Rahul Dravid’s 5-point wishlist to make sports available for every Indian

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I have grown up in an environment where the dominant narrative of Indian sporting achievement was—We can’t. These achievers have fought hard, built on each other’s body of work and knowledge, and have today changed the script to—We can. Working with the next generation of these achievers, I am constantly amazed to see the long way we have come. The prevailing belief is—We can and we will. This self-belief is exhilarating, and yet it needs to be tempered and paired with the requisite skills and attitudes that are essential ingredients of sustained excellence.

First, we must continue to support our elite athletes and their journeys. This must be done wholeheartedly and not grudgingly, with a full understanding of the value they bring to us as fellow Indians. Let us be more positive, generous, and give credit where it is due. The pipeline of talent is exciting and each of us can play a role in their success. Ultimately, we all benefit from their progress.

Next, while elite sport sets the standard, it cannot be the be-all and end-all of sports policy and development.

Third, we need to bring together and integrate the concepts of sport and education. At one end, children must sample sports of different sorts in every school in the country, either as part of their syllabus or in after-school programmes.

Fourth, we must focus our programmes on women’s participation in sport. The 2011 census told us that we have 270 million girls under twenty-five, comprising 20 per cent of our population.

Finally, our sporting universe will not be complete if we do not focus equal attention on those participating in Paralympic or Special Olympic disciplines, whether at the elite or competitive levels.