India’s sports women are making us proud with their remarkable achievements at the international level
The women sports seems to be on the rise. In fact, in many cases, they are showing the way to men. Sports is not about sports only. In fact, it's the reflection of the society we live in. And, Indian sports is no different. In contemporary terms, one can refer to the Rio Olympics 2016, when amidst the medal draught for the country; two women raised their hand and gave the sign of relief to the country. Yes, we are talking about PV Sindhu’s silver medal and Sakshi Malik’s bronze medal. Flashback to the Los Angeles Olympics about which the world media famously said, “In an Olympics in which the Indian contingent is finding it difficult to register their presence, one woman PT Usha is giving run for the money to the best in the world.” From Ashwini Nachappa to MC Mary Kom and from Anju Bobby George to Saina Nehwal, the same story has often been repeated with regularity at the world sporting stage.
Indian hockey team is the new Asian Champions. In the times when our hockey seems to be back on the
reckoning, our women stars raised their hand and asserted their dominance. Under our own Swadeshi and daughty Indian coach Harendra Singh, they impressed everyone with their scale and size of assertion. Rani Rampal and her team members not only defeated the high ranking teams like China, Japan and Korea, but also sealed their berth for the world cup in London in 2018. More importantly, they also traversed the critical thrust from representation to the winners. As the Head Coach of the champion team Harendra Singh says, “Winning is a habit.” I told the girls that “We are not going to any tournament just to participate, but to win medal from every tournament.” I wanted the team to go to the world cup by right. And not because someone has vacated spot for us. And to hammer the point further he says, “2018 can well turn out the year for the Indian women hockey team.”
So, has the ‘Chak De’ moment for the Indian hockey team arrived? The girls have got the break now. But next year, they will be leaving for the preparatory tour to South Africa. And, from there they will be heading to the Gold Coast for the Commonwealth Games. What separates the good team from the champion team in
modern sports is your mental toughness and aptitude. The coming of Harendra Singh as the coach gave the girls the confidence that they have the coach who has pitch forked Indian youth hockey team to the astounding heights. If this bond between the coach and the team continues, the transformation will be palpable in 2018.
There were other ‘Chak De’ reminisces as well. If in ‘Chak De’ India Balbir Kaur represented daughty and fiesty Punjabi girl, in this Championship, 21 year old Gurjit Kaur scored in every match barring the finals. If Komal Chautala hailed from Haryana in the movie, in this reel life situation there were as many as 6 players representing the State including the captain Rani Rampal. Sushila Chanu in the current squad reminded sports lovers of Molly Zimik from Manipur in the film. But the real resonance of the character of Kabir Khan was the Head Coach Harendra Singh in the recent victory. Like Kabir, there is a rebel within Harendra. He left playing as he got disillusioned with the politics at play. In his coaching career, he has successfully been able to
provide a congenial environment within the team which has provided dividends at the short notice. As one of the team members of the champion team says, “He has got tactical accumen, he makes you feel confident and the best part is that he has now got the credibility akin to any foreign coach.”
Big Strides in other Sports
The ‘Chak De’ moment is not confined to hockey alone. The resonance of this signature tune could be found in other sports as well. In cricket Mithali Raj and her team were just a step away from being the world champions. And, the most positive aspect is that they are getting serious space now. When before the world championships in England, Mithali Raj was asked “Who is your favorite male cricketer”, her cryptic reply to the reporter was, “Have you ever asked any male cricketer as to who his favourite male cricketer was.” This was noticed by the world press and many felt that it subsequently set up the tone for the tournament. As Jhulan Goswami says, “The change in the environment is
palpable now. Women cricket and cricketers have truly arrived. If in cricket and hockey women teams are fast catching up, in badminton the reverse trend has happened.”
The modern Gopichand era of the Indian badminton dawned with the arrival of Saina Nehwal on the International stage. And then, PV Sindhu came and carried the baton
further. One could not forget the
pivotal role played by Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponappa in this period. P Gopichand then once famously said, “The girls are more sincere in their training and routine. They have got lesser distraction.” Perhaps, taking cues from their women counterpart, men players like K Srikanth, HS Pronnoy and B Sai Parneeth have turned the tide. Along with PV Sindhu, K Shrikant has raised hopes of scaling the summit sooner than latter. In this overall environment of assertion of Indian women in sports, there are challenges which are to be
Time to Change Tendency
We have the tendency to chase sporting heroes. And not to support them when they are heroes or heroines in the making. Dipa Karmakar and her coach had to run from pillar to post when they were preparing for the Rio Olympics. But once they grabbed headlines in the games, financial support increased. Post Rio, some of her struggles continue. When will India see the women cricket league along with the Indian premier league? When will the country see the women hockey league along with the Hockey India League? If the women sports persons are delivering day in and day out, do we have any programme for them at the grass roots level? But most of these problems are structural than women sports specific. And, in Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, the country has finally got a Sports Minister with huge pedigree and domain expertise. The former Olympian has started his innings on the right note by saying—In Indian Sports, Sports person has to be the VIP.
The Government needs to seize in this initiative by starting a mass sports programme focused on women
sports. This will herald a renaissance confined not only to sports but all other walks of life also. Historically, women have been in the forefront of the growth and progress process of Indian society. But centuries of invasions and foreign role proved detrimental for the Indian women at large. India’s sports women are looking up to their prime historical role. And, there could not be any better liberator than sports. For sports is not only sports, it reflects the times and society we live in.
(The writer is a senior sports journalist)