A few years ago, I was researching a story on why the South seems to produce champions in sport that demand physical fitness and mental skills as well. And, I had e-mailed badminton legend Prakash Padukone some questions. I chanced upon his e-mailed answer when I was looking for some information on World chess champion V Anand in my archives.
What do you think are the key reasons for the South to produce champions in sport that demand not only physical fitness but also a great deal of mental skills and elegance? Badminton, tennis, chess are prime examples.
Some of the key reasons:
a) Dedication, discipline, determination and focus of the sportspersons;
b) Willingness to make sacrifices;
c) Good climate in places like Bangalore which allows one to train throughout the year;
d) Fewer distractions compared to other big cities like Bombay, Delhi etc;
e) Distance (from home to coaching facility) is not much;
f) Parental support;
g) Good infrastructure;
h) Ability to remain level-headed even after achieving success;
i) Comparatively less politics in State Sports Associations.
Do you think that the education system in the south allows children (especially of the middle class) to be attracted to sport more than those elsewhere?
Only to some extent. States like Kerala, Karnataka etc., have special quota/grace marks for sports persons which is an added advantage.
Do you also think that the State Sports Councils or State Sports Authorities are doing a better job? And the municipal authorities, too, by providing basic infrastructure to the citizens?
Yes. In most of the southern States except Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Kerala and Andhra Pradesh are prime examples where Sports Council/Authority has played a major role in promoting sport in their respective states by providing infrastructure, equipment, coaches, establishing Sports Hostels etc. These facilities have helped children from middle and lower middle class to take up to sports of their choice.
Is the south’s club culture a key reason for the development of sport?
May be in the past and that too only in selected sports but certainly not in the present day scenario. Of late the club culture has changed and the emphasis is now more on social activities than on sports. It also varies from state to state.
Above all, is there a greater hunger to excel in sport in the south? Do they set their standards high and want to do well at the international level also unlike in other regions where getting a seat in an engineering college or employment seems to be the prime attraction for people to take up sport as a career option?
Even in the south a number of sportspersons take to sports for getting a seat in a professional college or for employment. On the other hand there are quite a few athletes who are eager to do well at the world level as well. The key difference could be that generally there are more children playing sports at the grass root level in the south compared to other parts of India. This could be one of the main reasons. Lastly I believe that quality comes from quantity.