GAME PLAN: Rio over, back to cricket & the comparisons

Jaideep Ghosh

Interesting, isn’t it, that the sports channels on television are already so full of cricket?

Wednesday evening saw the Tamil Nadu Premier League, the England-Pakistan ODI series, an assorted programme on cricket and Duleep Trophy under lights on the four channels that were showing the Olympics, just the other day.

Yes, we understand these are events the broadcasters have signed up for. But we were mentioning it just to highlight how fleeting our association with other sports are.

For a week or so prior to the Closing Ceremony at Rio de Janeiro, we were all about our winners in Rio. Ignoring the numbers completely, we feted two medals like we had beaten the world. The channels and columns were full of Sakshi Malik, followed by P.V. Sindhu.

They were preceded by Dipa Karmakar and to an extent, Lalita Babar.

Now, all of that will simmer down and cricket will be played again.

We still have a few dregs of Olympic spirit left, though it is largely the waste product of the unhealthy soup that India’s participation was.

Marathon runner OP Jaisha who hit out at the national athletics federation on Monday for not providing her refreshments during the Rio Olympics marathon. She fainted at the finish line. Photo-PTI

Marathon runner OP Jaisha who hit out at the national athletics federation on Monday for not providing her refreshments during the Rio Olympics marathon. She fainted at the finish line.
Photo-PTI

Marathon runner O.P. Jaisha is battling another long course as she and the authorities wrangle over something as basic as water.

Jaisha claims there was no one to help her out with hydration during the race, leading to her collapsing after the run.

This was a contention vehemently denied by the officials who had gone to Rio and the Athletics Federation of India (AFI).

Then fellow-runner Kavita Raut claimed that there was indeed a meeting between her and AFI officials the evening before and it was decided that no special fluids would be needed, since water was being provided by the Organising Committee.

It was also reported that Jaisha was in consonance with this decision.

And now, we hear the athlete is blaming her coach, Nikolai Snaserev from Belarus.

Leaves one wondering about the point of the whole issue.

No doubt it was disgraceful if any such negligence occurred. But as days pass, the issue becomes murkier. Like everything else does in India’s Olympic sports.

Golf was back in Rio, after a long time, but India’s top hope Anirban Lahiri was a disappointed man at the end of it all, extremely unhappy with the way things are handled by the Indian Olympic Association, not just in his sport.

He goes on to call what happened to Narsingh Yadav “anti-national”, and claimed that the way the Indian sports federations operate is a classic case of anti-national.

Strong words from a man who had to play through rain and 13 degrees Celsius temperature since the IOA didn’t provide them with either rainproof clothes or sweaters and the golfers aren’t allowed to wear their own.

Just one example of how sports are treated in India. Even the Government isn’t particularly bothered, since they invariably have issues like winning elections in one part of the country or the other to focus on.

Aditi Ashok of India, walks off the 18th green after completing her second round of the women's golf event at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo-PTI

Aditi Ashok of India, walks off the 18th green after completing her second round of the women’s golf event at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Photo-PTI

Lahiri goes on to say that whatever success India gets is not because of the system, but in spite of it.

This is quite true, since lack of official support has been the oldest bugbear of India as a sporting nation.

That said, there are also athletes who have taken full advantage of this indifference to smuggle themselves into four, five and even seven Olympics! Without ever winning a round.

So it is an unholy mess all the way around. Sadly, even the people of India aren’t too bothered. I can wager my bottom dollar that if you gave Sakshi or Sindhu civilian clothes and made them stand in the middle of downtown New Delhi tomorrow morning, eight out of ten people wouldn’t recognise them.

If you do it a month later, the figure would be closer to 9.5.

Our cult figures will always be from cricket. The reasons are simple. We win there.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) isn’t a paragon of integrity, as was clear from the Justice Lodha Committee report and the manner in which they have been battling against implementation.

But compared to the IOA and its affiliates, it is a paragon of professionalism and success.

They do not take money from the Government, and they surely do look after their players, a country mile better than IOA.

Rio de Janeiro: PV Sindhu celebrate after defeating Japan's Nozomi Okuhara during a women's singles semifinal match at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, August 18, 2016. Photo - PTI

Rio de Janeiro: PV Sindhu celebrate after defeating Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara during a women’s singles semifinal match at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, August 18, 2016.
Photo – PTI

No one takes a look at how the other sports federations, run on taxpayers’ money, are dens of corruption, used by politicians of all hue to make themselves important and dole out fancy foreign jaunts and other benefits to their hangers-on, who essentially don’t know the first thing about sport.

The comparison between cricket and other sports is not even a real one, irrespective of how much many of our athletes groan. Cricket isn’t run by the Government, which, in spite of being the real authority, does precious little to clean out the federations.

Lahiri wasn’t too optimistic about the situation changing. But he did say that, if he represents India at Tokyo, he would organise his clothes and equipment six months before, since he now knows better than to depend on the IOA.