Someone from the sports ministry should call up Narasimha Rao, former Indian Test cricketer, to ask him about the MBE (Member of British Empire) medal he received from the Queen of England. Six years ago, he received a letter from UK government, that read: “The honour is conferred on you by Her Majesty in recognition of your services to cricket and to the community in Northern Ireland.” The irony in India today, stemming from an irrational resistance to recognise “foreign” coaches for national awards, would not be lost on him.
Back in India, jingoism and insularity seem strewn all over the process of conferring the Dronacharya award on coaches who have been instrumental in producing world-class sportspersons. What else can explain the inexplicable hesitancy in neglecting Heinz Reinkemeier and Gaby Buhlmann who helped Abhinav Bindra achieve his dreams? How can one ignore Leonid Taranenko, whom Karnam Malleswari gave the greatest tribute of all by letting her walk around the Olympic village in Sydney with the bronze medal around her neck? Or Atik Jauhari from Indonesia, the man who helped Saina Nehwal and P. Kashyap take the next step at the international level. Even in India’s most popular sport, cricket, it took a foreign hand in Gary Kirsten to help India end the 28-year drought at world cups.
These are individuals who have enabled Indians to achieve that elusive greatness and pride in the competitive world of international sports. It’s time to respect the people who help shape our sportsmen. It would only be honouring our own sporting stars’ gratitude towards them.