Wrestlers fume as cricketers back squash for Olympics
'How could they [cricketers] do this to us!' said Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar.
New Delhi: Cricket stars like Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag supporting squash's bid for inclusion in the 2020 Olympics has left India's wrestling fraternity distraught. Cricketers' open love for squash has hurt the sentiments of Olympic medallists Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt, who have asked the players to hold placards similar to "2020 Squash - Back the bid", for wrestling.
Wrestlers' emotional outburst came in the wake of Sehwag tweeting 'I back squash, do you?'. Tendulkar and off-spinner Harbhajan Singh too posted pictures of themselves on their Twitter handles with placards reading '2020 Squash - Back the bid'.
"How could they [cricketers] do this to us! We are going through a tough phase and these cricketing icons should support us in our bid to get back into the Olympic fold. Instead, they are supporting squash which is not so popular in the country," Sushil told PTI.
"It's quite possible that the cricketers might have done it in good faith but they should understand it could affect our chances of making a comeback. Wrestlers have brought laurels to the country by winning four medals. On the other hand, realistically speaking, squash has no chance of winning an Olympic medal," said Sushil, the first Indian to win back-to-back individual Olympic medals.
In squash, no Indian male or female player features among the world's top 10 with Saurav Ghosal and Dipika Pallikal placed at 18th and 15th respectively in the rankings. It has been learnt that Ghosal was the one who approached the cricketers for their support.
The International Olympic Committee's Executive Board had, in its meeting in Lausanne on February 12, had put wrestling in the relegation zone for the 2020 Olympics. Wrestling and seven other sports are now fighting for one spot available in the 2020 Games. The others are baseball/softball, karate, squash, roller sports, sport climbing, wakeboarding/wushu.
Sushil exuded confidence that wrestling will remain a part of the Olympic Games and said he would have supported the cricketers if they were faced with a similar situation. "Yes, I am confident that wrestling will remain part of the Olympic Games given the sport's huge popularity across the globe. If they are backing squash, they should also support wrestling," he said.
Sushil's childhood friend and London Olympics bronze medallist Yogeshwar Dutt said the wrestling fraternity needs to garner more support to push for the game's inclusion in the quadrennial event. "Wrestling is such an ancient sport. It has made India a force to reckon with in the Olympic arena and we are making every possible effort to make IOC reconsider its decision. Indian cricketers supporting our bid can actually make our case strong. We need support from all quarters," he said.
World number two and Swiss tennis ace Roger Federer was the first to support squash's inclusion in the Olympic Games programme for 2020. "I think it's a wonderful sport. It's unfortunate some sports don't get the opportunity to be in the Olympics," said Federer. "I think squash would deserve it. They run a great tour and they have great players and characters. I'd personally be very happy for them," he had said.
Chief National coach, Vinod Kumar urged Sehwag and Harbhajan to work towards the inclusion of wrestling in the 2020 Olympics since these players hail from the rural areas of the country where grappling is very famous.
"Why they are doing this to us? Sehwag is from Haryana while Harbhajan is from Punjab, both the states love wrestling. They know the importance of the game and then they are supporting squash. They should understand that wrestling has brought four medals whereas squash has no chance even if it becomes a part of the Olympic programme," he said.