Does India have a sporting culture vis-à-vis Australia, the United States and others? How much of excellence do we crave for? Do we get satisfied easily? This and a clutch of other topics were deliberated on at a panel discussion chaired by tennis legend Ramesh Krishnan and The Hindu’s sports editor Nirmal Shekar on the ‘Present Scenario of Sports in India’, at the IIT campus here on Wednesday.

Terming as “alarming” the sporting culture in India, Nirmal said the most significant reason was “we only watch sport but don’t take part, as against other nations where one plays, watches, experiences and enjoys.”

Pointing out that the “1.2 billion” figure [population] that is often quoted to deplore the state of sports in India as quite misleading, Ramesh said that one needs to look at the numbers that actually play sport. Citing his own example he said: “Sporting culture currently is just a part of the family. This needs to be changed. It’s highly urban based and we need to get players from smaller places to play. That’s the challenge.”

He also stressed on the need to look at the number of kids who drop out due to various reasons after being initiated into the sport early.

At this juncture, Nirmal said that it was time for a complete overhaul of the system of education to accommodate sport as part of the curriculum. “We need to put a system in place, the right team of experts, coaches, trainers and administrators and funding,” he said.

While both agreed that one sport being prioritised over others was true to a certain extent, they stopped short of blaming cricket for all the ills. “It’s not fair to compare (different sports),” Ramesh said. “It does occupy a big chunk, but not entirely.”

“Each sport needs to enlarge its space, and an athlete like Saina Nehwal has been able to contribute to that.” said Nirmal.

Keywords: Saina Nehwal

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