By Aayush Puthran
On return from Australia after leading India to victory in the Under-19 World Cup, Unmukt Chand got a warm reception in his hometown. His college, St Stephen’s, stood out like a sore thumb by barring him from sitting for his examination owing to poor attendance.
Here was a student who had represented his country at the international level and won laurels for the nation, the kind which few others have, especially in the field of sports. Unmukt scored 1149 runs at an average of 67.59 for India Under-19 and guided them to victory at the Asia Cup and later in the World Cup.
However, everything else was overlooked for the sake of attendance. An uproar in the media was inevitable. What the Unmukt episode has done is to highlight the plight of sportsperson shedding blood, sweat and tears for their state and/or country and copping the ire of the school and college administration for missing classes.
MS Dhoni, who had promoted the importance of formal education when he chose to complete his graduation privately a few years back, nailed it when he wrote on his Twitter page, “Marks for sports takes back seat; attendance for now takes centrestage. This shows how much importance sports has in INDIA. Sad to hear.”
Unmukt eventually found support from various sections of the sports fraternity in the country. The big names included Dhoni and Ajay Maken. HRD Minister Kapil Sibal interfered into the matter and spoke to the Vice-Chancellor of Delhi University to make a special exception for the India Under-19 captain. However, one really wonders whether the same support would have been garnered if a non-cricket sportsperson would have been meted out a similar treatment. Or, for that matter, if the India under-19 team had not returned home with the World Cup. That Unmukt scored a century to turn around a losing final into a winning one only helped matters.
The current state of affairs proves that Indian society does not have a culture for sports and has no intentions of making room for one. If anyone ever needed a reason for India’s inability to produce quality sportsmen, the Unmukt Chand controversy gives enough proof on what has been going wrong.
What will never be known is the number of aspiring sportsmen who became victims of the existing system in India.
(While enjoying the small joys of life, rarely has anything mesmerised Aayush Puthran more than cricket. A student of Journalism in Mumbai, he is trying to figure out two things: ways to make Test cricket a commercial hot property and the best way to beat Mumbai traffic. He has a certain sense of obsession with novelty. He might seem confused, but he is just battling a thousand demons within his mind. Nonetheless, he is always up for a light-hearted chat over a few cups of coffee! )