As Saina Nehwal joined the BJP, it is quite clear that politics is a very appealing field for many sportspersons. In the last few years, we have witnessed Vijender Singh, Bhaichung Bhutia, Babita Phogat among other sportspersons joining politics, some for lucrative posts while others for serving the nation. Former union minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, an Olympic medallist, is one of the most inspiring sportspersons who is quite successfully working as a politician.
We have also seen sportspersons such as Sachin Tendulkar and MC Mary Kom sitting in the parliament but they seldom leave a mark for the betterment of sports or society. Even after getting nominated to the Rajya Sabha, depicting his will for reforms, Sachin Tendulkar’s attendance over his six-year term in the Rajya Sabha was just 8 per cent while Mary Kom is averaging 53 per cent in only the first two years of her tenure. In the master blaster’s first year in Parliament, he did not attend a single day in the budget and winter sessions, while in the monsoon session, his attendance was 5 per cent.
Nevertheless, some sportsmen such as Rahul Dravid and Pullela Gopichand are one of the very few names who have changed this narrative through their dedication to sports without even joining the politics.
Amazingly, Rahul Dravid or ‘The Wall’, as he was popularly called by his fans and Pullella Gopichand have proved that a sportsman can make his country proud even after retiring. Dravid, who successfully trained Indian cricket team (Under-19), which went on to win the World Cup while Gopichand has trained some of the world’s best shuttlers including Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu. He is actively working for the upliftment of sports as National Cricket Association chief.
Interestingly, Rahul Dravid and Pullela Gopichand alongside Commonwealth gold medallist Abhinav Bindra have been included in a new committee to select Olympic medal hopes. The committee, which was formed to increase India’s medal tally in 2020 Olympics, will be named “Target Mission Olympic Podium Scheme”.
Pullela Gopichand has brought laurels for the nation by training the two of the most celebrated shuttlers, Saina and Sindhu. After winning the All England Championship in 2001, Gopi, who was always known for his never-say-die attitude, started his academy in Gachibowli in Hyderabad, with a dream of producing champion shuttlers. That he had to mortgage his house for the same is a different thing, but today he would be extremely proud looking at his pupils compete against the best in the field, like he would have wanted them to. In a cricket-obsessed nation, it was unbelievable to see the hype around India’s badminton matches during Rio Olympics. From Saina, to Sindhu, to Parupalli Kashyap, to Srikanth, over the years, Gopi has trained his shuttlers to compete against world class opponents, especially the Chinese. It’s because of him that conquering the Chinese wall is no more an uphill task for Indian shuttlers.
On the other hand, never the one to chase limelight, even after rejecting the offer to train India’s cricket team, before Anil Kumble got the job. Dravid had requested the then BCCI president Anurag Thakur to let him be the coach of the Indian U-19 team. With that decision, The Wall once again proved why he is regarded as one of the true gentlemen of the sport. Just like Dravid, Gopichand too likes to stay away from limelight. To showcase his dedication, If he demands hundred percent from his pupils, it is only because he himself follows the same discipline. After Rio Olympics, Gopi had revealed that to ensure that his shuttlers followed a proper regimen, he too was on a strict diet.
Sportspersons though are filled with willingness to work for the upliftment of sports but they hardly know their way around in politics. Sportsmen such as Dravid and Gopichand have proved their mettle and dedication without joining politics. The new generation of sportspersons should learn from these coaches on how to make a mark in society.