Sport Reviews

‘Go! India’s Sporting Transformation’ review: Games beyond cricket

The events that followed P.V. Sindhu’s crowning as the badminton world champion were revelatory. At a hastily arranged felicitation function on the outskirts of Bengaluru, there was a near stampede as fans jostled to catch a glimpse of India’s sports queen. But the endearing image was that of a 10-year-old girl being hand-held by her father into the venue. The parent was a former league cricketer. The daughter wanted to be the next Sindhu.

It is this transformative spirit that Go! India’s Sporting Transformation, a collection of essays detailing the Indian sports journey and the way forward, tries to capture. It may be erroneous to believe that there aren’t as many aspiring cricketers as there were a decade or two ago. But it is about the dreams of the others, those who couldn’t comprehend a future outside of cricket.

The book, edited by Nandan Kamath and Aparna Ravichandran, chronicles the palpable change in the country’s sporting ecosystem. The 13 pieces cover a broad canvas, providing ample space for a writer’s flair, a reporter’s attention to detail, an expert’s eagle-eyed observation, an athlete’s in-house perspective and a fan’s ring-side view.

Changing lives

Abhinav Bindra, India’s lone individual Olympic gold medallist, sets the ball rolling with the breakdown of his journey to the gold medal at Beijing, a snapshot of his excellent autobiography A Shot at History. The three sections that follow — Rohit Brijnath’s poetic description of an athlete’s struggle, ad-man Santosh Desai’s visualisation of sports as a brand and Sharda Ugra’s exploration of how an athlete’s story is told — are arguably the best portions of the book.

In particular, Desai’s insight on sport as a vehicle for advancement makes for fascinating reading. “We see a greater openness to mobility vehicles other than education, which was otherwise in India virtually the only way in which people had a shot at changing their life scripts,” he writes.

Ugra’s subsequent article begins with the episode of Hima Das’s less fluent English being remarked on by the authorities only for the larger public to rally behind the young rising star and rebuke officials for their condescending attitude. Seen together with Desai’s argument, it appears to signal a tectonic shift in how a sportsperson is viewed and how the masses relate.

The write-ups on India’s march towards becoming a multisport nation and the rise of Indian badminton are informative but give way to a certain tedium because of the sheer volume of the data being presented. The Indian Paralympic story, though, is an important addition, coming at a time when the movement is out to secure its rightful place by moving beyond mere sympathy.

Joy Bhattacharjya’s musings on the auxiliary sports industries like management, production and coaching, and Desh Gaurav Sekhri’s notings on the various sports leagues offer a cue to the future. Towards the end, Rahul Dravid connects the dots and declares that “we, as a people, are well equipped to achieve at sport.” The Indian football team’s gallant draw against Asian champion Qatar recently is to be seen in this context; a small but significant step as the nation enters a new world of sporting growth and success.

Go! India’s Sporting Transformation; Edited by Nandan Kamath & Aparna Ravichandran, Penguin Books, ₹299.

Our code of editorial values

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jun 11, 2021 5:53:37 AM |

Next Story