Why I relate these stories, though, is to give a sense of how hard it was to make it in any Indian sport apart from cricket. Most of those sports are run by the government, and I don’t need to elaborate on the inevitable inefficiencies that result, and the hardships and bureaucracy that young sportspeople have to battle. You always feel that you’re fighting against the system, and whatever you achieve is in spite of it. I cannot stress this enough: To just survive the damn system, to keep playing the sport you love through years of this crap, you have to be made of stern stuff.
[Source: The Man with the Maruti 800]. Amit Varma in his weekly column for Yahoo India narrates his personal experiences on dealing with horrific conditions in order to compete at the state and national level. While I never competed at that level, my brother Aditya had similar experiences when he traveled to the Maharashtra hinterland (Kolhapur or Sangli I forget) for football. Fithly living conditions, inadequate food (brinjal was the staple food), and even more horrible sanitary conditions so much so that we had to unearth some remote acquantance in that town so he could use a decent toilet. Predictably, he never went back for the national selection.
Amit is right in pointing to government-run bureaucracies in sports. You only have to look at the state of hockey and compare it to cricket. However, Amit also points to East European countries in his column for their excellence in chess during the 80s. As we know, those countries weren’t exactly free-market utopias with privately-run sports bodies. Heck, China even today is a completely state-run machinery and manages to give the U.S. a run for its medals in the Olympics. While I don’t condone that model of nurturing sports either, why this disconnect? Why did India have the worst of both worlds?