For a long time, the team event at the national championships has been reduced to a formality. The outcome is known even before the event starts – for the team event can be won only by one outfit – the PSPB (Petroleum Sports Promotion Board), which is actually a combined team drawn from all the petroleum companies. It is time to rethink the relevance of fielding a unified PSPB team. The PSPB boasts of every top player in the country, reducing the team event at the nationals to a formality, and robbing it of its competitive nature.
Instead, why can’t the individual petroleum companies field teams of their own at the nationals? This would automatically raise the public interest in the team event, ensure greater opportunities for all players, and give the team event some legitimacy. It will increase employment in this sector as each company will strive to improve the depth of their team.
Alternately, BAI can conduct a Public sector team championship or league along with individual championship at par with the present nationals, where these companies get enough publicity and make nationals only an Inter-state affair.
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RESPONSES SO FAR:
I still remember the time I played for Maharashtra as a youngster in 1998 and we won the All India Championship in the Team event of the Delhi Nationals. It was a great feeling. The feeling was electric to win along with Vincent Lobo, Mangrish Palekar and Vijay Lancy as teammates. Vijay Lancy had beaten Srikant Bakshi after being 1-14 down after losing the first game. The feeling was similar to the excitement we had a few months later when we won the silver medal at the 1998 Commonwealth Games at KL. The following year PSPB was formed. I was part of the PSPB team throughout the following decade but sadly we just kept winning without any real opposition.
It’s a great thing that public sector companies are providing jobs to top players but by having their own team in the national team event championships they have killed the team event. I feel that the national team championship should go back to the old days of players playing proudly for their home state and fighting it out rather than the formality of having a team championship where it is ‘Team India’ vs The Other States.
The PSPB anyway have their own tournament every year and the players they employ wear their respective company logos throughout the year.
It is up to the authorities to decide on this issue but there is really no truth in rejoicing after winning when really there in no State in India named as PSPB.
The issue of conducting the inter- state championships only for the state units has been discussed many times in BAI meetings. Every time, the institutions’ argument that they are creating job opportunities for players won them place in the interstate event. Earlier, only Railways and All India Universities competed in the interstate championships and their presence did not mar the chances of state associations. In the last ten to twelve years, the entry of PSPB into the interstate event has completely robbed the event of any semblance of interest. Since the PSPB provides the best pay and perks to sportsmen, they have amongst them the very best of Badminton talent in the country, making the interstate into some kind of a farce.
In my opinion, we need to find ways to bring back the competitiveness of the inter state event. This can happen by restricting participation in the interstate event only to state units. This has to be done in a way without diluting the importance of the institutions like the PSPB or Railways.
I have the following suggestions about this ticklish issue:
a) Inter-state be restricted only to the states. This will ensure that states with better players will compete for the top honours thereby encouraging the state units to strive and bring up the standard of their players at various levels. This will also ensure that the state units’ efforts in bringing up players to the national level are not unnoticed. At present, these players are absorbed by the Petroleum sector, Railways and Air India. Of course, state units can never match the job opportunities, financial security etc being offered by these institutions.
Everyone needs to understand that there is a national policy at the Government level to provide job opportunities to sportspersons at various levels. Hence, I do not agree with the argument of institutions that they would stop recruitment if they are not allowed to participate in the inter state championships. In my opinion, in the larger interests of the game, institutions should support my argument and continue encouraging players without compromising on the facilities being offered.
b) The individual championships should be open in the real sense. Players should be representing their institutions. For eg. Arvind Bhat, the current national champion, should be representing BPCL in the open championships. Similarly, many of the top players playing for their institutions in the open championships will enhance the profile of their respective companies and will also generate goodwill for them. In fact, BAI should give more number of entries (a maximum of eight) for individual events if their players are ranked in the top 50 in the country in that event. This will encourage recruitment and many top public / private institutions will provide employment to promising players. In fact, BAI can be liberal in allowing players who are on contract temporarily employed in these institutions to represent them. This will also encourage individual employers to make their players to participate in national ranking tournaments so that they get national ranking in the top which will ensure them direct entry to the nationals.
c) The draw of the open nationals can be for 128 (112 direct and 16 qualifiers) in the singles category and 64 (56 direct and 8 qualifiers) in the doubles category. The entries can also be restricted to players belonging to the top 200 in the country in singles and top 100 teams in doubles.
d) I am suggesting these as I feel that these changes can make our domestic circuit more vibrant and also enhance the prestige of the interstate and national individual championships. This will also take care of the interests of both the states and institutions.
You have come out with a very pertinent issue. PSPB have been the national champions from time immemorial. It is high time the team events are made inter-state, so that some sort of competition is induced into the national team events.
You have rightly indicated that a national level competition among public sector undertakings could be thought of, which will force the PSUs to build their teams and thereby provide greater opportunities for players.
At the same time, when the national team events are based on states, the states also will be forced to build good teams and thereby provide wonderful opportunities to the respective state players. This needs to be brought to the notice of the authorities.