There are a large number of outdoor games like football, hockey, tennis, and handball. There are also many indoor games like badminton, table-tennis, volley-ball, etc. Our performance is equally uninspiring in both. Hockey is the only game in which we have enjoyed international dominance, but that too is a thing of the past. It has been ages since we have won the World Cup in hockey-in 1974 to be precise. The Olympic Gold Medal in hockey has eluded us for the last over twenty years. In chess, we have produced only one world beater, Vishwanathan Anand. Similarly, in badminton we have only one All England Championship winner-Prakash Padukone. He can also be called a world beater as the Championship is virtually world championship. We have never won Thomas Cup or Davis Cup.
There are several reasons for our poor performance in sports.
The major one is the lack of facilities. We have thousands of education centres all over the country, but there are very few schools and colleges which have adequate facilities for any sport. Over 90 of these educational institutions have not engaged any regular professional to promote sports. Wherever they exist, the concentration is only on cricket-all other games are ignored. The poor infrastructure can be judged from the fact that in hockey we have about 10-15 astroturfs in the entire country. In Holland and Australia there are more than 200 each.
Most of the cities have no regular playground, forget swimming pools or gymanasiums. The state governments as well as the central government earmark huge funds for developing sports facilities but a major chunk of these funds is pilfered by corrupt officials. The spending of money is concentrated in major cities where facilities do exist, but the broadbase structure to tap and develop talent is missing. The facilities wherever they are created are confined to a few popular games like cricket, hockey, football, tennis, etc. Most of the schools and colleges lack sports equipment. Being expensive, such equipment is beyond the reach of poor parents even if the child is talented.
India is a poor country. The parents of children are keen that they should do well in their studies and in time get a degree and find a job. Playing for long hours regularly is considered a waste of time by almost all the parents. A vast majority of them being in the poor or middle class, the parents lack a sense of security. They dare not ask their children to go for some game or sports at the expense of studies. The students also know the condition of their parents and choose the safe course of concentrating on their studies to become eligible for some job after completing their education.
The schools and colleges are not making the required efforts to produce sportsman. The games are promoted there more for fun, health and extra-mural activities’ point of view. There are some Sports Colleges which are genuinely making efforts to produce national-level sportsmen, but their number is so small that no perceptible impact is seen due to their existence.
It is said that the Indians lack the killer’s instinct. The zest and enthusiasm necessary to win over the opponent is missing in the Indian psyche. The parents bring up their children in such a tender manner that they never become mentally tough. If a child falls down, the mother or fathers comes running to lift him or her up. The child is not allowed to face any difficult situation and come out of it with its own effort after making some struggle. This psyche germinated during childhood continues upto adulthood and beyond. Sports need tough minds and robust bodies.
The health level of our children is food but the robustness and strength of the west is missing. This may well be attributed to weather conditions, poor economic condition generally-due to which nutritions food is not available to most of our children. The lack of killer instinct has cost as many championships, matches and medals. Reaching the doorsteps of victory and then losing is an old habit of the Indians. Just at a point when some extra effort would put us on the premier position, we seem to lack the steam, the enthusiasm and the spirit. We have lost so many finals and semi-finals. So many matches which we would have won have been lost by us. One may also call it nervousness.
Another reason for our poor performance in sports is the lack of required number of trainers, coaches and physchotherapists. There is also a dearth of quality coaching or the qualified coaches. In most of the schools, colleges, etc. there are no coaches for specific sports. At higher levels, i.e. states and the nation, the number of coaches is woefully short of the requirement. All of us know the importance of professional coaching in sports. Without them no big achievement can be made in any sports discipline. Sports have become so competitive these days that new methods have to be developed to vanquish the opponents. This can be done by increasing speed and stamina, employing new technology and sports equipment, studying the weaknesses of the opposite team or player and devising new strategies. All these things need the active involvement of coach or trainer.
India’s below par performance in sports can be attributed to the combination of all the factors discussed above. We have to take collective action to create a system and a proper environment whereby the young talent is spotted and developed in right earnest.
It is pertinent to mention here that some Indian sportsmen have given excellent performances in some disciplines. Sachin Tendulkar has been recognized as the best batsman in the world. Under Kapil Dev India won the Cricket World Cup. We also won the inaugural Twenty-20 Cricket World Cup. Vishwanathan Anand, Prakash Padukone, Sania Mirza, Dhyan Chand, Baichung Bhutia, Jaspal Rana, Milktia Singh, Manavjit Sandhu and many others have brought laurels to the country. The young people should emulate them and try their best within the given conditions. It is hoped that our future performances in sports will be better.