Hitting bulls eye with a blindfold

Updated: Dec 31 2006, 05:30am hrs
India lies in extremes, in society, as in sport. We seem to have become desensitised about the glaring inequalities these days. Its like the seasoned doctor in a morgue, eating his sandwich while running his scalpel through dead tissue. We barely notice. Thats when our hockey team slips through the basic barriers of respect and into the also-rans category. When even after a lone medal haul at the Asian Games, officials feel happy. Its about that non-existent pride.

Hockey has plumbed the depths. Athletics looks on a downhill slide. Soccer was never really mention-worthy and the aquatics pool has remained cold.

So what are we shining in, apart from the economy Shooting and cue sports are big, as is chess, at the Asian level, and never mind kabaddi. Thats too desi. Archery too shows great potential. All from those fringe disciplines that never really allow a country to push near top sport in Games like the Olympics. Yet, experts say there isnt a dearth of talent in the country in any discipline. A case in point being golf, where Indian stars like Jeev Milkha Singh shine despite the government and not because of it.

There is reason to believe that all the woes emanate from systemic inefficiencies quite like our slipshod public distribution system. Its like all that foodgrain rotting in FCI silos when parts of the country remain in malnutrition. Its as sickening as that.

Better to talk of the successes first. Indias marksmen have hit bulls eye. Today we can offer in competition three world champions. Before them, though, one has to mention the man who really put Indian shooting on the world map: double trap shooter Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, who won silver at the Athens Olympic Games. The sport has, since, remained at the centre of attention in the country.

Then came the others, making the year glitter. 23-year-old Abhinav Bindra was the pioneer, the first Indian to win gold at the World Championships, at Zagreb in July. Trap shooter Manavjit Singh followed up with a gold at the World Shooting Meet at Zagreb and the depth in talent was clear when even junior Navnath Fartade won gold in the junior mens rifle event.

If one cares to deviate from Olympic events in the sport, there is no better pistol shooter on the continent than Jaspal Rana. He has proved it, time and again, the last time at the Doha Asian Games in December, when he picked up three golds, including a team sweep. That he has decided to join politics (as first reported by The Indian Express) is another chronicle in the saga of how the countrys political dadas intervention is pushing sportspersons to a corner.

Billiards has been Indias strong point for ages. Names like Wilson Jones, Michael Ferreira, Om Prakash Agrawal, Geet Sethi, Pankaj Advani and more have kept the country at the top, and Advani and Co. did the country proud at Doha too. This is one discipline which has legitimate claim to be an Olympic sport. That will only benefit India.

Archery today has two stars. Jayanta Talukdar and Dola Banerjee. Talukdar is today ranked No. 1 in the world. And that is no mean feat, considering archery was never in the government eye, though it was part of the Special Area Games Project of the Sports Authority of India. As is said, sport in this country prospers, on occasions, despite the government, and not because of it.

Then there is cricket. A billion-dollar system that has been put in place, starting from Jagmohan Dalmiya to Sharad Pawar. Sad that Dalmiya, the pioneer of the resurgence of Indias cricketing economy, is today a pariah in the eyes of the new Pawar-led regime, but the tables do turn in power politics, and small, seemingly insignificant deviations from the rule in one reign could seem magnified many times in another. Credit, though, to the Lalit Modis of this regime for bringing in the moolah this year, a billion dollars worth of television rights and other goodies. The players, though, have yet to shine. Dada left and returned, then scored a duck and possibly will be out again, Rahul Dravid isnt sure if he or coach Greg Chappell should call at the time of the toss, and even as Sachin Tendulkars tennis elbow cured itself, Virender Sehwags form went into prolonged sick bay residence.

Talking of experiments, Chappell says he has many more left to be conducted before even trying to formulate a law. All aimed at the World Cup which is more and more looking dangerous, and around the corner too.

Now the decision: does it all look bad, or good No guesses for decisions. No rewards either. The real question is, does it really matter Isnt that our great tradition