Yes, Anand will Inspire Indians to Excel

-- By Dr Ramesh N. Rao

When I read Anand's mother's response to her son's winning the World Chess Championship I realized what a wonderful person this first Indian world champion is and how Anand will inspire many young Indians to excel, whatever sport they choose. Sure, it may seem that cricket is king in India and that Indians will not amount to anything much in any other sport or game. Anand has proved that wrong, as did Karnam Malleshwari to an extent by winning a bronze in weight-lifting at Sydney this summer.

India was once upon a time a land of great sportsmen. Read the Indian epics and fables: they have so many stories about archery, wrestling, hunting and of course, chess contests! After all, Indians invented chess and who should be among the great chess masters but Indians.

But will this win augur any change in Indian approach to sports? Going by the record in the Olympic games, it seems as if this land of a billion people cannot produce one gold medallist. But things have to change and things will change.

First of all, the odium that cricket has acquired recently with many of its heroes not just having feet of clay but standing in a pile of shit will make people rethink about their passion for one of the stupidest and wasteful sports ever invented. I would say that given a little bit of creativity, Indians can take to and excel in a number of other games and sports. We need not spend billions, like the Chinese do, to manufacture champions.

There are some sports that don't need much investment. And I am not talking about kabaddi or kho-kho or carrom. What about basketball and volleyball? I would even say that with India's long coastline and wonderful beaches, beach volleyball would be one of the best sports to encourage. Unlike the very little physical demands that cricket puts on its players, volleyball and basketball require that players are in top physical condition. The average Indian male may be 5' 6" tall and the average Indian woman 5' 3 tall. But watch out for the pocket rockets! I say let them run on the beaches and dive into the waters and soon we will have sportsmen we can be proud of.

What has all this got to do with chess and with Anand winning the world championship? Simple. We do now have a genuine world champion. And we can have more. Anand is a role model; and we are tired of the stupid Azharuddin type "role models" anyway. Time therefore to make the next move and put India on the sports map of the world.

Originally published on February 05, 2001.

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