Can Tokyo Olympics replicate the 2007 T20 World Cup revolution in India?
Indian cricket can teach a thing or two to pave the way for success of India at the Olympics, especially after the Tokyo triumph. Here's how!
For sports lovers the last couple of months have been a dream come true. We have had the Olympic Games, Paralympics, IPL and now the T20 World Cup all within a 3 month span.
With all attention on cricket nowadays it is extremely heartening to see India at par with the best in all facets of the game. The present Indian cricket team scenario is we could field a different team in each of the different formats and still perform at the highest level.
The Tokyo Olympic Games were a watershed moment for Indian sport. India had its best ever Games so is it fair to compare the success at the Games with India's 2007 T20 World Cup win? While most will say it's like comparing apples to oranges, I would beg to differ and believe that there is always a rich seam of lessons that can be mined across any genre of sport.
While cricket is far removed from my domain of expertise, from a sports development standpoint there is a lot to learn. The success of the T20 World Cup spawned the birth of the Indian Premier League (IPL) and the rest as they say is history. But let's take a step back to before we won the coveted World Cup and even a layman like myself would see the depth that was present in the sport.
Grafting the cricket model can boost Olympic sports?
Cricket has always had a robust domestic circuit right down to highly competitive state/district level. There were almost 700 small tournaments that then fed into the whole Ranji level tournaments. So when the IPL came into being it became just one more avenue for young and budding talented cricketers to make it onto the big stage.
So will Neeraj Chopra's gold medal now similarly pave the way for India's budding talent in the Olympic disciplines?
The answer to that may not be that simple. Indian sport is presently at a crossroads! We have come a long way in the last decade and now we can state with the utmost confidence that we have all the ingredients for Olympic success but for that to really come into fruition would depend on how each of these individual ingredients are mixed to come up with the ideal recipe for success.
Gone are the days where we can try and cut, copy, paste from different sporting powerhouses and try and make it, the only way for sustainable success from here is to develop our own systems and only then can we hope to be perennial contenders. Are we at the stage where we could see a largely changed contingent between next year's Commonwealth Games (CWG) and Asian Games? I would not like to be a pessimist and say "No" but will go with "NOT YET".
In the quest for depth in Olympic sports
The health of any sport is measured by a plethora of factors but the biggest and most important of those is something called DEPTH. Cricket has had the pleasure of not ever having a lack of depth in their men's game (the women are a completely different story). They have always had a huge talent pool to work with because of which the overall level was always organically improving.
The same cannot be said of most of the Olympic disciplines. This is what every sporting administrator needs to be addressing with utmost urgency. While the developed countries like China, USA, etcetera have 8-10 people vying for each and every quota, we need to have at least 3-4. Only then can we say that sport is on the right track.
Every sport should be assessed not on the number of medals won but on how many people are of certain levels. The only sport where this is somewhat achieved is Shooting. Ironically, it is the one sport which didn't win in Tokyo. Yet the Nationals have participation in the thousands and there will be different winners in almost every competition that happens.
In most of the other sports we see one clear favourite and then a huge drop off to number 2. Until this changes we will always be the ones praying for medals rather than realistically expecting them! The domestic competitions all the way down to college/school/club needs to be supported and rejuvenated so that there can be various pathways for youngsters to be exposed to the competitive side of sport. It can only be when these lower levels get more competitive that the overall quality of talent improves. If our Olympic disciplines could learn anything from Cricket it would be the coordination of an efficient domestic circuit.
The need of the hour is completely a numbers game and with the unprecedented success at the Olympic Games, the time is ripe to capitalise on this. The adage "the more the merrier'' couldn't be more apt at this stage. We need every sport engaging young athletes at all levels and also across different regions of the country where the sport may not have a rich heritage. Everyone always wants to focus on the top but if the base is highly competitive the top will definitely take care of itself. Ancient as it may sound, but fashioning multiple pyramidical structures should be our lookout - ensuring that the foundation is strong and deep, right from the grassroots and let it chisel its way to the pinnacle, carving out seasoned champions.