Monday, July 16, 2012

...In Pursuit of the leader

I was very sure that it was Mukul, it was definitely him on the other side of the road, Even after 8 years, I could tell that from a distance. He still had the same side parted hair, that unusually long neck and that super brisk walk. I had to almost run to get past him.

Hey Mukul”, I said panting.

Hi…” He replied with an impassive face.

I guess I know you” He said again. The face was still devoid of any emotions.

You forgot your friend. Atul, Tenth “B”, I used to bug everybody with my poems in the assembly” I was already embarrassed.

Yeah Yeah I remember you were the part time spinner in the school team as well” He finally smiled. And we hugged. We never were best friends. But I was his secret admirer. He was the best batsman, I had ever seen. His gargantuan sixes and flawless timing were sheer pleasure to watch. He was the coach's favorite, the sport icon of our school. He would make it big someday, very big, everybody used to say.

So, how is your cricket going on? I heard you were playing Ranji for the state team. Can’t wait to see you playing for India” I asked excitedly.

I passed my twelfth this year and now I am preparing for clerical exams. No cricket left in my life anymore” He replied and that faint smile disappeared again.

Why, what happened? And why have you passed your twelfth this year? It has been 8 years since we passed Tenth” I fired questions one after another.

Cricket happened and cricket did not happen”. He replied. I could see the sadness in his eyes. And I was taken aback.

In the next half an hour he narrated me the story of our beloved state where a certain chief minister with a dozen kids overtook the state cricket board to ensure a smooth cricketing career for one of his kids who was slightly “interested” in cricket. But his prime focus was looting the state and creating unparalleled scam records so obviously cricket had to take a back seat. The condition of cricket in the state ruptured beyond repair and ultimately BCCI had to de-list the state cricket board from Ranji Trophy. Talented players like Mukul were surely given chance in other state cricket teams but were not promoted at the cost of their own players. Of course politics was there too. And hence those fellows who were supposed to make it big someday were left with a dark future ahead.

Why politicians or non sporting authorities have to head a sports body when they know nothing about it?” He asked. His frustration was justified.

Because they are better than us in decision making, better in administration, better policy makers. Come on don’t be that cynical” I tried my usual optimistic self.

And what makes you think so? You are an Engineer; can you go and lead a team of chefs in a five star hotel? No. you cannot. Life is a role playing game. Everybody cannot do everything. We are specialists at something and novices at other things and that’s justified. But just because someone is backed by a political party and has oodles of party fund for cushioning, he just cannot head a sports body.” He wasn’t an introvert like he used to be in school days. Years of aggravation and disappointments had turned him vitriolic.

And more recently we have corporate and cinema guys heading sports clubs and teams. Ha! Sports is a big joke in India.” He spat venom again.

Politician is synonymous to a corrupt and unscrupulous individual in India who has power, position and money that gives him a license to do all unethical things for his own gains. But it is not absolutely true. There are good fellows around and I can name quite a few of them. I guess it’s more about our perceptions, I guess it’s about the way we look at them.” I tried being logical.

That’s the difference between you and me. You guess and I know. I’ll take you leave now. I am getting late” He hurriedly shook hands and went away. He left me with hundreds of unanswered questions. Was he right? Were his emotions justified? Or was I being supremely optimistic by preaching my logics to him? And the debate went on for quite some time or maybe it’s still on somewhere inside me?

I browsed through profiles of some politicians of India who were also heading sports bodies and the revelations were shocking. A powerful politician was heading the most powerful sports body of India and that too when he was commanding the single most important ministerial berth in the center, that of Agriculture. The sector that contributes to almost 17% of our GDP and employs more than 50% of our entire workforce.  What would this minister prefer if he has to decide between Famine and World Cup? Famine any day. So the sports would always be the bastard child. So why did he have to take such an important position then? Maybe because it gives you more money, more power and more international exposure. Maybe. Or, it’s just that narcissistic supply for the rich and powerful to feel good and to feel important. Whatever, I wasn’t able to justify that politician heading the sports body.

And then I observed the tenures of these positions and the revelations were scarily shocking again. One of them was heading a sports association for over three decades, another one for over two decades and one of them was even overseeing the association proceedings from behind the Bars. Was India, the land of thinkers like Chanakya and Vivekanand so bloody deprived of leadership talent that the same fellows were heading the associations since the beginning of time? Did these positions come with a life time validity? Shouldn’t sports bodies be headed by sports persons only? And what are the corporate and the showbiz guys doing in the equation? Well, they are there because they have money and they are there because they want money.

 Yes, I was the one who was guessing and my friend was the one who knew. But then it was completely wrong to say politicians or non sporting individuals shouldn’t be allowed to lead a sports body. Sports after all is not all about passion and zeal, it’s about complex decision making as well. It’s about looking at the bigger picture and that requires a great deal of foresight. Sportsmen can provide the zeal and enthusiasm but they may not be the best planners out there.

But at the same time the technicalities of a game can be best understood by a sportsman. If the sportsman has proven leadership skills, a sound brain with an ability of passing unbiased decisions and taking the team through bad patches would be the best fit for the berth. Sports would always be his first love and he could bring his own expertise and experience in the team. A major plus for any sports team. Or if we have a corporate or a politician who obviously has got tremendous leadership capabilities and is truly passionate about sports and doesn’t have to switch his interests over from sports to something more important, he probably would be the next best fit for the role.

Like all important positions of the country, the head of any sporting association should also be subjected to a set of qualifications. And the political prowess or power quotient alone in case of politicians or other non sporting individuals and likewise sporting prowess and popularity quotient alone in case of a sportsmen shouldn’t be the deciding factor in their coronation.

 Leadership abilities, decision making skills along with proven personal integrity, dedication for the sport and reliability should also be considered. Absolute power corrupts and hence the person should be answerable to the general body to keep a check on monopoly.  Ultimately the situation converges to the innate nature of human beings. A person of character and morals would always do good to the society. A society where talent would be given more importance than caste, creed, color, region and religion and a society where Mukuls wont be struggling for their bread and butter but padding up to take the world in a sporting arena. Maybe I am being my usual optimistic self. Maybe.

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