Gaurav Natekar, former Davis Cupper and 1994 Asian Games doubles champion with Leander Paes, feels sporting talents are under a lot of academic pressure

There’s a Chinese boy who is currently making the golfing world sit up and take notice at the famed August Masters in the U.S. Despite being just 14, Guan Tianlang has amazed greats like Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Phil Mickelson with his poise, politeness, pinpoint accuracy and putting.

Thousands of miles away, Manchester United and Manchester City are among the world’s top clubs that are now looking to lure away South Korean football’s golden boy, 20-year-old striker Son Heung-Min from Hamburg.

And in tennis, Li Na’s fine run at the Australian Open early this year had Tennis Australia excited. It meant millions of more eyeballs, and greater revenue, from her home country China and now Tennis Australia is working on opening an office based in Hong Kong.

But Indian sport, apart from rare exceptions like Saina Nehwal, Viswanathan Anand and to some extent our shooters, continues to live in mediocrity. It rarely makes a mark on the global stage.

Gaurav Natekar, the 1994 Asian Games doubles champion with Leander Paes in tennis and a former Davis Cupper, feels youngsters in India are under a lot of pressure which hinders their sporting ambitions.

Different system

“In China, the whole system is very different. There, they pick children at the age of five and six, do a lot of tests and they decide…this kid is good for gymnastics, this kid is good for that. That becomes their life,” said Natekar, the CEO of the Mahesh Bhupathi Tennis Academies, at the Regional Sports Centre here on Friday.

“Here, kids have a lot of other things and parents put a lot of pressure on academics, exams create tension, so the kid doesn’t have an opportunity to focus completely on a sport.”

He said Indian tennis was doing well but there should be players coming in at a faster pace to make an impact on the big stage. “If you look at India today, Somdev (Devvarman) was injured but otherwise he was in the top 100 (he was 62 in July 2011), Yuki Bhambri was a top-notch junior in the world,” said Gaurav, the son of former badminton international Nandu Natekar. “What needs to happen is we need to have a factory kind of situation where there are a lot of players who are constantly being churned out rather than just one player coming in. But the future looks good.”

IPL, an entertainment

A multiple national champion, the 41-year-old also took a dig at the media for an overdose of the Indian Premier League and cricket and said these were hurting other sports.

“Everybody is into cricket these days. If you look today, the majority of the sports pages are devoted to the IPL but the IPL is nothing but an entertainment show,” he said. “So, the media also should realise that it’s a chicken and egg situation. Unless you give publicity to other sports, they will not get popular and unless they become popular, there will be no money and nothing coming in.”

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