Sometimes as sports journalists we tend to forget, why we entered this field; after working all these years, that love for sports waned, and the rat race for numbers took over. So this diary is an attempt to rekindle that love and talk about what's good, bad, and ugly in Indian sport.
Sunday, 29th May 2022
I had almost stopped playing badminton. Late-night work shift was of course one of the reasons, the other being not finding another person to play with. I would still miss that feeling to step onto the court, play some cracking smashes, deft net shots, and above all, imitate my favorite players. But in August 2021, Suhas Yathiraj, an IAS officer, won a silver medal at Tokyo Paralympics and sent a message to millions like me, that work and play can go hand-in-hand.
Yes, Yathiraj is a professional player and must be working way harder in his responsibility as a DM, but to a great extent, he did inspire me to take up the sport again. Now every weekend, I make it a point to spend a couple of hours at a badminton court some 20km away from my place.
Cut to, just a couple of days back. In complete contrast, an IAS couple in Delhi forced the athletes at the Thyagraj Stadium, to finish their training early so that they could take their dog out for a walk. Whatever events unfolded there, were totally uncalled for, but have brought to light the stark reality; sports were always and will continue to be ignored. I believe, that unknowingly, this couple might have done just the opposite to budding athletes, of what Yathiraj did for me.
Although the officers in question, have been transferred to different locations, this certainly cannot be the only instance where someone's privilege has killed someone elses' opportunity. Hopefully, from now on, they will at least be a little considerate to sportspersons around them, and eventually, also help unearth some talent in the future.
Talking of talent and the future, I just realized how impressed I am with the young lot in the Indian hockey team participating in the Asia Cup 2022. The team, after drawing with Pakistan and losing to Japan, routed Indonesia 16-0, to book a place in Super 4s. There too, they avenged their loss against Japan and beat them 2-1. All this by a team, which has only two recognized stars -- Birendra Lakra and SV Sunil -- while most of them made their debuts in this tournament or had only played a handful of games.
Keeping to the game against Indonesia only, what was even more heartening to see was, that the team was willing to fight till the end, even when a place in the last four looked uncertain. Scoring 16 goals against any side is no mean task, especially when their main drag-flicker and skipper Rupinder Pal Singh was ruled out of the tournament due to injury.
The coaches, Sardar Singh and BJ Carriappa made sure that the team maintained the same intensity throughout the match against Indonesia, and were aware of what was needed from each member. India is to face Malaysia and South Korea next to be able to make a place in the finals, and with momentum on their side, nothing less than a trophy will do.
Having said that, no matter what the outcome of those matches is, the team has played well collectively, and few individuals are knocking on the doors to be a part of the setup permanently. Personally, I think Pawan Rajbhar, Manjeet, and Dipsan Tirkey have done enough to play for the team regularly. Hockey India deserves some accolades here. Just like the BCCI and selectors received praise for fielding two different teams, simultaneously, this is a similar achievement by them, where they are trying to nurture the next line of players as well as coaches. Hope to see similar trends in other team sports too!