To find the next Neeraj, Sakshi, widen the search and focus on the basic


How to create more Neeraj Chopras? What is the route to qualify for the FIFA World Cup? How to capitalize on recent hockey successes? On National Sports Day, we take a look at the status of India’s top sports (other than cricket), complete with goals and roadmaps.

On the occasion of National Sports Day, focus on “national”


State of play

Neeraj Chopra’s face adorns everything the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) does. That’s what it gets you to become India’s first-ever Olympic champion in athletics, you might say. Chopra, however, remains an outlier (by far) and therein lies the problem. There may be positive signs – like the performance at the Commonwealth Games, but there is a long way to go: only Chopra has come back with a medal at the World Championships and he is only the second Indian to do so.

What needs to be done?

Being regulars at the finals of the Olympic Games and World Championships.

How to do?

AFI has a greater reach than most federations in India. There are athletics facilities dotted around the area, but what you get there is often the most basic workout, which isn’t enough. Chopra and Avinash Sable may have used their exceptional individual skills to grow their CVs and train overseas, but elite-level development remains elusive in India. One solution lies in private facilities, whether small-scale like Anju Bobby’s long jump academy, or the much larger JSW’s Indian Institute of Sport.

Additionally, it is crucial to tap into the vast network of SAI and AFI; so is a holistic overhaul of the existing structure – from a strong training program and staff capable of implementing it, to sports scientists and physiotherapists and regimens that prescribe global standards, to a screening system that puts the “national” back into the national contingent.

The base of the pyramid is laid, the challenge now is to keep building upwards, block by block.

-Anirudh Menon


State of play

FIFA banned Indian Football Federation (AIFF) for two weeks, India continues to hold tournaments as means of qualification, Indian Super League (ISL) expands as per AFC roadmap, with a veritable pyramid, women’s football remains relatively ignored and we have a grassroots system that is slowly progressing.

What needs to be done?

Qualify for the World Cup, on merit.

How to do?

India qualified for the AFC(M) Asian Cup on merit, so there are signs that regular top-flight football is being offered to India’s young ISL footballers (thanks to caps imposed to strangers) works. It should be fairly simple to replicate this model for women’s football as well. Administratively, the answer is reform, but a patient response is outlined here.

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The simplest answer is grassroots football – an ideal grassroots system is pan-India, involving several easily accessible academies with many coaches of all age groups, developing players with zonal football leagues regular. India can look to countries like Iceland, Germany and Spain, which have revamped their basic system over the past two decades, mainly by improving the quantity and quality of coaches and infrastructure that surround them.

India has 8,745 licensed coaches, with 76 coach trainers. Of these, only 23 hold an AFC Pro degree and 203 have an AFC A degree. Iceland (population 3,50,000) has over 180 UEFA-A licensed coaches. It is 1 in 2,000, compared to 1 in 5,00,000 in India.

India needs more investments in coaching, greater outreach and regular coach development programs. Quality coaches and regular zonal youth football will then help produce better footballers. Which leads to better footballing results and eventually success at the highest level.

-Sunadh Sagar


State of play

Shooting is one of the most successful and well run sports in India, successful at all levels internationally and well spread nationally. He underwent a change last year after the failure at the Tokyo Olympics – only one finalist in all events – with less participation in ISSF World Cups and a change in coaching style. The results have been encouraging.

What needs to be done?

Regular success at the Olympic Games and World Championships.

How to do?

The need is to trust the process and wait for the results, as happened after the Rio Olympics debacle: the National Rifle Association of India conducted an investigation and presented a detailed report, including a large part was implemented and showcased at the 2018 Asian Games. The immediate conclusion from Tokyo was the need for better mental conditioning.

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Although this only comes with experience, experts in high performance and sports psychology can help, as well as coaches. India produced great shooters when the system was not so good; it’s much better now, with the support and funding of the federation and the many academies created by former shooters.

There are a significant number of shooters to ensure a strong power system, but for their success at junior and ISSF levels to translate to higher levels, all stakeholders need to be on the same page and working towards goals taller.

– Zenia D’Cunha


State of play

The Tokyo Olympics were a big event for Indian hockey – there was success after almost a decade of sustained improvements at world level, as the men’s team won bronze and the women achieved a superb fourth place.

What needs to be done?

How can national teams achieve a longer period of dominance, where positive results do not depend on one generation of players? It is time for Hockey India to launch a strong national competition, similar to the Hockey India League (HIL).

How to do?

The men’s team has come a long way since the London Olympics, where they finished last. The women’s team missed out on London and finished last at the 2016 Olympics. Since then, taking advantage of a top-down approach from the board, both teams are now able to compete against each other and beat other teams. elite.

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A lot of money has been invested in hiring world-class coaches and implementing modern training methods, to increase fitness levels and the ability to perform under pressure. But there is a striking lack of tournaments.

At the moment, there is only one senior national championship and a group of tournaments for all age groups. HIL, which started in 2013 and was shut down in 2017 due to financial constraints and a busy international schedule, played a major role in raising the standards of Indian hockey.

A similar new national competition is needed, for both men’s and women’s teams. The main objective should be to unearth future talent and create competition for national team players. This is especially crucial for the women’s team. The current generation of players is doing well, but improvements will come with more competition for places and the injection of new talent.

-Anish Anand


State of play

Indian wrestlers have won medals at every Olympics since Sushil Kumar won bronze in 2008. They have established their stronghold on the continent [alongside Iran and Japan] and Commonwealth, but have yet to dominate the world stage. Freestyle wrestling has been India’s forte, while Greco-Roman wrestling still has a long way to go.

And after?

Need to excel on the world stage and not just at continental events, find more talent in the middleweight and heavyweight categories and develop Greco-Roman wrestling.

How to do?

The best Indian wrestlers have long come from two regions: Haryana and Delhi. Except for KD Jadhav of Maharashtra, the first Indian wrestler to win a medal in the Olympics [1952, 57kg freestyle bronze]all other Olympic medalists are from Delhi or Haryana.

Of course, wrestling is rooted in the culture of Haryana, but there are other hotbeds of wrestling in the country that the WFI needs to tap into. Case in point: Ningappa Genannavar of Karnataka won gold at the 2022 Asian U-17 Championship [45kg] and was the first wrestler from Karnataka to do so.

The Federation is doing its part to be more inclusive – the National U23 Championships will be held in Kerala this year, a bunch of age group tournaments were held in Jharkhand in April and the National Beach Wrestling Championship was held in Tamil Nadu last year. More is needed.

Second, the Federation has a strong schedule which is dotted with events like Open Nationals and Ranking Series which provide great visibility for wrestlers, but the schedule needs more structure and should be done at the start of the season. rather than last. minute tournaments.

Third, the Federation must adopt a common selection policy before major events: a policy that does not let the best wrestlers skip the trials.

-Shyam Vasudevan

(Tomorrow: Part II, including tennis and badminton)

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