it fit to train her daughter in other trades that may serve her better than her speedy run ever did.

Asha Roy

Then- Sprinter

asha royAsha Roy became the fastest female athlete in India when she clocked 11.85 seconds at the 51st National Open Athletics Championships in Kolkata in 2011. She also had impressive speed in the 200 m and 4X100 m relay competitions. A resident of Singhur, West Bengal, Asha is also a budding sprinter and her athletic routine includes a nutritious diet as well.

Now- Vegetable Seller

However, her dietary regime takes a backseat when her family toils to earn a livelihood for itself. The only breadwinner, her father, earns a mere 3000 rupees every month as a vegetable vendor, leaving her bereft of choices.

With varied unfulfilled promises from different political circles, Asha’s dream run has screeched to a halt as a result of abounding apathy and neglect.

Inder Raj

The dichotomy of sports in India is such that the even most revered game of all, cricket, has had an occasional casualty stricken by poverty.

Then- Cricketer

Inder Raj once admired by the legendary Gavaskar for his explosive batting style on the field, is bed-ridden following the amputation of his gangrene-infected leg. Having shared the pitch with the likes of Sunil Gavaskar, Mohinder Amarnath and Syed Kirmani, this star of the 1960s also played for the state Ranji teams of Andhra and Hyderabad.

Now- Bank Job

Such is the cruelty of fate that this talented sportsman was recuperating in a city hospital in 2013 with none of his then famous teammates or the state authorities offering help. He quit the bank job he had taken up after cricket.

His brother, Govind Raj ran from pillar to post at the Hyderabad Cricket Association (HCA) for some economic help with little success. Following reports in the media, the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister of the time, N. Kiran Kumar Reddy stepped in to offer aid to Inder Raj.

The emerging fan-clubs for popular sports and their vehement advocates have only been privy to the limelight of influential sportspeople. The tale of woe of helpless sports legends like the aforementioned has very few takers. While we passionately hunt for sporting talent in the by-lanes of our country and feverishly pray for future Olympic medals, a consideration for the dignified existence of the real unsung heroes of Indian sports would not be amiss.

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