High expectations, big disappointment!

There will be the usual post mortems about India's performance in the Rio Olympics by those who do not have the faintest idea about how sport works. So nothing will happen and everything will be forgotten in a fortnight or so.

The Indian contingent being welcomed at the Athletes' Village before the Rio Olympics. When even our best were not good enough, why did we have to send so many athletes, wonders the author.   -  GETTY IMAGES

The Rio Olympics has ended. And there will no doubt be plenty of debate on the Indian contingent’s performance. There were big hopes that this time the medal tally would be more for India than in the previous Olympics in London, but that was not to be.

The star this time too was Usain Bolt, who won the 100 metres and 200 metres with ease. To be able to stay undefeated for three Olympics in events where it’s tough to stay on top for more than a year or so is truly remarkable indeed. He has not been beaten in these two events since 2008. The only time he was unable to win was when he was disqualified from the 100 metres for a false start in the 2011 Daegu World Championships.

Once again comparisons will be made and the modern internet world will want to anoint him the greatest ever, but that would be unfair to the likes of Jesse Owens and Carl Lewis, who in their own eras were the best athletes in the world.

Coming back to the Indian contingent’s performance, two women, P. V. Sindhu and Sakshi Malik, saved the nation’s blushes by winning medals when the men struggled. P. V. Sindhu, who has been in the shadow of Saina Nehwal, was brilliant as she played the badminton of her life. Even Kidambi Srikanth was superb as he took the legendary Lin Dan the full distance before falling at the final step of the match.

There will be the usual post mortems by those who do not have the faintest idea about how sport works. So nothing will happen and everything will be forgotten in a fortnight or so. Rather than have government committees, my humble suggestion is that a committee of former Olympians should be formed — chaired by Milkha Singhji and having members like Abhinav Bindra, Vece Paes, Geet Sethi, Viren Rasquinha, P. Gopichand and Rajyavardhan Rathore (more as a sportsman rather than a minister) — to look into the issue. The committee would then be able to plan for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 and beyond.

There is no point having a committee to include all sports, for then nothing will be achieved. A smaller committee of former players with integrity as those mentioned above would do a much better job. I may have missed out some names, but the idea really is to have a compact group, which then wouldn’t need to have every decision voted upon, but can get action initiated sooner than later.

There was a committee in place for the Rio Olympics, but it seemed to have succumbed to pressure from some groups and athletes. Those athletes who screamed themselves hoarse to be included and who didn’t even get past the first round should now be relegated to the background and fresh talent looked at. Most importantly, the qualifying standards for Indian athletes should be raised so that only those with a realistic chance of getting on the podium should be sent. The despair is because so many went there and came back without even looking as if they were putting up a fight! So outclassed were they. Not for a moment is it being suggested that they didn’t try their best, but if the best was not going to be good enough then why send them at all? For, now, the disappointment is greater.

Amidst the Olympics disappointment comes the news that the Indian cricket team has climbed back to the number one ranking in Test cricket. But there is a rider. The fourth and final Test match between India and the West Indies is going on as this is being written, but the rain in Port of Spain may dominate and prevent a result.

This will then take away the number one ranking, for India has to win in Trinidad to confirm its place. However, the very fact that the Indians have got there is enough for the cricket fans to rejoice. India’s performances over the last one year have been outstanding.

It won in Sri Lanka after 22 years and then wiped the floor with South Africa and now in the West Indies it has won two Tests and with it the series as well. With home series against New Zealand, England and Australia coming up and a one-off Test match against Bangladesh as well, India has a chance to stay among the top ranked teams in world.