Mumbai, July 17: A blatant present trend is that Indian politicians are turning inordinately eager to snatch whatever sports portfolios are on offer. They become all the more aggressive in their campaigning when there's a post in cricket up for grabs.
Thus, former Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh surged to a landslide victory over former Indian cricketer Dilip Vengsarkar in the Mumbai Cricket Association's elections. After all, once he had roped in International Cricket Council President Sharad Pawar, the equation was just too potent for Vengsarkar's modest political and financial stature.
A sullen sports fraternity knew that politics had stolen a march on them again and after momentarily sulking, is all set to return to their lower perches. The reason why politicians target sport can be summed up in a terse quote by Deshmukh - "because sports controls youth". Indeed, by sticking his finger into the cricket pie, he gets a shot at some free publicity while simultaneously, diverting attention from his woes as leader of other ministries.
However, the scourge of politics can be a looming adversary to the progress of sport. For instance, as soon as he snared the post of President of the All India Football Federation, Praful Patel saw to it that India's most capable coach thus far Bob Houghton, was deposed, even as his players stood by him.
On the other hand Digvijay Singh, former head of the shooting federation, says that a politicians contacts aid the enhancement of a sport. Whatever the deal, several politicians have clawed their way into cricket - Narendra Modi in Gujarat, Farooq Abdullah in Jammu and Kashmir, Arun Jaitley in Delhi, Lalu Prasad Yadav in Bihar and CP Joshi in Rajasthan.
However, there are those few cricketers who have borne the clout essential to beat politicans at their own game. Former Indian cricketers Anil Kumble (as president of the Karnataka State Cricket Association) and Arshad Ayub (in Hyderadbad) have carried the torch for cricket into sports politics. Long may they reign...