Shailesh Kapoor: Asian Games: Indian Sport is Finding its Feet

31 Aug,2018

By Shailesh Kapoor


It’s been two weeks of exciting sporting action of television, with the Asian Games and the India-England Test series. Both have seen India emerge stronger than expected. After losing the first two Tests, many would have resigned to fate that this is going to be another one of those 0-5, 0-4 or 1-4 overseas losses. But with their emphatic performance in the third Test, and then on the first day of the fourth yesterday, the Indian team, especially their fast bowlers, have stamped their authority on the series. The definitive assertion of India as a force to reckon with in pace bowling is the biggest plus from this series, irrespective of its final outcome.

The Asian Games started off slowly for India, with a series of close calls and misses, including the shocker of not being able to win the Kabaddi Gold in either the men’s or the women’s discipline. But over the last six days, with the Athletics discipline kicking off, India has come into its own. With 7 Gold, 10 Silver and 2 Bronze medals, India’s was the best Athletics performance after China’s. Some of these Gold medals came in the most unlikely disciplines, none less than the women’s Heptathlon, where the performance of the feisty Swapna Burman is a story waiting to be told some day.

Asia is not the dominant force in Athletics, so one cannot call this performance ‘world class’ in that sense of the term. But compared to the past, there has been a significant surge. So, something must be going right in the background, in a country where sports administration is always at the receiving end of criticism.

The telecast of the Asian Games on television has been a mixed bag. Sony dedicated three channels to the event, and managed the scheduling fairly well, in that none of the important Indian interests were missed out, an issue that has been my pet peeve with the broadcasters of Olympics, Asian Games and Commonwealth Games in the past.

The commentary, though, ranged from very good to unintentionally funny and ridiculous. Indian commentators, especially in Hindi, are arguably a notch higher than their foreign counterparts when it comes to commenting on the sport of Hockey. And that, along with the Kabaddi commentary, was the best of the lot.

But you move to the next line of sports, and things worsened very quickly. Indian commentators were on alien territory in sports like Shooting, Archery and Athletics. While no one expects nuances from part-time commentators, a basic understanding of rules is definitely expected. In the nail-biting Compound Archery encounters, where both the men’s and the women’s team settled for Silver medals in close finales, the commentator in charge kept using the Recurve Archery scoring system, even though the scoring on the screen was clear as glass. And then, we had comical moments like a foul triple jump attempt being called a ‘No Ball’.

I understand that the Hindi feed needs Indian commentators, but why not use the source English feed for sports you don’t have knowledgeable commentators for? I often found myself switching to Sony Liv, which mercifully had dedicated feeds of some sports, with the original commentary, which was nothing short of top-class.

But let those be minor irritants that don’t take away our attention from the larger story: Indian sport is growing in stature. Slowly, but surely.



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