Sports culture in India

Ramesh K Raina
Excellence in sports is an index of progress and development of a nation. Excellence in sports events brings honour and glory to the nation. Advanced and developed nations excell in sports events and it speaks of great mess of those nations.
Sports contribute towards the physical, mental and psychological health of people. It is obvious that in those nations where there is healthy sports culture, people stay healthy and remain fit both physically and mentally. This results in  a healthy work culture and people become hardworking, dedicated and disciplined which has a  profound influence on the progress and development of that nation.
As far India is concerned, it has very old and rich culture of traditional sports. There is a mention of traditional sports in ancient scriptures. Traditional sports or local sports like Kabaddi, Kushti, Gulidanda to name a few are being played in most parts of our country. India has a rich cultural diversity. There are different cultural sports which suit the environment of a particular culture and are promoted informally in that culture through generation to generation.
In the pre independence period, sports culture in our country could not thrive although concept of some sports like cricket was borrowed from outside. Later many modern sports like  tennis, badminton, volleyball et al also came into existence.
British Government, however, showed no keen interest in promoting sports culture here as British imperialist forces were busy in expanding their imperial power and exploit the resources.
After independence the country was left in a bad shape. There was political and economic crisis.  Poverty among the people was looming large. In independent India, as such, the focus of attention was on revival of economy which was in a bad shape. Five year plans were framed and funds were earmarked for development and growth of economy. Promotion of sports  culture, as such, remained a remote concept, and it could not thrive in such a scenario. Under these circumstances only few traditional sports were played at local levels and even these sports could not be promoted for want of outside support from the corridors of power. However, a few sports personnel shot into prominence in those years who brought laurels to the nation. Dyan Chand, Dhara Singh, Amritraj brothers, Prakash Padukone to name a few carved a niche for themselves in their respective fields. These personalities, however, rose to the pinnacles of their career not because of any support from outside but because of their own talent, dedication and professionalism and above all their own resources.
Sports  culture in the country continued to be relegated to the back seat in post independent India, and the nation could not  figure anywhere in the international sports events. Sports culture in our country continues to be in infancy and no sincere efforts are being made to rejuvenate this sector. There are a number of factors responsible for the poor sports culture. Some of these factors are natural and some are acquired through environment.
People of Indian race are less genetically potential when compared to their counterparts in other parts of globe like Europe, Australia etc. Genetically potential people generally remain fit both physically and mentally which is a pre-requisite condition for a healthy  sports culture.
Dietary habits also contribute towards healthy sports culture. Chetan Sharma who is infamous for being hit for a sixer of the last ball that he bowled to Javed Miandad, once remarked in  a TV show that as and when he consumed meat in his diet, he used to generate more pace in his bowling. Protein diet tones up structure muscles which are very important for a sports personnel.
Sports spirit and professionalism is lacking in the people of our country which is so important towards promoting a healthy sports culture. In India people are euphoric about winning but not about its true spirits. Kirti Azad who is a  cricketer turned politician once remarked  in a TV show that in India people cheer in excitement when Sachin hits a boundary but do not show such a gesture when Ricky Ponting does so. In fact true sports lovers love the game for its sake.
One important factor contributing to poor sports culture is that physical education teachers appointed in schools generally do not come from sports background although these teachers have diplomas and degrees to their credit. Although these teachers take theory classes but practical part of sports is ignored.
Another important factor which is lacking is that as an independent discipline sports is not finding its due place in academics in higher education. The result of this is that research in this field is not promoted. In the absence of research  sports culture cannot be promoted.
Elite which is all powerful and who are in command of reign also are not playing a positive role although they talk tall about promotion of sports. There is no encouragement to the players in respect of financial resources, infrastructure. Proper coaching associated with standard techniques is not being imparted to the potential sports personnel. There is no hunt for talent and it is not spured to the desired level.
Many sports federations have been established but due to lack of sound financial  backing these federations have become nominal. Sponsors are also not coming forward except for a few sports.
In such a scenario, where no favourable ambience is being created, sports culture is not evolving here.
As such, sports culture in our country is in a mess. Organising bodies of sports are lacking in discipline, coordination and control. Selection process is skeptical and everytime fingers are raised. There is lot of undesirable interference from various quarters. So fairness and transparency is not achieved.
Time has come for rethinking and taking a relook at the whole scenario. A holistic approach  has to be made which will encompass all the factors and ground work has to be done to address this issue of poor sports culture. Some kind of respectability has to be restored to promote sports culture so that flag of nation may hoist in the international sports events. Sports lovers also have to rethink and imbibe a sports spirit in them rather than simply be euphonic for winning spree.