If Chess was played with bat, ball, stumps and bails, Viswanathan Anand would probably have been a big star. So big, that Government officials would have fallen over each other to felicitate him even if he had voluntarily given up his Indian nationality. But Chess is not Cricket, and the exact opposite happened to a man who while representing India, has won more championships on the world stage than any other sportsperson in the country – some ‘babu’ decided to “verify” Anand’s nationality. Eventually, the HRD minister apologized and the error was rectified immediately, but only because people actually know Viswanathan Anand.
But imagine the plight of sportspersons representing India in other sports. Whether it is Hockey, Athletics, Football or any other sport at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, talented sportsmen and women never make it past the first few steps either due to lack of facilities, corruption and bureaucracy in sports federations run by people who nothing about the sport, lack of sponsorships or recognition at the right time. And this is apart from the humiliation some have to face, just so they can pursue a sport they love.
While nothing is perfect, our treatment of hardworking, talented men and women leaves much to be desired, and our unhealthy obsession with cricket and cricketers has marginalized other sports. And incidents like the one with Anand do not help. I hope we can improve our attitudes and show them the respect they deserve, before it is too late.