For too long the media has projected Indian sport in convenient black and white — the sports people are good guys and the administrators nasty conniving bad asses.
Just like every Saina Nehwal, earlier it was for Sania Mirza, win elicits reams of hyperbole, and any perceived slight by sports administrators attracts columns of condemnation.
This has become the de facto norm for Indian sports journalism. We go nuts over any kind of victory overseas and lash out to ‘protect’ our performers.
This cozy script, however, breaks down every year in August. It’s when the few stars in our sporting firmament showcase just how fallow they are when it comes to sportsmanship.
Krishna Poonia placed sixth in the Olympics. She wants the nation’s highest sporting award for that. Ronjan Sodhi equalled two world records. That as far as I am concerned settles it. You don’t get awards for being in the top eight; you get them for being the best.
Instead of belittling the award by giving out two, the sports ministry needs to tell Poonia to pipe down. Then, it needs to set very clear rules on just what time frame is considered.
After all, Sodhi shot his record in 2008 and Poonia managed her feat in 2012 — this has led the discus thrower to believe her performance is the best in the period for which the Khel Ratna is being given. Perhaps, the Khel Ratna should be freed of a narrow frame of reference and given for consistent world-class performance?
Every August we get an expansive peek into the truth of Indian sport — there are no nice guys out there. Our peak performers are also Indian sport’s best bullies.
Whether it is a Sachin Tendulkar tottering towards that 200th Test, Nehwal crying wolf over a delayed passport or Leander Paes’ explanation of missing Davis Cup on account of being ‘emotionally disturbed’, each is a rock star in their sport and assured of a compliant federation and gentle press.
Perform, get close to the powers that be in your sport and then twist the system to milk it as best as you can — that is the overarching formula for an oppressive majority of Indian sportspersons.
Think back and invariably it’s not the award winner but the sulker of the moment that comes to mind.
In 2002, Anjali Bhagwat ranted and raved till she got the Khel Ratna along with KM Beenamol.
Then, Gagan Narang’s sulks when Nehwal was favoured over him in 2010 were hilarious. In the beatific coating of ‘chalta hai’ that balms our sports administration, these outbursts are soon forgotten.
To the extent that Bhagwat now sits on the awards selection committee.
Sports minister Jitendra Singh, by his own admission, spends about 70% of his time in the defence ministry where he is minister of state.
The amiable man, who is said to be part of Rahul Gandhi’s inner circle, can’t be perhaps blamed for his lack of focus on his sports brief.
However, he would do well to declare his final decision on the awards before all the festering and lobbying corrupts the issue further.
Indian sport, surely, deserves that much consideration.