Sports and Identity

Editor,

There is a very close connection between sports and identity not only in India but elsewhere too. Sports historians have been writing about it. Sports have a great potential to reaffirm and reassert identity in a highly competitive environment. One only has to watch World Cup football matches or an Indo-Pakistan cricket match to see the kind of hysteria which they produce especially in the context of identity. For example, the meta-narrative of Indian takes over all other kinds of identities-caste, class, ethnic, linguistic, religious etc.- at least for a short period of time when an Indo-Pakistan cricket match happens. It appears as though nationalism cannot have a better platform to thrive than an Indo-Pakistan cricket match.
The recent demand from some quarters for giving primacy to the local boys and girls from Meghalaya in the selection of players for the state in different sports and games has drawn our attention once again to the relationship between sports and identity. This demand has raised an interesting and important question whether one’s identity should determine selection or is it the talent which needs to be the main consideration. Some sports associations have argued that there cannot be reservation in sports as talent should be the main consideration in selection of players and local talent, if available, may be given preference (if not reservation). Therefore, what this suggests is that serious and sustained efforts should be made to promote talent among the boys and girls from the state and as and when they become available they may be given preference as it happens in the sports associations of other states too.
In this context I wish to refer to cricket in Meghalaya about which I know a thing or two since my son Pranay represented the state in cricket in both Under-16 and Under-19 categories. I still remember the first day when I took him to the Polo ground to introduce him to the game of cricket. I saw JJ Lamare ( a well-known local cricketer) batting at nets which hugely impressed me. He was very compact and meticulous as a batsman. Then I saw Mark Ingty bowling who looked menacing as a bowler with his tall and muscular body. Their fitness levels were top-class comparable to the best among cricketers at the international level. I was actually surprised to see such talent in the state and felt happy that I was not doing anything wrong by introducing my son to the game of cricket in Meghalaya. Some of the talent (both local and non-local) which I noticed was quite appreciable. I always felt that given the right encouragement some of these players could grow into national heroes.
Then there was Peter Lamare, the senior most coach in Meghalaya who guided young players (including my son for whom he had an admiration for his work ethic, discipline and of course, the cricketing ability) quite competently. He recognised talent as a critical element in sports and did everything possible to encourage it. There were others, too, such as selection committee members (who were mostly from Meghalaya) who never discriminated against non-local players and gave due importance to talent. The fact that the Meghalaya Cricket Association has grown to this level is a testimony to the fact that it encouraged talented players (both local and non-local). There were some sporadic instances of how talented young boys and girls were denied the opportunities to prosper but on the whole the story of Meghalaya cricket is an encouraging story of how players, coaches and staff from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds came together to promote the game of cricket in the state.
I have no doubt that demands such as the one which has been raised recently about primacy being given to local players would encourage different sports associations to deliberate and do everything possible to promote talent among the boys and girls of the state. Once really talented local players emerge from the state such demands would lose their very relevance as such players could walk into any team on the basis of their pure talent.

Yours etc.,

DV Kumar,

Professor, Dept of Sociology, NEHU,

Shillong

Why seasoned leaders left the Congress?

Editor,

Meghalaya produced several seasoned leaders. They always served the state and their respective parties with utmost sincerity and diligence. Among them, the Indian National Congress in Meghalaya has been found to be preferred over others. By and large, its leaders in Meghalaya had won the trust of the majority of the electorate. But of late we hear murmurs of discontentment among the leaders of this national party. The recent defection of 12 Congress MLAs to TMC at one go in the state has sent a fearful tremor across the country. The reasons why so many leaders are unhappy with one of the oldest party is not very difficult to notice.
As claimed by many, this party firmly believes more in the family than democratic principles. This had irked even our veteran leader and former Lok Sabha Speaker – late PA Sangma leading to the formation of NCP. TMC is another offshoot of the same Congress which is now emerging as a stronger entity. Going by various comments on social media it can be concluded that the “family interest” always reigns supreme here in INC. This party has never found a single suitable leader to hold the party presidentship in over a decade except from the Gandhi family. What is most astonishing is that the party continues to admire Rahul Gandhi though he lacks even the basic acumen of a diplomatic leader. His morning speech clashes with that of the evening. Nothing could be more amazing than when people continue to applaud him, and he gets more charged up! He often utters promises which are totally impractical. A joke is still going round about his vehement claim of introducing a machine that would turn potatoes into gold.
Yes, there are countless instances when its key party members were publicly humiliated. Former President Pranab Mukherjee at times expressed his displeasure against the Gandhi family. Himanta Biswa Sarma defected from the party and joined BJP when his self-esteem got hurt. This cost the party dearly in Assam. Please find out who is to blame? Former Punjab Chief Minister – Amarinder Singh retorted with his shikhis bluntness against the party when he was unceremoniously shown the door. Were there any solid reasons to sideline the popular Punjab Chief Minister then? Has it not consequently damaged party image in the eyes of the public? A senior journalist Patricia Mukhim points out– “The infamous moniker ‘grand old party’ seems hellbent on committing political suicide from Punjab to Meghalaya”, (‘Present political churning… – ST, 26 Nov).
With so many successive electoral defeats and failures in the past several years, the party should have chosen to sit for deep soul-searching. Unfortunately, this has never happened. Sonia Ji still wears the queen’s crown with pride while Rahul Gandhi roars with immaturity. One wonders when the crown will be put on the head of the non-Gandhi leaders. Were Lyngdoh, Sangma, Gogoi, Tharoor, Scindia, Chidambaram not more efficient and eligible for the party high command’s post? The true spirit of democracy in the party always attracts more leaders. No doubt we badly need a good opposition party for a healthy political ecosystem. Come what may, the buzzword ‘Khela hobe’ should not impinge upon the friendly ethos of mutual respect for each party. All leaders should stand together to uphold the integrity of the nation.

Yours etc.,

Salil Gewali,

Shillong

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