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Sports revamp: Learning and looking beyond cricket

Sriram Balasubramanian http://Sriram316

Updated: September 1, 2011, 11:10 AM IST
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The latest frenzy in news circles has been the state of sports affairs in the country. Well, in our country sports seems to be defined by the game that the colonial masters taught us how to play. Sport in this country has come to such a point that the only valid point of discussion that I see is the effect the new bill has on the BCCI. The biggest issue is that we have trivialized our sporting breadth to such a narrow stream of one sport drama; the debate should be wider and more inclusive, here's why:

Firstly, how many of you know who Mary Kom is? Don't Google, don't look at Twitter, don't look at Facebook, just answer me right here right now. Well, if you thought she was a Chinese national or someone you have "heard" of somewhere, get this in your head; she is an Indian who is a five time Boxing World Champion. Most of us in our country, including myself, do not have the breadth in understanding the range of sporting excellence that the world has to offer. Sporting youngsters are either streamlined to the narrow path of Cricket or they are told "sports wont take you anywhere, so please go and live a bull's life in a IT office" by their parents. Youngsters do not want to indulge in other sports because
a) they are not aware of some of them in detail

b) they feel other professional sports are not financially rewarding in the long run.

c) they are not encouraged to take the risk forward.

The sports "change" in this country needs to first address the first issue, of knowledge and awareness for sports. At the grassroots level, the sports establishment needs to have a mechanism(s) in place which identifies talent at a very young age and develops them through the course of time, very much like how the Americans and Chinese do. This would ensure that the youngsters are given wide knowledge in various sports so that they are given an opportunity to explore the boundaries beyond the narrow path of popular sports. Next in line would be the funding/money which drives the people towards sports and here is where the inclusiveness needs to be adopted.

The fact of the matter is the BCCI is the top earning Cricketing body, it is the most powerful and in fact it tops even global rankings in terms of the revenue that they create. Another fact remains is that the BCCI has expounded in growth only in the last 6 years or so. Before this era they had money but not of this proportion, so they have to be doing something right. The masterminds at BCCI over the decades have actually packaged cricket in such a way that it caters to the masses. The popularity of Cricket, besides its larger than life cricketers, is due to the marketing acumen of people at the BCCI. They had the ability to bring in the concept of commercial and TV revenue to the core of sporting money, they had the vision to evolve at the right times. When there was a hint of saturation of Indian cricket's popularity, they threw a blockbuster like IPL that drove the game right into the heart of the Indian household. Bottom line is they are good at what they do (how much ever I try to be cynical), so the best thing would be to make use of their talents. Sports officials should adopt an inclusive approach to the positives of the BCCI story. They need to instill within the proposed changes about inter learning between federations. For example, they could create a platform where all the other federations can learn from the BCCI by bringing them into the fold and spreading the message across to major Olympic sports of unearthing their own funding potential. Being the mammoth giant that BCCI is, I don't think there would be an issue if they shared some of their insights to other sports and I do think they would actually oblige towards it.

Once the funding aspect of sports is actually sorted, more and more youngsters would be willing to take the risk to plunge forward. People would find the motivation and the confidence to overcome obstacles because they would start believing in the financial backing that their sports can offer. They would also start to believe that they get due recognition for their achievements in a more national platform.

There is no doubt that the age limit of 70 and the inclusion of 25 percent of players as representatives is a very progressive notion. There is no doubt that the current change proposed is a very positive one and much better than anything proposed in the era before. There is also no doubt that there should be more transparency within the largest sporting empire in this country. There is also no doubt that the smarter approach should be not necessarily confrontational but being accommodative keeping core values intact.

However, the biggest challenge is to strike a balance between learning from and looking beyond BCCI. This would ensure that we look at the broader Olympic sports restructuring that is required to widen knowledge, enhance revenue and evolve as a sporting powerhouse in the years to come. Ironically, the positives of the BCCI story can be the fulcrum for the restructuring the Olympic sports which is the barometer for any countries sporting success.

After all, this is the time to act or else we will just sit with 1 Olympic Gold medal for the next 50 years.

(The author can be reached on his Facebook page)

First Published: September 1, 2011, 11:10 AM IST

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