Time to cull the deadwood in Indian sport

Last Updated: Wed, Nov 03, 2010 09:27 hrs

While our attention is on the first Test at Ahmedabad against New Zealand and the prospects of Sachin Tendulkar getting to his 50th Test century, elsewhere, there has been a significant development. The Delhi High Court has upheld Union Government's 1975 Sports Policy that puts a cap on age and tenure of federation heads and this ruling could have a cascading impact on Indian sport.

In this context, one must welcome the decision of Brijesh Patel and his group of former cricketers, including Gundappa Viswanath to step down to make way for Kumble, Dravid, Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad to head the Karnataka State Cricket Association whose elections are slated for November 21. Perhaps, the other ageing federation heads can take a cue from Brijesh, but more of it later.

Court ruling comes as rude jolt to sports officials

As for the Court ruling, for sure, the high and mighty International Olympic Committee which frowns on any kind of government interference or influence is likely to react in the coming days. This could lead to another showdown between the sports administrators and the government. The IOC usually disaffiliates a National Olympic Committee (NOC) if it perceives government interference and some of the other international federations, notably the FIA which governs motorsports, follow suit.

For instance, in the early years of this decade when Indian motorsports was torn apart by two warring factions, the MAI and the FMSCI, the FIA granted affiliation to the former despite the Indian government not granting it (MAI) recognition. It took several years for the FMSCI to convince FIA to disaffiliate MAI. The infighting cost Indian motorsports nearly a decade although Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok went on to participate in Formula One.

The point is that at least in India, no major international event can be held without government support. Almost all the federations depend on government largesse and yet, refuse to follow regulations that are of good intent. And so, we have a situation wherein men who are well into their 70s continue to head the federations most of which are in shambles and steeped in politics. The medals and world championship titles that India has won are more to do with the sportsperson's grit and determination to succeed against all odds. No federation can claim credit for these achievements.

The major multi-discipline events that India has hosted in the past three decades, beginning with the 1982 Asian Games, have all been possible due to support the government has extended. The IOC would do well to take note of this and concede that as a stakeholder, the government has every right to ensure that the governance of these sports is in order. The same could be said of FIA as the several international events run in India have been possible because of government complicity.

In this respect, only the BCCI can claim independence, even if it is only financial, as it also depends on government clearance. As such, Lalit Modi's decision to shift the IPL to South Africa last year, was seen as an open defiance of the government that had expressed unwillingness to offer security cover for IPL in view of the general elections that clashed with the dates of the tournament. Governments, like elephants, have long memories and Modi today cannot expect any kind of benevolence.

The government guidelines, especially the ceiling on age and tenure, make sense. Growth and development are more due to fresh and young minds. It is all fine to talk about the wisdom of age and experience, but conversely, you tend to slow down year on year once past the 60-mark when the mind becomes less receptive to change and reality.

Gagan to carry India's flag in Asian Games opening ceremony

In this perspective, it is heartening that winds of change are sweeping in the KSCA with Brijesh's announcement that in part read: "With the changing times, I believe that fresh energy, new ideas and young feet are always good for an institution." Well said, Brijesh, and if Kumble's group takes charge, it will augur well for Karnataka cricket.

I am confident that Kumble and Dravid would make excellent leaders, and I do wonder whether it is their first step towards bigger positions in Indian cricket that, like other federations, is in dire need of change, at least in terms of its functioning that is usually described as 'organized chaos.'

For now, all eyes are on Ahmedabad for the start of the three-Test series that should go India's way if the form book is any guide. The Kiwis are in disarray following their shocking 4-0 rout in Bangladesh and the situation demands that the Indians drive home the advantage.

These are the happy days of festivities and my Diwali greetings to all Sify readers.

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