PV Sindhu’s rise should inspire India to take right route on nurturing more such sports greatness.
PV Sindhu, India’s ace shuttler, created history by becoming the first Indian ever to win gold at the World Championships. This was her third attempt at the title. While Sindhu had cemented her place in Indian sports history when she bagged the silver at the Rio Olympics in 2016, her latest victory has raised hopes of the first Indian gold in badminton in the 2020 Olympics. Sindhu’s record of success says as much about the state of badminton in the country as her own individual mettle. Her coach, Indian badminton great Pullela Gopichand, had set up a world-class academy with a grant from the government in 2004, and has been instrumental in raising the level of Indian badminton. His pupils, Kidambi Srikanth, Parupalli Kashyap and Saina Nehwal, have all secured top positions in world championships. But, at government-run sports academies, there is little to speak of.
While corruption is a significant reason for India’s poor show, another important one is the lack of infrastructure. The number of government-owned sports facilities in India are limited, and even those are not well maintained. Except for cricket, not much attention has been paid so far to sports. An IndiaSpend analysis reveals that India spent roughly a third to a fourth of the money spent by the UK, which won 67 medals, compared to India’s two, in the 2016 Olympics. Moreover, while the country spent Rs 750 crore on sport-specific federations, training centres, coaches and other infrastructure between 2012-13 and 2015-16, spending on athletes totalled Rs 60 crore. Per athlete spending for the country was far less than what some foreign universities spent on their athletes. If India needs more Sindhus, it must give more Gopichands the requisite support to nurture future champions.