Sports and politics

Cricket lovers will be happy at Sourav Ganguly becoming president of the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB), succeeding Jagmohan Dalmiya who suddenly passed away a few days ago. Dalmiya had turned cricket into a multi-million-dollar industry. Dalmiya had successfully made India the country that came to dominate world cricket, marginalizing the White teams like England, Australia and South Africa that traditionally controlled the game. Sourav has inherited a legacy that he has to live up to and be worthy of.
But the manner in which Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced his name as CAB president at Nabanna, the State secretariat, will be taken by many as an instance of direct political interference in the internal matters of a sports body. She has said for the record that the decision was unanimously taken by the CAB and she was only announcing what she had been requested to announce. But this is hardly convincing. The proper thing would have been for the CAB to hold a general body meeting and formally elect Sourav as President. That the announcement was made by the Chief Minister apparently on behalf of the CAB is neither proper nor desirable. Many would believe that the issue of selecting (not electing) a new president was actually settled when Sourav met the Chief Minister and had a twenty-minute discussion with her a few days ago. It is doubtful if Sourav could become the CAB chief if an open election was held.
In fact the involvement of politicians in sports at all levels is becoming more and more evident. Powerful politicians including chief ministers are elected president of different State or all-India sports bodies – from cricket and football to kabbadi and wrestling. Ruling party politicians use government money to patronize different clubs and sports bodies to win them over. This has happened in West Bengal under both LF and TMC dispensations. Such nexus between politicians and sports bodies usually harms the game.
The distribution of patronage denies the opportunity to promising young men and women in different games and sports to develop their potential, particularly if they come from indigent families and do not have the money to buy expensive sports kits or bear the expense for training. The film Koni depicts the story of such a girl struggling to overcome the hindrance of poverty and ultimately succeeding with the help of her coach. But very few are so fortunate. For most of them fate has ordained that these flowers will dry up and die unsung and unmourned.

Thursday, 19 April, 2018