India’s bench strength in cricket became all the more evident with the resolute performance of its second string team in the West Indies, as it came back twice from a difficult position to win. The IPL has become the training ground for the world’s best players, some even preferring it over playing for their countries. This has come about over the past fifty years due to a number of reasons – in particular, the financial management of the sport and the percolation of benefits right down to the grassroots. The returns for players on achieving a minimum level of excellence are considerable.
This model is being replicated in other disciplines, even if not entirely deliberately. Public and private sector corporations, as well as governments, are patronising a number of sports leading to the emergence of world class sportspersons. Stellar world class performances are coming in sports for which Indians have a natural inclination, such as shooting, archery, wrestling, boxing, weight-lifting, etc. Neeraj Chopra has shown what selection and proper coaching at the right time by sponsors and coaches can lead to. A number of initiatives like Khelo India, as well as improvement of sports infrastructure down to the village and school level is also making a difference. The increase in public interest in sports events other than cricket as entertainment has also played a major part.
An impact has also been made by the rising quality of life across all classes of people in the country owing to a growing economy. This is very encouraging and Indians are becoming a force to reckon with on the international stage. However, it is just the beginning, nowhere near what the potential is. Once health parameters improve even further and the spread of a larger set of disciplines takes place at the grassroots level, it is only a matter of time before India achieves at least as much success as its percentage of the world’s population. In fact, its vast diversity will also be reflected in the quality and quantity of its successes. The way things are going, almost inevitably, India is set to become a world power in sports in the decades to come.