The sight of sportspersons donning the ‘sports administrators’ hat is always an encouraging sign, especially in the Indian context – the recent installation of former Indian middle-order batsman and captain Sourav Ganguly as BCCI President has got Indian sports buffs excited in anticipation about great things happening going forward in Indian cricket.
Generally, the entry of illustrious sportspersons in sports administration is seen as the best thing to have happened to sports, although this not to brush aside the fact that non-sportspersons cannot be good sports administrators. There is a perception that sportspersons are better equipped to deliver in such roles as being former players themselves, they know the challenges probably better than anybody else and hence can efficiently contribute towards the progress of sports.
It’s not just about cricket and Ganguly alone – look at the Haryana trio of Sandeep Singh, Yogeshwar Dutt and Babita Kumari, who took a call to work for the development of the country by joining the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of the Haryana assembly elections, and secured tickets from the constituencies of Pehowa, Baroda and Dadri.
Former Indian men’s hockey team and Olympian (featured in the 2012 London Olympics) Sandeep Singh overcame the challenge of Congress’ Mandeep Singh Chattha polling 42,533 votes against his opponent’s 37,202 votes. Interestingly, BJP has never won from the Pehowa constituency before.
“I’m really happy to win the elections from Pehowa constituency – this win would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of my party workers. They deserve all the credit for my victory, and I wish to thank them all for supporting me throughout my election campaign,” Sandeep, who until recently was a DSP in Haryana Police, told The Bridge.
The 33-year-old – considered the most lethal of drag-flickers the country has ever produced – understands the importance of the new responsibility. “I will work for the development of Pehowa and live up to the expectations of the people who voted me,” he says. Queried whether he has any plans for the development of hockey, Sandeep replied that he will work for the development of all sports and not just hockey.
2012 London Olympics bronze medallist men’s freestyle wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt lost from Baroda constituency to Congress’ Krishan Hooda – the wrestler gave a good fight and polled 37,530 votes as against Hooda’s 42,379 votes. Yogeshwar was gracious in his electoral defeat. “Winning and losing is part of sports and the same applies to elections. I fought hard and not overly disappointed with the result, although I missed out on an opportunity to serve the people.”
The 37-year-old former ace grappler talked about his experience of the election campaign trail. “Campaigning for the elections was an insightful experience for me. I got to meet so many people day in day out and listen to their problems – it was a new experience for me,” said Yogeshwar.
Yogeshwar joined BJP only in the run-up to the assembly elections and one wondered whether time constraints were a factor for his loss and the wrestler offered a straight answer. “At the moment, I’m not thinking on those lines – I gave my best effort, but it was not my day.”
Another wrestler – former 2012 World Women’s Wrestling Championship bronze medallist Babita Kumar also from Dadri constituency to Jannayak Janata Party’s Satpal Sangwan – the wrestler gave a good account of herself, polling 24,502 votes as against her opponent’s 29, 319 votes.
Surely, the intent of Sandeep, Yogeshwar and Babita (although two of the three lost) will surely embolden many former and current players from different sports disciplines to see the electoral space as a pathway of giving back something to the sport through which they earned laurels for the country.