Former Indian cricket captain Sourav Ganguly and London Olympics gold medallist Abhinav Bindra have said that constant support and infrastractural investment must be in sync with each other for sportspersons to excel in India.
Speaking at FICCI's annual conference in New Delhi, Bindra said, "Elite athletes have access to a lot of money but it comes about 3-4 months before the Olympics. But at that time it is of little importance. For an athlete, it is not about the last 3-4 months before the Olympics but everyday preparation. It is the hard work one puts in each and every day of the year in those four years that makes the difference."
"In those four years, sportsperson need to have access to regular fundings and expert training. We do not have expertise in India, so we need to import that. So constant support is required. You need 4 years and not just 4 months to produce champions," he added.
Ganguly agreed with Bindra and added that it was precisely what the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has done over the years.
"Investment has to come year after year after year. Successful transformation of a junior to the senior level depends on how well the system works. The administration has to provide a player with complete support and that is where cricket has triumphant over other sports," said Ganguly.
"I am an administrator now and I know the importance of respecting the players. Unless a player is nurtured, you cannot get a champion out of him/her," he added.
However, Bindra said it was not only about money but a culture of playing also has to develop among kids.
"When we have families going out and playing some sport in the weekends rather than watching movies, then only we can have all these sporting leagues other than cricket running successfully and making profits," said Bindra.
Ganguly believes that televising a particular sport can generate interest among kids.
"There was a time when Pakistan used to produce good fast bowlers as they had heroes like Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, while in India, every kid wanted to be like Sunil Gavaskar or Sachin Tendulkar or Rahul Dravid. People come to watch the players. It is all about their heroes. So it is important to keep the players in the fore front and BCCI has done it in a very clever way.
"A lot is also to do with the television. The matches being telecast on television has helped in generating interest," said the former skipper.
Deepa Malik, who won a silver medal in women's shot-put F53 event at the Rio Paralympics, was also one of the panelists and spoke about the importance of awareness about any sport and sportspersons.
"There was hardly any awareness about the paralympics before the Rio Paralympic Games but with India winning four medals at the event, the media was very prompt in highlighting the achievements and that in turn evoked interest in people and we also started to get recognition," said Malik.
Talking about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Bindra cited the example of USA Olympic team, which is all sponsored.
"The US Government does not spend any money on its Olympic team. It is all sponsored. Similarly we also need to open our hearts and pockets," said Bindra, who has set up a High Performance Training centre in Chandigarh, where athletes can train free of cost."
Ganguly said the mindset and attitude of the people who run sports needs to change.
"Today we have one of most terrific Indian cricket team across all three formats of the game and that was because the players were given the utmost importance," concluded Ganguly.
(With inputs from PTI)