This must be the flimsiest of excuses ever offered to explain a disappointing performance by a sports team. We have heard a variety of explanations before but Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh takes the cake by blaming the French organisers of the World Championship for not providing Indian wrestlers practice facilities or sparring partners.
Having apparently had to scrap a scheduled training camp in Spain ahead of the World Championship because some members of the team did not provide tax returns in time to secure visas, the WFI chose to send the team to the Parisian borough of Boulevard de Bercy nearly three weeks before the event.
“We wasted 15-20 days in France before the Championship. There were no training facilities provided by the organisers. Our wrestlers did not get partners to practice with,” the WFI chief told PTI, seeking to explain the return of the team from Paris without a medal to write home about.
Was it not the federation’s responsibility to ensure that the team would not waste time in France? Should it not have assured itself that in the bid to acclimatise to the Parisian conditions, it should not have overlooked either the facilities or the quality of sparring partners for the Indian team? It cannot abdicate that responsibility and blame local organisers.
Sadly, it also appears that the Singh forgot that he had waxed eloquent on camera — and he can’t say that he has been misquoted — about the good preparation of the Indian team. He even spoke of winning medals. “Our team has trained well before departure and is training there. It has gone with good preparations. Achche medal aayenge (We will get good medals),” he said.
It will be interesting to read government observer Sushil Kumar’s report on WFI’s ability to prepare and execute a strategy for the World Championships in the wake of the decision not to renew the contracts of the foreign coaches Vladimir Mestvirishvili (freestyle), Emzar Makharadze (Greco-Roman) and Roin Doborjginidze (women’s freestyle) after the Olympic Games last year.
It is possible that he could come up with a few reasons for the gap between potential and performance. The absence of a foreign coach by the matside, the weak approach to preparation, WFI's failure to ensure food of the wrestlers’ choice and sparring partners in the run up to the Championship will all make for an explosive report.
It is a good wager that even his report may not include a mention of the Indian wrestlers’ seeming inability to handle the adulation and professional league in the country. Their response appears in stark contrast to the attitude shown by a generation of badminton stars, the established as well as the rising, in attaching primacy to their chosen sport.
We will have to wait for that report but the WFI can do better than to be stuck with its innate desire to back Indian coaches to lead the national team on its journey. There are enough and more examples of how the overseas coaches — passionate and tough taskmasters besides being sharp with the analysis and insights — can make a difference.
One recalls a candid conversation with a passionate rebel, Shokinder Tomar, who admitted that he would have been better off in the Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games in 2002 had he listened to the foreign coach of the time, Belarus’ Stanislou Horlo. He said he was leading his Asian Games bout with Kazakhstan’s Uulu Nadyrbek Ulan but, with 10 seconds left, lost by fall.
“I could have also won gold at the Commonwealth Games in 2002 had I listened to our foreign coach (Stanislou Horlo). ‘No attack, only defence now,’ he told me, but I followed the Indian coach’s instructions and sought to consolidate my lead. I ended up conceding a point to Canada’s Guivi Sissaouri and let the bout go into extra time where I lost,” he recalled.
More recently, Amit Dahiya possibly missed out on an Olympic Games medal in London, losing his repechage bout to Bulgarian Radoslav Marinov Velikov without the benefit of getting the right advice before and during the fight. Georgian Mestvirishvili, who had been training Indian wrestlers for many years, was not sent with the team.
Surely, the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sport and the Sports Authority of India will take note of that and press the WFI to shed its inhibitions in engaging overseas coaches. It is a pity that few Indian coaches seem to have learnt the nitty-gritties of planning and preparation from the passionate Mestvirishvili.
The time has come for WFI to own up its shortcomings and get its act together. Also, the government and fans must not get carried away by any success that come the way of the Indian grapplers in the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast next year. There is an urgent need for a High Performance Manager to be appointed and given responsibility.
Updated Date: Aug 29, 2017 14:58 PM