India's latest cricket sensation 19-year-old Unmukt Chand, denied permission to appear for first year BA examinations by his college St Stephens, has found support in Team India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
"Marks for sports takes back seat attendance for now takes centrestage. This shows how much importance sports has in INDIA. Sad to hear," Dhoni wrote on his Twitter page.
Unmukt too had a say on the issue and talking to NDTV he said,"I think it's really important for the institution to promote sports and those specially who are sports people should be allowed to sit for the exams or should be helped by their teachers and attendance is a very important part because sports people, they have to go for their competitions and everything so that's why they won't be coming to school or colleges regularly. It's really important for the colleges and schools to support these children so that by this way even the children will want to study and they might have a liking for study if the college supports."
He also said that Indian skipper's support was much welcome and that his voice would lend much wanted weight.
The under-19 hero said,"Definitely, Dhoni's support will help because he's a big guy, and obviously an influential guy and if he says that then he definitely means it I also feel that if schools and colleges do support sports people and probably their interests also increase in studying and they'll would also want to study more."
Unmukt, who played a crucial knock of 111 not out in the final against Australia last Sunday to lead India Under-19 team to the World Cup glory, has been barred from taking the second semester exams because of low attendance. (Read here)
The college demands a minimum of 33.33 per cent of annual attendance under sports quota.
Meanwhile, St. Stephen's Principal Valson Thampu while talking to NDTV has categorically said that rules are rules and they must be abided by.
He said,"Rules have to be applied. This isn't the answer to promote sports culture. It's a question of working within the system."
He also said that the college was more than happy to help candidates like Unmukt Chand.
Thampu said,"The college will be happy to help Unmukt but the fact of the matter is he never brought up this problem before it was too late. All my colleagues are only too happy to help any sports candidate."
Responding to a question on the laws that exist, Thampu was in favour of flexibility but he also said that India must become a law-abiding nation first.
He responded saying,"Laws are not written in stone; must respond to emerging situation. One important aspect of education in India must be abiding by the law; we must become a law abiding nation."
While some of the former alumni, including a breakaway alumni association, slammed the college for failing to look after the interests of sportspersons, the St Stephen's College Alumni Trust jumped to the defence of the Principal.
The Trust said in a statement that Unmukt's attendance was a matter beyond the discretion of the college principal and the matter rested with the Vice Chancellor.
"Unmukt's attendance is beyond the discretion vested in the Principal of the College to condone, and such condonation can only be given by the Vice Chancellor of Delhi University," they said.
However, the body also advised the University and colleges to "revisit" their guidelines to offer better support to sportsperson to enable them pursue competitive sports.
"It is also an opportune time for the University to consider further delegation of powers to College Principals and/or otherwise provide for liberal use of such discretionary powers without compromising minimum educational requirements in exceptional cases," they said.
Sports Minister Ajay Maken too talked to NDTV on the matter and was quite obviously in favour of sportsperson in general and Unmukt in particular.
He said,"On one hand take sportsperson of international repute and then on the other make them choose between sports and studies. Cannot put students of sports who have excelled in sports in same bracket as others. Need separate norms for such sports persons. Will take up matter with both St Stephen's and Delhi University VC."
Responding to Maken's statements, Thampu told NDTV that studies must be given some importance regardless of what field one eventually chooses.
Thampu retorted saying,"We have many examples in the college where outstanding sportspeople have 85% attendance. Spurious culture is emerging where it is believed if you are good in sports, it is OK to neglect to studies. Principals must be give discretionary powers to help such candidates; that doesn't exist at this point in time."
Former Indian cricketer and alumni of St Stephens college Kirti Azad said it was unfair to punish a player who was representing the country.
"When I was representing my country, I used to get special attention for all of that. Unmukt has won the World Cup for us. He is a good young man, he has secured good marks. Penalising him is really unfair on the part of the college," Azad said.
The university mandates that a student should pass 50 per cent of all exams in both semesters combined to be promoted. Support for Unmukt came from Indian cricket captain M S Dhoni who lamented that attendance takes centrestage and sports takes back seat.
"This shows how much importance sports has in India. Sad to hear," he tweeted.
Meanwhile, Indian Premier League commissioner, Rajeev Shukla put the ball in Unmukt's court by stating that the BCCI can't interfere in the varsity's rules of attendance.
"It's purely their own decision, their own procedures and they go by that. We can't interfere in that. BCCI can only request the college authorities," Shukla told reporters outside Parliament.
(With PTI Inputs)