For a country with a population of over a billion, sports in India is an embarrassment. To give a little glimpse of how astonishingly pathetic India are when compared to rest of the world, here is a shocking fact; North Korea won 4 Gold medals to India's 0 in the 2012 Summer Olympics! The inability to produce talented athletes in India is quite shocking. But the biggest irony in all this is the fact that, the few spirited individuals who did actually break free from the shackles to make an impression on a global scale aren't even given a percentage of the recognition Sunny Leone gets in this country.
The life of cricketers is completely different though. India is the home of the most richest, powerful and corrupt cricket board on the planet - the BCCI. Some cricket purists argue that even the most undeserving players in the team are massively overpaid and are elevated to superstardom very prematurely. The sport has degraded to such levels that the BCCI make sure that India rarely plays overseas matches. It in effect ensures that India avoids being schooled by the big guns and keeps its ODI rankings intact. The pitches in India are doctored so that our 'flat track bullies' can massacre the opposition bowling. It's funny how the same Indian batting lineup who score 300 plus on the the dead rubber pitches at home aren't even capable of lasting 50 overs or even rake up 200 runs on the board in overseas matches. In the era of the 'flat track bullies' the 'decent Indian pace bowler' has become an extinct species. It's best not even to talk about team India's test performances. The World Cup in Australia is just around the corner and team India needs a lot more than luck to get back home unscathed. Cricket is the only sport in the country which has the potential to pull huge crowds across the nation. Despite this, India has failed to assert dominance on the field on a consistent basis.
The only silver lining regarding sports in India in recent times was the Indian Super League. For the first time, the nation was gripped by football fever. Well, even that too only to a certain extent as only Athletico de Kolkata, Kerala Blasters FC and North East United was able to boast packed stadiums. Teams like FC Pune and Delhi Dynamos couldn't even fill their stadiums to half capacity in some matches. If the popularity rises and these franchises are able to attract young international talents to the Indian shores, there might yet be hope for optimism as far as football is concerned in India.
India has managed to produce some excellent sports-personalities over the years despite being shunned by the media and the general public. The legendary Olympic Gold winning Hockey teams are all but memories now. Badminton and Tennis still manages to produce good players. Saina Nehwal is the cream of the crop of current Badminton players, along with other top talents. The funny thing is everyone in India knows Deepika Padukone but not many can claim to know her father - Prakash Padukone, who is regarded as India's greatest ever Badminton player. The same people who are unaware of Prakash Padukone were the ones slating women's tennis player Maria Sharapova (a Russian living in the US) for not knowing who Sachin Tendulkar is. Talk about double standards.
Not many in India know the legendary Amritraj brothers of Indian tennis. They have acted and produced many Hollywood blockbusters as well. Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi on the other hand did manage make the headlines on the odd occasion, but it was nothing compared to the attention the cricketers got. Sania Mirza also got the country buzzing in the early years of her Tennis career. Well, not just because of her tennis skills but also for the fact that she wore mini-skirts on court and for the fact that she married Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik. Her popularity has since died down and ironically though she went on to win 3 mixed-doubles Grand Slam titles since then! Coming back to Leander Paes, he's probably one of India's greatest sportsmen. He should be right up there alongside the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Kapil Dev. Last week at the age of 41 he won his 15th doubles Grand Slam title at the Australian Open with Martina Hingis. He is without a doubt one of the greatest doubles player in the world. Maria Sharapova might not know who Tendulkar is but she is more than well aware who Leander Paes is and might even regard him with a certain degree of respect. Paes is probably India's greatest unsung sporting hero.
Kerala is hosting this year's National Games. Unlike the rest of India, Kerala has managed to produce decent athletes over the years. The likes of P T Usha, Shiny Wilson, MD Valsamma, Anju Bobby George, Tintu Luka etc have all held our forte with pride when India had nothing to show for in major events. To be fair Kerala did its best to promote the 35th National Games with Sachin Tendulkar as the brand ambassador. But the games are still lacking viewership and any real interest from the rest of the country. So, why is India despite having over a billion people unable to produce more talented athletes? The answer is quite simple, it's because the people of India choose not to. No parent is willing to let their children pursue a career in sports. No college or university in the country is willing to break the bank and provide top notch facilities for their students like in other countries across the globe. Some colleges even deny students to participate in various tournaments. The lack of interest means that people who are willing to invest in sports here will think twice. The day that people in India actually starts to show interest in sports only can India start dreaming about a brighter future in sports. Until then India is going to struggle and will be out of depth for future international events.