GAME PLAN: Paralympic dose of elusive success

Jaideep Ghosh

Rio de Janeiro: India's Devendra Jhajharia poses for the pictures next to the scoreboard that shows his world record in the men's javelin throw F46 athletics event at the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016. AP/PTI

Rio de Janeiro: India’s Devendra Jhajharia poses for the pictures at the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016. AP/PTI

The irony of the situation most probably escapes everyone. If India hadn’t done so miserably in the Rio Olympics, the Paralympic athletes who subsequently tasted success would not even have come close to getting the kind of mileage they now have.

So when you hear of names like Devendra Jharjharia, the most recent success story with a gold in the men’s javelin in the F46 category, Mariyappan Thangavelu, Deepa Malik or Varun Bhati, you stand up to applaud.

The applause isn’t just for the achievements, but the added fact that not one of them gets as many facilities as those athletes who have made it quite a hobby of being unhappy with what they get.

The argument about what the results achieved by Indian Olympic athletes were, vis-a-vis the funds pumped into their training etc, was decided rather tellingly, ironically by a Sports Authority of India (SAI) report.

Ironic, because most of the ills attributed to Indian Olympic sports largely lie at SAI’s doors, with the Sports Ministry adding the furnishings of indifference.

Anyway, there’s no doubting that the Paralympic athletes will strive hard to get where they are. Life as a whole has been a battle for them, and unlike some of our other stalwarts, they have a burning desire to see themselves at the pinnacle.

File photo of Mariyappan Thangavelu. Photo-PTI

File photo of Mariyappan Thangavelu.
Photo-PTI

Jharjharia has made it to the big league when it comes to achievements. He is a double Paralympic gold medallist, his first came at Athens in 2004. A unique achievement in India. He is also an Arjuna Award winner and a Padma Shri, Jharjharia should ideally have been an idol in Indian sports. But he isn’t as marketable as some of the others, whose achievements are nowhere compared to their hype.

Nevertheless, it is great to see India on the podium, more so to hear the Indian National Anthem being played at a real world event. It is, sadly, a rare event, so enjoy it.

Not just cricket: On the other end of the sporting spectrum is the sport that is always in the news.
Be it for the incessant criticism about how poorly other sports are dealt with in comparison to cricket, or how cricketers make money while others do not.

But as of now, the news is about how loyalties are being changed and challenged. As the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) shows its evident dismay that people it had promoted and boosted are suddenly not singing their tunes.

There was a time when the BCCI, under fire from all corners as the Indian Premier League and associated teams, principals and office-bearers came under fire for everything ranging from corruption to nepotism. It was then that Shashank Manohar was portrayed as the paragon of integrity, an image that BCCI hoped would help their cause.

File photo of BCCI President Shashank Manohar. Photo-PTI

File photo of BCCI President Shashank Manohar.
Photo-PTI

But as it turned out, Manohar decided to flee the coop and quit, leaving BCCI in a lurch. As things stand now, he is back in the news, but this time as the International Cricket Council (ICC) boss.

The BCCI can’t really be blamed for expecting their ‘man’ at the top post to be amenable to their stands on everything pertaining to international cricket.

But to the dismay of the board, and president Anurag Thakur, Manohar has professed his allegiance to all cricket-playing nations, a very noble stand which doesn’t necessarily accommodate the BCCI’s stand on most things.

With the Indian board in the said lurch pretty much permanently nowadays, there had been covert attempts to take over the reins of power in the ICC by the other teams, which have had to eat humble pie because of the BCCI’s sheer financial clout.

But as things stand now, that clout is distracted with censures, real and potential, pulling the organisation in all directions. Perfect time to plan a coup.

BCCIThe BCCI is naturally miffed. After all, it has been the association that has practically run international cricket, so it should have its say! So they vetoed the two-tier Test plan, as also the global bids for broadcast rights. While doing so, BCCI expected Manohar to nod in their favour.

One thing that nods in Manohar’s favour is that he was never particularly bothered with niceties, even as BCCI boss. So for him to shrug off any expectations Thakur had weren’t such news.
Not that it made Thakur any happier. Especially since the ICC seemed to have been able to find either a distressingly rigid president, or the ‘others’ have managed to indoctrinate him.

We would like to think it’s the former.

Anyhow, it’s quite an interesting state of affairs really. The BCCI, for decades, through the times of Jagmohan Dalmiya and then N. Srinivasan, has been able to rule the ICC with an iron hand.

The picture seems to have changed a little, but that only makes for a better platform for those who follow these goings-on with interest. Just a lot more masala for our columns.