Why Madhu Sapre Was Right

The year was 1992, and three young women were asked one question – “What is the first thing you would do if you were the head of your country?” The beauty from India answered, rather hesitatingly that she would build a huge sport track and field ground in India. Not surprisingly, she lost and ended up third. The other women presumably spoke about how they would educate the poor and provide medical facilities.

Unfortunately the judges failed miserably in understanding what Madhu Sapre tried to tell them that day. Sport is a way out of poverty. It is quicker than the education route and more importantly it just needs you to bear more pain than the other guy. When you are hungry it is easier to bear pain than to learn calculus. 5 years of hard work in sport can pay off more than 5 years in a classroom. It is simple when you think about it. Unfortunately for Ms Sapre it just was not politically correct.

The Indian Premier League for 20-20 cricket is showing the way. Instead of just 15 cricket players who play for the country, you now have 8 teams comprising of players from around the world. Of course rules require that the majority of the players are Indian, which is fine. But apart from the increased number of cricketers, a league benefits far more people. You need playgrounds. Playgrounds need to be maintained. Teams require support staff. Teams require marketing. Team shirts and other collectibles means t-shirt, cap and sticker companies get more business. Since there are home and away games, the hotel and entertainment industry is growing.

The logic is simple really, having more leagues for different sports means more jobs, which leads to more money, and when there is food in the stomach it is easier to send the next generation to school. It buys them the time needed to become successful.

Unfortunately in India this is an avenue that has been left unexplored.

Imagine the jobs created if we had leagues that were aggressively promoted for football, hockey, basketball, and volleyball. Many of our cities can actually have multiple teams from a city.

It is easy to say that there is no talent in India. But I personally know of immensely talented singers who write ordinary code in software companies. There are immensely talented footballers who create marketing campaigns for underwear.

No, the problem is not talent, but to show the people who possess the talent that they can commoditize it and feed themselves and their families on it.



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