Rugby in India is like cricket in China. Yet, the Rugby India fraternity is excited about next year’s Commonwealth Games like any other sports federation in India.
At least, their eagerness in approach is noteworthy - symbolised by the Games countdown clock that keeps on ticking on Rugby India’s website (www.rugbyindia.in).
The Indian team lacks in strength, exposure, class and above all identity.
However, despite the limited resources, Rugby India is doing its best to lift the standard and awareness about the sport by a few notches before the arrival of the Games in Delhi in October next year.
“Our boys were training at the Balewadi complex in Pune. Now they are in Cape Town attending a 21-day training-cum-competition camp. During that time they will be exposed to the players of the Stellenbosch University, known for its strength in rugby,” Rugby India Vice President Aga Hussain told The Hindu recently.
That India is lying at the 83rd spot (among 95 countries) in the world rankings may not surprise many considering the fact that the game was a near non-entity a decade ago.
“Ten years ago we were starting from the scratch. But, now rugby is played in 300-odd schools. We are not being able to handle it properly as the lack of funds is denting our progress,” Hussain said.
Still, the federation is doing its bit, hiring two South African coaches, sending the team abroad for tournaments and camps and planning a few tournaments at home to prepare the side for the mega event.
“Commonwealth Games is a big platform for us to boost the game in a big way. So we are going to organise three-four national level events in Delhi to create awareness about the sport. Then two-three international tournaments, including the test event scheduled for April 3 and 4 (at the Delhi University ground), will be held,” said Hussain.
The federation wants to go step by step without allowing the host side to cut a sorry figure in front of home crowds.
“Without going for the elite sides in the world, we are planning to invite some top Asian teams for the test event,” Hussain said.
Fair enough, but what about the Commonwealth Games?
“We know we are not among the top countries. But we hope to compete well,” Hussain asserted.
Hussain does not want to reveal the ‘huge plans’ up Rugby India’ sleeves, but does not mind roping in a celebrity like actor Rahul Bose to popularise the sport.
“We can do that. Rahul is a former member of the National team but he always has a packed schedule. But whenever he is free, we are ready to seek his services to promote the game,” Hussain said.