It’s time to add sport to India-US cooperation

  • We should be looking beyond individual initiatives being taken by Indians to relocate to the US to live, learn and compete among the best equipped
India’s first track and field Olympic gold, brought home by Neeraj Chopra, must have inspired many young Indians to walk in his shoes, or try it at the very least. (PTI) PREMIUM
India’s first track and field Olympic gold, brought home by Neeraj Chopra, must have inspired many young Indians to walk in his shoes, or try it at the very least. (PTI)
Published on Jan 14, 2022 07:03 PM IST
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ByYashwant Raj

India and the United States (US) have ongoing cooperation dialogues and mechanisms across 30 areas or even more — from ayurveda and space to military exercises and education and, of course, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue with Australia and Japan, the current hot-bod on the beach. Time to add one more to the list: Sport?

But wait. We are not talking here of cricket or baseball matches between the US and India. They are more dissimilar than similar despite what your inebriated uncle argued at the last family wedding; one is ultra-boring and the other is super exciting, depending on which of them you truly love and which you are trying to understand.

But there is massive scope for cooperation — by both the public and private sectors — in a multitude of other sporting disciplines. How about athletics, track and field, to begin with?

India’s first track and field Olympic gold, brought home by Neeraj Chopra, must have inspired many young Indians to walk in his shoes, or try it at the very least. Most of them will try and then give up. Some would persist but eventually give up for lack of an enabling infrastructure — Chopra’s gold is heroic and inspiring because of the lack of the support structure that churns out gold medallists with regular frequency elsewhere. Take a shot and many of them will succeed. They need to be discovered early and put through the paces by leading coaches with world-class facilities and programmes. Till we have one, the US would be a good alternative.

We should be looking beyond individual initiatives being taken by Indians to relocate to the US to live, learn and compete among the best equipped, best trained and, generally, best organised.

Somdev Devvarman did it to great effect some years ago. There is a need for a more organised push for cooperation in disciplines like track and field where India gets a PT Usha-close to a world medal or swimming, which has produced a Khazan Singh but no Anthony Nesty, a Surinamese who lived and trained in the US but won an Olympics gold for his country — a country of only half a million people — in 1988. Nesty’s was a case of individual initiative as well, something like Devvarman.

There is probably a need for an organised private-public effort to spot young Indian talent and put them through the same process. Not all of them will bring India gold and glory and the scorecard may look no less dismal than now, but, with time, things could change.

Leading US coaches, schools and facilities could be interested in branching out into India if made a workable business proposition and could create a top-level school in India such as MRF’s pace academy.

Neeraj Chopra has offered India an opportunity. Let’s grab it. It may be possible to make a start, some start, at the upcoming meeting of the foreign and defence ministers of the two countries for the annual 2+2 meeting, though sport is not a subject covered by either ministry.

yashwant.raj@hindustantimes.com 

The views expressed are personal

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Monday, January 17, 2022