With no sports univer­sity in the coun­try, the mesh be­tween sports and ed­u­ca­tion is a far cry

The Economic Times - - Sports: The Great Games - Bo­ria Ma­jum­dar

Barcelona 1992 and the now fa­mous story of Limba Ram. One of In­dia’s finest archers, Ram had not even re­alised that he had been knocked out of Olympic com­pe­ti­tion. He had, the story goes, asked his coach to set up a re­match and was con­fi­dent he would beat his op­po­nent. Com­ing up the ranks from where he had, Ram had hardly ever come face to face with the term ‘ex­pec­ta­tions’. He had no idea of the big stage and missed out as a re­sult.

Twenty five years down the line and the story has not fully changed. Only a hand­ful of In­dian ath­letes mak­ing it to the Olympics are a prod­uct of the Univer­sity sys­tem with col­lege de­grees and for­mal aca­demic train­ing. With no sports univer­sity in the coun­try, the mesh be­tween sports and ed­u­ca­tion is still a far cry. Men and women good in sport can have a ca­reer in­de­pen­dent of academia is the ac­cepted no­tion and that the two can co-ex­ist is still con­sid­ered alien by most. The Amer­i­can, Cana­dian a nd Bri­tish sys­tems, how­ever, a re pr o fou nd ly d i f f e r e nt . Olympic ath­letes come out o f t he Univer sit y sys­tem i n t hese count r ie s a nd D1 s c hol a r - ships con­tinue to grow in de­mand in the United States. Lough­bor­ough Univer­sity is the most well equipped train­ing ground for Bri­tish ath­letes and sports sci­ence at Lough­bor­ough is well ac­knowl­edged the world over. In In­dia, how­ever, the HRD and Sports min­istries hardly talk. De­spite hav­ing a sports sci­en­tist as the Sec­re­tary of the UGC, we don’t see much hap­pen­ing in the aca­demic realm to ignite hope. We send just one In­dian rep­re­sen­ta­tive in An­nesha Ghosh to the FISU Games as a jour­nal­ist and are happy that the min­istries have their own in­de­pen­dent fief­doms.

As a re­sult of this ap­a­thy, which isn’t a new thing in In­dia, sports schol­ar­ships in schools and col­leges con­tinue to be mis­used and abused. While in some cities they are now con­fined to be­ing party quo­tas, in oth­ers these are mostly filled by rec­om­men­da­tions.

The sports-academia dis­con­nect was in­te­gral to my grow­ing up years as a stu­dent in Pres­i­dency Col­lege (now Univer­sity), Cal­cutta. The elected Games sec­re­tary, who in­ci­den­tally was a good friend, was once asked how many bails there are in cricket. In full con­fi­dence he had an­swered three wick­ets and hence three bails. And went on to say with a blus­ter what a silly ques­tion he had been asked!

Tick­ets to in­ter­na­tional matches at Eden Gar­dens were used to win votes at the col­lege elec­tion, a prac­tice no dif­fer­ent to what hap­pens in the BCCI with state as­so­ci­a­tion heads of­fered jun­kets as man­agers to keep the flock to­gether. Colo­nial In­dia, how­ever, pre­sented a very dif­fer­ent story. Univer­sity cricket was par­tic­u­larly well de­vel­oped and the first ath­letes from In­dia to the Paris Olympics in 1924 (not to men­tion Nor­man Pritchard in 1900) were mem­bers of St Xavier’s Col­lege, Cal­cutta. Jaipal Singh, the first cap­tain of the In­dian hockey team at the 1928 Am­s­ter­dam Games had a de­gree from St John’s Col­lege, Ox­ford and some of his pa­pers con­tinue to be there at the Col­lege li­brary.

If we wish to trans­form our­selves into a sport­ing na­tion in the next decade and want to win Olympic medals by the dozen, we need to marry sports with ed­u­ca­tion.

We keep talk­ing of sys­tems and struc­tures and the only way a sys­tem can be put in place is if the Bri­tish and Amer­i­can re­al­i­ties are ap­pre­ci­ated and im­ple­mented in In­dia. Vi­jay Goel needs to talk to Prakash Javdekar at the cost of sound­ing flippant and only then can a sport­ing revo­lu­tion be un­der­way. We keep hear­ing of the need for sports sci­ence. All we need to do is ask where are we to look out for our fu­ture sports sci­en­tists? If it is some­where be­yond the Univer­sity sec­tor....I re­ally need to rest my case.

Colo­nial In­dia pre­sented a very dif­fer­ent story. Univer­sity cricket was par­tic­u­larly well de­vel­oped and the first ath­letes from In­dia to the Paris Olympics in 1924 were mem­bers of St Xavier’s Col­lege, Cal­cutta

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