There are times when I despair of our sportspersons — don’t they get it?!
Backtracking for a bit, the ToI reported Sunday that with the clock ticking down to the Commonwealth Games and other competitions [I cannot at the moment tell you what other competitions we are entered in this year — the National Rifle Association of India website says that list is ‘coming soon’], they can’t wait forever for a coach. So the shooters, shelling out Rs 50,000 per head per month out of their own pockets, have hired a coach for themselves.
“How long should we wait? The authorities can take their own time but the competition dates won’t change. Now, we’re spending from our pockets to pay renowned coach Anatoli Poddubni of Ukraine for his expertise,” Samaresh Jung aka Goldfinger for his medal haul in the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games, told STOI.
After having suffered without a coach for 18 months, Jung, Ronak Pandit, Amanpreet Singh, Heena Sidhu, Ruchit Kapadia and Upasana Parasrampuria started training under the Ukrainian earlier this month. Poddubni was the USSR coach when the Soviets dominated and earlier worked with Pandit, has been roped in for a six-month term.
When I read this story over my Sunday morning coffee I was quite frankly appalled — such reckless ad hoc-ism! Such disregard for the conventions!! Such blatant flouting of procedural norms!!! I mean, if every citizen with a grievance, real or imagined, against the government and its procedures decide to take matters into his own hands, where would we be?!!!
Err… on second thoughts, don’t answer that.
It took Federal Sports Minister MS Gill to put my thoughts into words:
“I wish people would have showed more patience. I have given direction to SAI Joint Secretary Pravir Krishn to sort the coach’s matter as early as possible,” the Sports Minister said.
See? That’s the thing — and this is merely a symptom of a larger malaise. We, the people of this country, are determined to move into the 21st century — and so is the government. Where we disagree is on the matter of timing — while we insist, unreasonably, on getting there right now or at least some time this century, the government believes the goal itself is important, not the ‘when’ — so if we get there sometime in the 24th century should be good enough, no?
What’s with this breakneck rush?
The NRAI is an interesting body. On its website, there is this grandiose introduction, listing all the wonderful things the body is doing. Contained therein is this bit:
The NRAI has always strived to rope in international coaches for Trap, Skeet, Rifle & Pistol events. The services of Mr. Laszlo Szucsak (Rifle), Marcello Dradi (Trap & Double Trap) and Ms Shan (Skeet) are being provided to shooters.
That list is in and of itself indicative of how the NRAI operates — Marcello Dradi, whose case I recall reading about at the time, was sacked way back in July 2002. Almost eight years later, lo, you find his name on the NRAI’s list of coaches it is providing to the shooters. While on Dradi, the reason he got sacked is equally interesting.
It was at the end of the 48th World Shooting Championship in Finland that year that Dradi, who had gone there under the impression that his tenure extended to the Commonwealth Games to follow [in Bisley, England], was arbitrarily told that he had been let go.
The Italian had been coaching the Indian trap and double trap shooters for an extended period, and when during one of its periodic cock-ups the NRAI omitted to provide a skeet coach, Dradi voluntarily worked with the skeet shooters, going over and above the call of duty.
So what happened? As happens with this body, the NRAI realized somewhat late in the day that a world shooting competition was approaching, and arbitrarily announced selection criteria so ridiculous it would have kept most top shooters in the country from qualifying. Dradi loudly, repeatedly critiqued the selection criteria and pointed out that while B grade shooters were busy playing the ‘selection’ game, top shooters such as Mansher Singh [who a year earlier had defeated Olympic silver medallist Ian Peel at Bisley] had been busy training for the Worlds, and were in their best form. To make matters worse, Dradi pointed out that third-rate shooters had been approaching the sports minister and getting him to use his influence to have them included in the team.
The NRAI owes its existence to the government; its money comes from the sports ministry’s budget, so what was it going to do? Simple — sack the pesky Italian.
But getting back to the issue du jour — why do the shooters need a coach, when the NRAI has been so generous with institutional support? For instance, the shooters have at their disposal one president, one ‘senior’ vice presidents, five vice presidents, a secretary general, two joint secretaries-general, one treasurer, five secretaries, and a laundry list of ‘members’. Here, check them out.
Related reading: A recent piece in Open magazine about the Bindra fiasco — which too, you will recall, began with the NRAI arbitrarily deciding to fiddle around with selection criteria. The payoff of the Akshay Sawai article:
The job of officials is to handle the administrative and organisational aspects of sports. In most cases, though, they are more interested in abusing power. Their insecurity makes them find pleasure in controlling players, a breed that is more talented and valuable. It happens in all countries and across all sports. Lionel Messi, the world’s best club footballer, will not want to get on the wrong side of Sepp Blatter, the Fifa president. In India, the problem is worse. Before the Bindra issue, the hockey federation had the gall to contemplate fielding a second string side in the forthcoming World Cup rather than pay the main team its dues. It is a new year, but it has begun on the same frustrating note.