Let us admit it: Cricket is a religion in India, coursing through the veins of every gully boy basking in reflected glory, dreaming of donning the blue; to be the next Dhoni or the next Kohli. And this, pretty much is the beginning and end of the sporting culture of our nation, where other sports are often deprived of State support, infrastructure, coaching academies, the very basic facilities in terms of good nutrition, quality gear and comfortable lodging, besides public ardour, critical to egg on a player to push the limits. The sub-junior national hockey championship underway in Hisar is a case in point. As the unforgiving mercury hits a searing 46°C, 350 girl players drawn from 12 teams have been crowded in 20 rooms at Ch Charan Singh Haryana Agriculture University with no air-conditioner, not even a humble cooler; and not enough potable water to go around.
Nineteen teams from across the country are participating in the 12-day event, which came to the door of Hockey Haryana after Punjab and Assam communicated their inability to organise it. The event was rescheduled owing to the Lok Sabha elections. The distress of the young players is imaginable. The onus is on the association to ensure the guests are well looked after. The players have to trudge 3 km from the hostel to the hockey stadium in the absence of transportation. While a player and the grimy outdoors go together, and indeed, a sportsperson can’t think of comfort and be squeamish about perspiration, a good rest after a physically gruelling and mentally draining day is essential to maintain fitness levels and brace up for the next many such days.
The only thing that keeps sportspersons — especially from modest background — going is an inextinguishable spirit to be numero uno, with little or no external help. Seldom do school-level state players get the prescribed diet, or even have the means to purchase comfortable shoes. Motivation can’t be in words alone. They are self-motivated as it is. What they want is real support, without which we can’t be a sporting nation. India will be destined to trail in international championships.