To allow any national team to perform well at the international level, a country has to produce world-class competitive players. It’s a long and tedious process that requires a lot of investment, be it any sport, individual or team
For any sports league to be successful, that particular sport has to be popular among the masses. There are two different models for success, firmly placing Cricket on one end of the spectrum and any other sport on the other. However, the crux of the story remains the same- investment and popularization of the sport and thereafter the utilization of it.
One of the key factors in India for the popularity of a sport is how well we fare at the international level in that particular sport. Indians are inherently emotional people and history has proved that nothing unites the nation more than the heartwarming sight of our athletes in their blue jerseys, proudly displaying the tri-colour on an international podium making their country proud. And what better example than 7th August 2021, the day Neeraj Chopra won the first Athletics gold in the Olympics for India. On this day the Indian Cricket Team was playing a test match against England, and perhaps for the first time in the history of Indian broadcast, an individual Olympic sport gathered equal, if not more viewership than Cricket, religion in this country.
To allow any national team to perform well at the international level, a country has to produce world-class competitive players. It’s a long and tedious process which requires a lot of investment, be it any sport, individual or team. Investment is required for grassroots development and talent search duly identified through sports scientists at an early stage. To provide State of the Art world-class sports infrastructure for a sustainable period under qualified eminent coaches is the established system to reach excellence at the highest level.
Any sport requires a comprehensive training program for at least ten years. A player needs world-standard sports equipment, a nutritious diet program and dieticians to monitor the results of the prescribed diet. The necessity to provide a decent living atmosphere along with economic and social security to adopt sports as a full-time career cannot be emphasized enough.
In India, we need to create a talent pool for different sports identified through coaches from abroad in association with domestic national coaches. For this, we have to create a coach’s pool as well which in turn can evaluate and monitor the performance of the talent pool through performance software’s which are being used by all leading countries. Centralized centres for treating sports injuries and rehabilitation centres with sports equipment areas are the need of the hour.
Once a talent pool is established, competition exposure has to be introduced starting from the district level and onwards up to the international level.
We have implemented these processes for Cricket. However, in the case of Cricket, investments poured in after the Indian Cricket team was able to win the World Cup in 1983 and thereafter the process followed. It was possible to cultivate this structured approach to cricket at that time owing to the limited international competition for the sport. However, the structured approach and processes cultivated for cricket, its aspirants and its subsequent cult-like popularity at the time would not be possible to implement today for any Olympic sport given the sheer volume of world-class teams and athletes from nations across the globe. The way forward for the other end of the spectrum also popularly called emerging sports in this country, is a long drawn process wherein various stakeholders of the sports ecosystem and those who wish to propagate the privatization of said sport, work as a cohesive unit to invest in the sport, provide top of the line coaching and infrastructure for athletes, ensure the athletes are provided with adequate opportunities to compete on international platforms, create awareness, interest, engagement and a steady fan following by adopting healthy marketing initiatives, create and incentivize aspirants to believe that sports in the non-cricketing parlance are in fact a serious career opportunity and then and only then will the world of non-cricketing sports and sports leagues grow by quantum leaps and bounds. There are no shortcuts.
In developing a robust eco-system for a sport in our country we critically need to develop a sports culture by way of developing Sports Schools, University Sports Systems, Sports Universities and Physical Education and Sports Sciences. A separate fund is required for this culture to be developed. Once such a culture and ecosystem are successfully cultivated and implemented, it will enable our nation and its athletes to be a force to reckon with and at par with countries dominating sports at a global level. The success of non-cricketing sports leagues is just a byproduct of the above process.
With the Premier Handball League, we are implementing and executing the same model. It is one of those opportunities for all the stakeholders of the sport to come together as a cohesive unit and extract maximum benefits through investments panning monetary investments, investment by virtue of time and energy, dedication to the growth of the sport and its athletes, investment in incorporating world-class processes for the talent pool extending to coaches, referees, athletes, infrastructural investments, marketing endeavours and alliances to ensure the growth of awareness into the average Indian household for the sport of Handball. Only by virtue of this consolidated effort can we ensure that the sport is played as per international quality and standards.
We know that the youth of our nation want to watch and participate in adrenaline-filled fast-paced, engaging and inclusive sports. We understand that it’s never really a question of demand but boils down to a question of qualitative supply and that goal can only be met with well planned and executed investments in any sport. As a nation, we can proudly boast of very real-world class athletes across various sporting disciplines. The time is now ripe to support and grow our potential-filled sporting ecosystem and all that it entails.
The author is Manu Agrawal, CEO and Co-founder, Bluesport Entertainment.