Sports & socialism

EducationWorld June 2022 | Magazine Postscript

The Indian badminton squad’s maiden victory in the Thomas Cup final staged in Bangkok last month marked a landmark in the history of Indian sport. In the final, the Indian men’s squad led by Kidambi Srikanth recorded a 3-0 triumph over Indonesia, whose players have won the international Thomas Cup tourney introduced in 1949, a record 14 times. Hitherto, the best Indian men’s teams had done was to reach semi-finals in the 1950s and in 1979. It is also pertinent to note that women shuttlers P.V. Sindhu and Saina Nehwal have also transformed latter day India into a force to reckon with in world badminton, the fast racquets game which requires lightning quick reflexes, intense concentration and huge reservoirs of stamina.

Hitherto the general sentiment was that Indians were too weak, malnourished and under-trained to take on Danish, Indonesian, Chinese and Japanese badminton players. Credit for reversing global opinion in this regard should primarily be given to Prakash Padukone and Pullela Gopichand, both winners of the annual All England Open Badminton Championship, who after their retirement established globally benchmarked badminton training academies which have nurtured India’s latter day badminton stars. Credit must also accrue to Indian corporates and private donors who funded the establishment of these and other badminton academies. The plain truth is that government-run institutions such as the Sports Authority of India and sports academies established by state governments beset with nepotism, casteism and corruption can never produce world champions.

In the wider context, India’s emergence as a force to reckon with in several sports — especially cricket and badminton — is the outcome of the expansion of the middle class and retreat of socialism which mandates government dominance of education and all spheres of endeavour. Indian cricket and badminton standards have risen because of private capital infusion and branding in these sports. On the other hand, Indians are perpetual also-rans in games and sports dominated by government-managed associations. Food for thought.

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