Weekly Sports Newsletter: The unique right of the babu to walk on the synthetic track


Once the emotion of outrage has passed, a bit of back-pedaling will help explain why an IAS couple and their dog were given priority over elite athletes at the modern sports facilities built for the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi. .

Was it the cold and brutal revenge of the best-in-class community on sportsmen for all the bullying they endured during sports hour? No, it’s not a teen movie, it’s the real world. The problem is more complex, deep and systemic.

There’s this scene from the biopic, MS Dhoni, The Untold Story that unwittingly alludes to the subtle, yet strong, bureaucracy’s grip on Indian sports. It’s from the first half of the film, about Dhoni’s debut in Ranchi.

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Unwilling to disappoint his gas station attendant father or shatter the family dream of a middle-class sarkari job and mortally afraid of getting caught in a rut, Dhoni drags himself to tryouts for a sports quota job at the railways.

On D-Day, he finds himself face to face with the sportsman Divisional Railway Manager (DRM), the recruitment panel made up of a single man. He’s a gray-haired middle-aged man, delirious about his pace.

After a few courteous “well-lefts” to deliveries that barely reached him, the young Mahi had had enough. He could no longer be respectful to the below average VIP bowler. The six began to rain, the bullets becoming a threat to the flora and fauna around what looked like a typical small town railroad settlement. The DRM looked hurt and sported an enigmatic expression.

A Dhoni sympathizer, who had put a note on the DRM, ran onto the field and whispered, “Out ho ja, nahi toh daalta rehega yeh, naukri ka sawal hai. (Get out or he’ll keep bowling, it’s about your job).

The late Sushant Singh Rajput, masterfully capturing Dhoni’s legendary understated undertone, utters a phrase that sums up the man who was always sure of his talent and convinced that his cricketing journey would not end at a railway terminus.

Bhaiya, naukri ke liye out thodi na hoenge (Brother, wouldn’t go out for work),” says the iconic captain, whose tenure is a case study for many aspiring business leaders.

Dhoni was hired, but he could not stay long in the system which was not quite the benchmark for good governance. The grueling daylong vigil on the railway platform in pursuit of ticketless travellers, the chilling ordeal of dealing with harassed passengers, ate away at the energy and enthusiasm of the brilliant young cricketer. The railways did not prove to be the springboard for Dhoni’s planned journey to the top. He seemed ready to give up.

The DRM would come to his rescue again. He would ask her to focus on her game, to hit the tennis ball circuit without worrying about the assist. It’s not about the magnanimity of a cricket-mad official or his soft corner for the hard-hitting batsmen he has hired, but about the unbridled power enjoyed by babus across the country.

Besides possessing the magical power to turn any cricketer into a ticket collector with a simple nod, they could even save the player from the drudgery of 9 to 5 and issue him the pass to pursue. the passion he chose to be his profession. .

It’s easy to guess why athletes remain submissive to such influential individuals, and not too difficult to understand how sports arenas become petty fiefdoms of powerful officers. The common sight at most government facilities is of sports quota athletes bending over backwards to please babus. Some can be seen training them, others cheering on their sloppy shots skyward. In a failing system where the conditions of service and working hours are not framed taking into account the requirements of an athlete, those who have indisputable extra-constitutional powers must be kept in good spirits.

Being at the mercy of officers, as the world now knows, is not quite the Mahi way.

One fine day, like a plane taking off, Dhoni left the tracks, folded up its wheels and took off into the sky. He would leave behind a baboon world that had an overwhelming hangover from Raj. India’s World Cup-winning captain was not cut out to be part of the army of motorcades that were at the disposal of the sahebs, who ruled from high-ceilinged offices in colonial buildings with gardens with Victorian fountains .

These modern sahebs, in most cities, have their own watering holes, the gymkhanas which sometimes have better sports facilities than those available to elite athletes. That of the capital hosted the Davis Cup at the start of the year.

But it’s in places of the people – like Thyagaraja Stadium – that babus enjoy a unique high and blinding aura. This is where they feel they have the right to walk on the synthetic track.

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Sandeep Dwivedi

National Sports Editor


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