The name Prakash Padukone is not one that would be instantly recognised by cricket fans. Not unless they come from India. There may be others who are familiar with the man or who have heard of him but I wouldn't put my money on it. No more mystery about it: Padukone is the best badminton player India has produced. But that is not why his name figures here.
Badminton, like every other sport in India, was run for generations by a bunch of people who knew little of the game, cared only for the power and privileges which the posts brought them, and, as a result, generally brought the game into disrepute. It became difficult to attract people to the sport and though Padukone won the All-England in 1980, there was nobody to follow his act. It was a disgusting scenario. The same could well be said of every sports federation in the country.
The attitude of sportsmen is to blame the system and the structure for their lack of achievement. Some do manage to go abroad and achieve something; others fight hard and manage to reach at least half of their potential. But the sports administrators are like a millstone round their necks. They do not help, they hinder. They take credit for any achievement and blame every shortcoming, every failure on the lack of governmental support and funds. But no sportsman has ever dared to fight back and take these blokes on. The few who have walked out in anger have never returned to continue the fight. They have paid the price for these indiscrete acts.
The difference with Padukone is that he has struck back. He formed his own badminton federation and boldly announced that he was doing it because the existing body stank. If anything, he was understating the problem. He was tired of complaining and decided to do something. And he is likely to win. The secretary of the existing body has thrown in the towel, his cronies are running scared. Padukone has no financial stake in this; he is rich enough to care a damn about money. The difference is that he is seriously interested in the game, enough to be willing to stretch his neck out for it. Sportswriters have a different name for it: love of the game.
And so to the point of this example. Why is it that India has so many ex-cricketers who criticise the board no end and then also eat from the same bowl? Why are big names like Gavaskar and Kapil Dev -- who do not have to bother about funds for the next four generations at least -- staying on the sidelines and carping? Why are they willing to run with the hounds -- and then find fault when a hare is hunted down? This is the bane of Indian cricket, not any selection policy, nor any structure.
These are people who are what they are today because of the game. Else they would be nobodies. No-one would even glance at them. Yet they are terribly loath to give something back, to get involved and sort out the sorry mess that Indian cricket has become. Ask Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, a man who cares deeply about Indian cricket, but one who has been sidelined no end, whether he would sup at the same table with Gavaskar and see what he says. That would say a lot about Indian cricket.
India's ex-cricketers are merely interested in reaping the benefits which the game can give them, be it commentary, foreign travel, wine, women or song. Giving something back? Nothing could be further from their minds. And before someone can fling this business of cricket camps back, it would be instructive to find out exactly how much these prima donnas charge for half-baked coaching. Brijesh Patel has become a multi-millionaire just by coaching kids in Bangalore; one has yet to see any talent he has spotted. The men who can do something are sidelined by those in power; people who actually want the system changed are a danger, for if that happened all the freeloaders who currently enjoy positions of power and gorge themselves at the public trough would have to find ther collective ways back home.
When Mohinder Amarnath had the courage to call the selectors "a bunch of jokers" did any of his teammates stand by him? No, they were only too eager to dissociate themselves from the man and left him to face the music. The ex-cricketers who fall in line with the board's dictates are periodically invited to enjoy a piece of the action -- be it as a selector, coach or manager. And about the only thing that these men who have had their day in the sun are interested in is their bank accounts. There is no love of the game in Indian cricket; nobody but the players of the past and the present can cleanse the system and it is time they quit complaining and did something. That is if they are interested in anything beyond match fees and advertising jingles.