Ajay Maken should learn from Gill’s mistakes

first_img(From left to right) Former sports minister MS Gill, wrestler Sushil Kumar, coach Satpal.Just A few days before the Union Cabinet reshuffle, the Press Information Bureau came out with an interesting release on how the sports ministry had sanctioned cash awards of Rs 22.57 crore to 286 sportspersons who brought laurels to the country in the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games.What was most interesting in this was how the sports ministry actually gave details of what each player was going to get and what would be the cheque number!While I am happy that Gagan Narang, Saina Nehwal, Sania Mirza and the other athletes got their dues and can now use it in the best possible way, it was a bit funny why the ministry had to put out details of the cheques!Mind you, this release was sent when MS Gill was the sports minister. As one who has believed in ‘transparency’ all along in his functioning, he had ruffled more than a few feathers. But I must admit the first thought which came to my mind when this press release was sent is why Gill was timing the release of this money just before the Cabinet reshuffle.There are various versions doing the rounds now as to how Gill was shunted out from the sports ministry. The two big theories being floating about what led to his ouster are his decision to take on the Indian cricket board (BCCI) and flexing muscles with the Indian Olympic Association, leading to a confrontation with the International Olympic Committee.advertisementI am baffled why such theories have to be floated. We all know that games in India are played not just by professional and amateur athletes in outdoor and indoor sporting arenas but in politics as well.Gill himself did not expect he would be moved out from the sports ministry but the reality is that in his two innings, he did a lot of good. The tenure and age limits for office-bearers of national sports federations had officials shivering and shuddering. But the way he came out with this rule lacked diplomacy.Today, if the International Olympic Committee is saying the Indian authorities must change their attitude and stop interfering in the autonomy of national sports federations, they are dead serious. This is the message Gill never read despite the IOC having warned them well in advance in writing. The same had been reported by MAIL TODAY in December.Cash awards for the CWG and the Asian Games medallists are very good. But this should not have been made out as if athletes who bring us glory are clamouring for the riches.Then again, as far as the dope laboratory in New Delhi is concerned, Gill did well to ensure it got accreditation from the World Anti-Doping Agency. Efforts to ensure national sports federations registered themselves with the sports ministry was also a good effort.But where Gill erred was in his approach. Everyone knows in the lead-up to the Commonwealth Games, he did not do a good job. Gill should know his confrontation with the Organising Committee and others involved did a lot of damage.Who can forget that he went about inaugurating CWG venues when they were clearly not ready? Then again, Gill’s gaffes were well chronicled as well. From saying Formula One is hardly a sport to pushing away champion weightlifter Sushil Kumar’s guru Satpal in full view of the media were not forgotten.What was also not forgotten was how he did not even know that Pullela Gopi Chand was Saina Nehwal’s coach.So if Gill is still wondering why he was removed from the sports ministry, it was a culmination of many factors and not just because he took on BCCI and the IOC.And even today, as the CWG mess haunts every Indian, how can Gill believe he had no role to play in it?As they say, it’s time to move on and the new man in the seat, Ajay Maken, seems ready for the challenges ahead. At 47, Maken is a young and dynamic minister who has kept track of Indian sport and the issues related to it. Maken’s media interactions seem very balanced till now and he is not talking of miracles in which India will win a dozen medals at the 2012 London Olympics.Then again, as a seasoned politician, Maken’s diplomacy is well known.When he deals with the grand old men who run all kinds of national sports federations, he has to be discerning and differentiate between fact and fiction.advertisementWhere Maken needs to be fast and prompt in taking action is in the issue of hiring foreign coaches and ensuring sport in India is promoted at the grassroot level.Even as Hockey India is conducting interviews for the coaches’ posts for the men’s and women’s teams, we cannot fool ourselves that Indian sport doesn’t need foreign coaches. From athletics to boxing, shooting to gymnastics, we need foreign coaches. We also need them in many other disciplines, even though they demand a lot of money.In professional sport, no good foreign coach comes cheap. I am sure our new sports minister will address all these issues and will also ensure we come down hard on dope cheats in Indian sport. Gill used to talk of “winning clean medals” at the CWG. That’s a philosophy which should never change.last_img