Bananas and permission to travel with wives for Indian cricket team are fine, but what about other sports
We celebrate and indulge our cricketers and rightly so. But why do we treat other sportspersons so callously? It's time India began to invest more resources and respect to them too.
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Heptathlete Swapna Barman took the nation by storm with her performance at the Asian Games 2018. Six toes on each foot meant competing with ill-fitting shoes and bearing excruciating pain. It wasn’t a pain that Barman had to endure for a day — she was subjected to the pain each time she put those shoes on for practice.
With six toes on each foot, Swapna Barman had to run wearing ill-fitting shoes, making each step painful. (Source: Reuters)
Her pleas for shoes especially designed to fit her foot structure went unheard — till she won a gold medal and the country took notice of her talent. Since then, several companies have offered to help out Barman.
Barman was exceptional — she won despite the odds. Many talented people are unable to shine on India’s sports stage because nobody cares about the basic facilities they need.
At the Rio Olympics, athlete OP Jaisha complained that she was not provided any water and energy drinks by the officials despite designated stations being set up for India. Jaisha collapsed at the finish line after completing the women’s marathon.
OP Jaisha collapsed at the finish line for want of water during the Rio Olympics. (Source: Twitter)
Tripura athlete Dipa Karmakar, one of the only five women gymnasts in the world to have successfully completed the dangerous Produnova vault, said that in her initial years she practised on apparatus discarded from the Netaji Subhash Regional Coaching Centre.
She practised the demanding Produnova vault with a bunch of gym mattresses. The corners of the mattresses were fastened with ropes to ensure they did not shake, she said.
We know these stories because their protagonists reached stages from where their voices mattered.
There are many sportspersons in this country who have made peace with the denial of the most basic facilities in the country. They accept it as their fate.
In the backdrop of this reality, of denials and of deprivation, the news of the Indian cricket team demanding bananas and the permission to travel along with their wives highlights the many contradictions that make up India.
The BCCI is capable enough to buy its players bananas. Even buses. (Source: AP)
The demands were apparently made during a review meeting for the 2019 World Cup to be played in England between the Indian team represented by skipper Virat Kohli, vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane, senior player Rohit Sharma, coach Ravi Shastri and the Committee of Administrators (CoA).
An Indian Express report quoted a source as saying, “Apparently, the England cricket board failed to serve the Indian team with the fruit of their choice during the tour. But the CoA (Committee of Administrators) was amused by the request and said that the players should have told the team manager to buy bananas on the BCCI’s expenses.”
The cricket team has also demanded permission to travel in trains rather than buses.
While the players argued that rail travel helps cut down on travel time, sources said the request follows a decision by the CoA that wives of players travelling to Australia for the tour starting in December will not be allowed to travel in the official team bus.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is the richest cricketing board in the world.
It had secured its position as the world’s richest cricket board in September with the game’s biggest TV deal, when it sold Indian Premier League’s global media rights to Star India for a whopping $2.52 billion.
The board which barely two decades back was cash-strapped is now sitting on heaps of money mainly by selling broadcast rights for matches. The BCCI is in a position to buy its players bananas and buses, reserve train coaches and even provide luxury travel to the wives of players.
This is good news indeed.
But who will look into the needs of the Dipa Karmakars, the Swapna Barmans and the OP Jaishas?
Countries such as Kenya and Jamaica, that have lower per capita incomes than India, are performing better than us at games because we lack a sporting culture. Politicians can get away by promising world-class facilities. This is not an election issue though, so there is no need to actually make it a top priority.
In 2012, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) was suspended from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for electing leaders with pending criminal charges, forcing Indian athletes to compete at the Sochi Winter Games under the IOC flag instead of the Indian banner.
In 2017, the Indian contingent of hearing impaired athletes for the Deaflympics that concluded in Turkey, refused to leave the airport at New Delhi as they were unhappy that there was no one around to recognise them or celebrate their success after they tallied five medals, including one gold, in the best showing ever for the country.
India has every reason to celebrate its achievements in the world of cricket — but it needs to at least provide an enabling environment to sportspersons in other fields. It needs to give them at least the most basic facilities required to make a mark.
We have been great at celebrating stories of successes; we need to prove that we as a country can help sportspersons succeed — even if they play sports other than cricket.