Aparna Ravichandran and Nandan Kamath have handpicked some brilliant writers and sportspersons like Pullela Gopichand, Rahul Dravid and Abhinav Bindra, to complete this anthology.
Every year during the annual budget in the Parliament, a handful of people in India look at the country’s sporting budget. The sports cognoscenti hope the Finance Minister will take a realistic look at the billion-plus nation’s sporting aspirations and put some more greenbacks in the kitty. And every time they return home disappointed. As a result, India continues to be a cricketing nation and not a sporting nation.
It’s sad how Hima Das has to thank Sachin Tendulkar for liking her tweets, classy shuttlers wear cricket kit to promote a badminton league modelled on the lines of IPL and promising cricketers want their tweets to be endorsed by Amitabh Bachchan.
So, the bottomline, if I have read my notes seriously, is all about cash. If you have the cash, you can and will promote sports, and if you do not, then visit Starbucks or Ganga Dhaba in JNU for tea.
Penguin India’s book on India’s Sporting Transformation (there is a two-letter word attached to the title: GO) is an attempt to remind India and Indians why they need to push their sporting talent.
Aparna Ravichandran and Nandan Kamath have handpicked some brilliant writers and sportspersons like Pullela Gopichand, Rahul Dravid and Abhinav Bindra, to complete this anthology, which is full of interesting tales about sportsters and their transformation, and also sports governance, an extremely tough call in India where sports is mostly controlled by politicians or their flunkeys.
The third group to join this bandwagon are journalists who see everything good in cricket and nothing wrong in anything else. Actually, they are not interested in anything else. So other sportspersons have double trouble on their hands. They must first perform well, and then pamper journalists for breaking headlines.
So how does one plug all those who have talent and must be written about?
Sporting anthologies have one problem: those who are included think they are the best writers, and those left out join the Grumblers Den. This one is a heady mix. Loads of people have written loads of things, including how they shaped themselves as great sportspeople, and also how tough it is in India to push the nation’s sports agenda.
It’s evidently clear that India does not have a sports agenda. The government lacks cash, and barring Reliance, there isn't a single company which has loose cash to blow on sports.
Still, stories from India’s Sporting Transformation tell me there’s life and there’s hope as hundreds of young, talented Indians are breaking the Big Indian Stereotype where a doctor or an engineer had always been valued more than anyone else. That the trend is changing is heartening enough.
I am reminded of Hima Das’s background and how the village prayed before a temple while she picked up her medals; I am told a Sonagachi sex worker’s son played basic level soccer in Manchester United; I am happy that my friend Franz Gastler - he should have got an Arjuna or a Dronacharya - trains tribal girls in the backyards of mineral-rich Jharkhand.
Thanks to such books, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) should plug sports education as a subject, with not just running and other outdoor activities. Students in schools, not colleges, should be able read and write about India’s sporting heroes and sporting talent, some nurtured, and the rest - the bulk of it - not nurtured. But I doubt it will happen. The HRD ministry will spend time in rewriting history to suit the government’s needs, and not focus on those who are - actually - rewriting history.
What did I not like in the book: the routine touch and feel laudatory stories about cricket, and what a great revolution was IPL. Now can we stop this? The creator of IPL has run away from the country, probably with loads of cash and will not return. And our hyperventilating on cricket - I saw some shameless reportage in this recent ICC World Cup - will continue irrespective of whether or not you produce an anthology. So why waste pages on cricket? It’s already a religion and has loads of cash. If you advertise for the posts of a communications head in BCCI, I can guarantee it will have applications from all sports editors. So why not write about those who do not get newsprint, do not get breaking headlines?
The book is a brilliant effort, deserves heartfelt compliments.