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Tokyo tune-up

PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal, among others, will arouse Indian hopes in badminton, though it is time we realised the suicidal impact of a nation’s collective aspirations being focused on a few outstanding individuals who frankly have climbed up the hard way in spite rather than because of the system.

Editorial | New Delhi |

Approaching the middle of 2019, Indian performances in continental as well as global competitions give us more than an inkling of where we stand ahead of next year’s Olympics in Tokyo.

We could do with a long, hard look at these given that collectively we did quite badly in the Rio Games three years ago. In-depth analyses, though, have revealed no width added to India’s Olympian ambitions. We are a bit of all right in several disciplines, including shooting and badminton, in both of which we boast some of the world’s finest contestants.

Shooting, with its medal-distributive array of competitive opportunities, has for quite some time been our forte, even if its extremely low margin of error implies that very often very little separates a winner from an also-ran. PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal, among others, will arouse Indian hopes in badminton, though it is time we realised the suicidal impact of a nation’s collective aspirations being focused on a few outstanding individuals who frankly have climbed up the hard way in spite rather than because of the system.

And having got to where they are, they find that a sudden wave of commercialisation imposes a day-in-and-dayout schedule on them which they must conform to for the sake of their survival on the circuit. They are not on velvet. Let there be no mistake about it: badminton is now as much a victim of fixture congestion as any other sport.

The skewed perspective that it makes for ~ there was a time when field hockey shouldered this burden ~ contributes a lot to the artificially heightened pressures exerted on a handful of prospective podium-finishers. One way of getting out of this peak-or-pits misery would have been encouraging a wider, top-level competitive interest in other areas of the spectrum, preferably mainstream ones, but India has so far been ill-served by its sporting leadership where this is concerned.

A very stupid preoccupation with the number of medals we target, or actually get our hands on, instead of venturing beyond our comfort zone in search of honours the world will value much, much more, has dominated our thinking in recent times when India’s craving for international recognition consistent with its self-perceived, rising status has deepened.

Finding that elevated standing elusive, we have persuaded ourselves that an Olympic medal is an Olympic medal is an Olympic medal. No wonder Jamaica meant more to the Games than us, and if we decided not to get off the beaten track, India would continue to play only to the Indian gallery in the global arena.

China is a repudiation of the Indian way without being immediately successful in several segments of their pursuit, football for one. If they have carried on, it may at least partly be because they know of the frustrations inherent in not even trying. Much worse, of course, is self-deception, which is our game.