Will Maken spot the googlies in his innings?
Newly appointed sports minister Ajay Maken.Within a few days of Ajay Maken taking over the reins, divergent views have emerged over what kind of sports minister MS Gill’s successor would turn out to be. But sports officials are sure that the new minister’s style of functioning as well as his preferences will be known sooner rather than later.On his first day in office, Maken called for “out-ofthe-box” thinking and introducing new programmes to increase participation of the youth in sports. He also said that a blueprint would be prepared with an eye on next year’s Olympic Games in London. But experts have questioned whether a fresh policy can be prepared and implemented in pursuit of medals at the highest platform in sports, especially with just 550-odd days left for the Games. They say that long-term planning is needed to win medals and that has always been missing in India for various reasons.Top sports administrators point out that Maken was off target when he spoke about such a blueprint. “A blueprint for the 2012 Olympics is already in place. Either he was not aware or he was probably driven by the need to say something to the media on his first day in office,” said a senior official. “At the most, we can tinker a bit with the existing policy pertaining to the 2012 Olympics. But you can’t have a completely fresh policy so close to the world’s biggest sports extravaganza.”Remarkably, Maken also said that he would pursue a non-confrontationist approach towards the national sports federations (NSFs) and the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) with regard to the age and tenure guidelines of the ministry.advertisementA senior ministry official clarified that this statement should not be misconstrued to present that the new minister would be lenient towards the NSFs. “There would be no change in the policies that we have been pursuing till now. For instance, there are five-six court cases with the NSFs going on and our stance will not change with regard to those. Law, of course, will take its own course,” he said. Maken is young and is expected to bring in a new forward-looking approach in the working of the sports administration.”Even Gill was forwardlooking in his approach, but his attitude towards the NSFs was confrontationist, something that Maken wants to avoid.Then there was the age factor in Gill’s case,” said a senior sports official. Gill was 70-plus while Maken is just 47. “We will come to know Maken’s style of functioning in 10-15 days.” Another point that Maken made was about the introduction of new schemes and programmes.But it will not be a bad idea to streamline the various existing schemes, many of which are currently being neglected.For instance, the existing schemes of the Sports Authority of India (SAI) have largely been ignored in the last few years, including during the tenure of Gill which lasted nearly three years.SAI is responsible for training and nurturing athletes and appointing coaches besides other tasks. But the number of trainees with the various SAI schemes has reportedly gone down remarkably.”No interest has been shown in this direction and as a result, the number of trainees across India has gone down. The projection for 2010 under the five-year plan was to have 50,000 trainees, but the actual current strength is far, far less than that,” an official pointed out.On the issue of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) defying the ministry over registering itself with the ministry, as other NSFs have done, Maken again seems to be non-confrontationist. He said he would speak to BCCI officials, but ministry officials say that the issue has reached a certain point and action could well be taken against the richest sports body of the country for being arrogant.