|SPORTS & WELLNESS|
With Haryana and Punjab contributing handsomely to India’s medal tally at the CWG, Vaibhav Sharma looks at the reasons for the region’s rewarding run
There is a saying, "Big things come in small packages." Going by the showing and contribution of Haryana at the recently concluded Commonwealth Games, the state, which contributes no more than 2 per cent to India’s population, has proved the maxim right. The northern region contributed almost 43 medals to the total of 101 that the host nation won to end up second on the tally.
But are numbers really doing justice to the impact that these states have made to the sports scenario in the country? Are these numbers just a coincidence or is there something that really does portray their advantageous position over other states in terms of producing sporting champions?
Haryana has been
witnessing a boom in more ways than one. The state is growing in terms
of economy, striking a balance between retaining its agrarian core and
yet taking on the mantle of industrialisation. But one arena that has
really witnessed fairytale-like progress has been the development of
sports. The state has become a hub for producing world-class boxers and
wrestlers and is creating a model for the rest of nation to follow for
the creation of a healthy sports culture. The likes of Vijender, Akhil,
Anita, Geeta and Babita are all testimony to the fact that the state is
heading in the right direction. All these sportspersons and many others
are shining examples of what a little bit of political will and
commitment can do for the development of sports.
It is the state’s Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who deserves a lot of credit for pushing his own set-up and the officials and players alike to better their own performances, and overcome the negative sentiment that generally surrounds government-aided efforts. Speaking about the tremendous showing of sportspersons from his state, Hooda says, "Players from Haryana gave an outstanding performance. They have brought laurels to the country and the state. We wish them luck to do even better in coming international events."
The state’s contribution to the contingent at the Games consisted of 52 sportspersons. And in a show of their prowess and supremacy, 28 out of these 52 sportspersons lapped up medals for India. This meant that Haryana was largely responsible for ensuring that India made it to the second spot on the tally. What added even more shine to this showing by the state was that 15 out of the 28 medals that they won were gold medals.
The reason, as bronze medalist boxer Vijender Singh believes, is that the state knows how to take care of its own sportspersons. "The culture of Haryana is such that you grow up on a very healthy diet, and the lifestyle also gives you a fiery attitude and fighting instinct. The entire set-up deserves a pat on the back for being up to the mark."
Other prominent winners from the state include, shooters Anisha Sayyed (Faridabad) and Harpreet Singh (Karnal), discus thrower Seema Antil, Krishna Poonia, hockey players Sandeep Singh, Sardara Singh, Mandeep Singh and Bharat. Even though Saina Nehwal is now based in Hyderabad, she originally hails from Haryana, as does wrestler Sushil Kumar.
The list of players who’ve done the region proud doesn’t end with these Haryanavis. Indian men’s hockey team captain Rajpal Singh is from Chandigarh, Abhinav Bindra is from Zirakpur (Punjab), Gurpreet Singh (shooting) is from Taran Taran (Punjab), Heena Sidhu (Patiala), Samresh Jung is from Sirmaur (Himachal Pradesh), Gagandeep Kaur (Archery) is from Patiala `85 the list is endless. These athletes have somehow shown that there is something that the entire region has been doing right But is it really true that the authorities in the region have finally starting aiding talent? Has the government in this part of the country started doing things differently and realised that sportspersons are to be nurtured? The opinions are varied and many.
According to archer Gagandeep Kaur, who hails from Patiala, "The biggest factor has been that the youngsters in this area are looked after extremely well at all levels. I have been extremely blessed with a wonderful coach and this has meant that I have never had to worry about anything except giving my best. Even Punjabi University has spent a lot on ensuring that I get the best of equipment and all these factors have combined to help us do well."
"Apart from all these factors, I guess the financial condition of players from this region is generally better than those from other parts of the country. That means that the players have a conducive background and just have to concentrate on what is best for them and work hard on their goals."
National boxing coach G. S. Sandhu has an even more insightful observation to make on this. Sandhu, who spends a chunk of his time sweating out with the boxers at the NIS, Patiala, feels, "The role of the federations cannot be overstated. The SAI schemes that have been started in Haryana and Punjab are now paying rich dividends. These new champions are the result of a planned approach of the authorities and their unrelenting attention to detail. Moreover, states like Haryana and Punjab have provided the right incentives to the players for doing well.
"In Punjab, the efforts that had started during Bhullar’s time and in Haryana during Abhay Chautala’s tenure have now come to bear fruit. Especially now, Haryana is making all the right moves to create these players’ careers. All the associations, federations and visionary officials deserve credit for where these players and sports are today."
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), at its annual general body meeting recently, might have removed former Indian Premier League (IPL) Commissioner Lalit Modi from all positions he held in the board as well as the IPL, but one doubts whether one has heard the last of the Jaipur-based maverick. Besides, the board has also brought in far-reaching changes in the IPL.
Not only that. The BCCI has suspended two major teams, the Jaipur-based Rajasthan Royals, who have also won the tournament once, as well as the Mohali-based Punjab Kings XI from the fourth edition of the tournament for alleged irregularities regarding their shareholdings. (Actually, there are certain elements within the BCCI who are of the view that Lalit Modi has shares, either benami or through relatives, in both teams. One must not forget that he has his roots in Rajasthan and also has a finger in the PCA pie by virtue of being a vice-president of the PCA).
It was in December last year, a week after his bid to regain control of the Rajasthan Cricket Association failed in an acrimonious election, that Lalit Modi started falling out of grace within the board.
Modi, who has successfully conducted three editions of the Indian Premier League and filled the BCCI coffers with his marketing acumen, has been having problems with some of the key BCCI functionaries for some time. There is one school of thought in the board, which is of the view that the IPL is a BCCI event and logically the BCCI president should head it as an ex-officio member.
Modi’s ray of hope probably lies in the hands of the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA), of which he still remains a vice-president. And with PCA president Inderjit Singh Bindra, one of Modi’s strongest supporter in the board even as all other bigwigs in the board were keeping a safe distance from him, indicating after the BCCI meeting that he would like to relinquish all administrative offices in 2012, Modi still has some hope left of making a comeback into the board.
And why should Modi not have hopes of making a comeback into the BCCI corridors of power? Just see how former ICC chief and former BCCI president and secretary Jagmohan Dalmiya has been pardoned of all his sins and reinducted into the BCCI after staying in the wilderness for a couple of years.
Dalmiya’s return, however, does signal that Modi need not lose hope because the powers that run the board can always have a change of heart!
In the reconstituted IPL governing council, the term of which has also been reduced from five years to one year, former India captain Sunil Gavaskar does not find a place. Gavaskar was among three former India captains in the previous council. Of the other two, Ravi Shastri has agreed to be on the governing council in an honorary capacity. Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi is likely to be retained.`A0 Ex-cricketers on the council were earlier paid Rs 1 crore, but will now not be paid. But to be fair to Gavaskar, immediately after it was "leaked" to the media that he had been dropped because he wanted to be paid, the former India captain went on record to say that he was willing to work in the IPL in an honorary capacity.
I. S. Bindra, the former BCCI president and currently adviser to the ICC, has also been dropped from the council but unlike Farooq Abdullah has not been allocated any other work.
One question which deserves an answer is: Does not his holding in the Chennai Super Kings compromise the position of N. Srinivasan, vice-chairman and managing director of India Cements Limited, which is the de facto owner of the Chennai Super Kings, by means of his position within the company? Not to forget that Srinivasan is also the secretary of the BCCI.
Krishnamachari Srikkanth, former captain of the Indian team, is the brand ambassador for the team. But Sri (as Srikkanth is known in cricketing circles) is also chairman of the national selection committee, which is a paid job of the BCCI. Is there no clash of interest?
The BCCI goofed up in another area at the annual general body meeting. With national selectors, both senior and junior, now being paid a hefty amount, there is obviously a race for the job. A hurriedly executed shuffle of selectors for women and juniors at the meeting had to be retracted after it was found that the appointments hadn't factored in some basic criteria in the rule-book. Former Vidharbha off-spinner Preetam Gandhe was appointed in the Central Zone junior selection committee, whereas Savitha Nirala had been appointed with the South Zone. However, both cricketers failed to meet the criteria set by the BCCI a few years ago. The BCCI junior selectors' rule states that a candidate should have retired at least five years prior to being considered. However, Gandhe's last appearance for Vidarbha was in 2008 against Saurashtra in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, while Nirala, too, played her last game just two years ago. Therefore these two cannot take up the job.
One is reminded of the time when
players who had played even one first-class Ranji Trophy match could
take up the job of junior national selector since in those days no
payment was made to the selectors and they were doing an
"honorary" job. In the early 1990s, after a person had been
nominated as a junior national selector at the annual meeting of the
board at Jaipur, a copy of the records had to be called in to see
whether he had actually played that all-important one Ranji Trophy
match. He had!