India have a Tendulkar hidden in many sports, says athletics boss 

Former sprinter and president of Athletics Federation of India Adille Sumariwalla wants better ecosystem for talent to blossom and reach world-class level.

India has enough talent in every sporting avenue who could potentially achieve the heights that legendary cricketer Sachin Tendulkar did for the country.

This is the belief of the president of the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) Adille Sumariwalla.

Speaking in a webinar organized by ‘Sports for All’, an organization that develops athletes at the school and college level, on the occasion of Olympic Day, Adille Sumariwalla said, “Every sport probably already has several Sachin Tendulkars.”

“But each of them needs the right platform to showcase his or her talent and become world champions. We need the best of both, hard and soft, infrastructure, especially at the grassroots level,” he stated.

Creating a holistic ecosystem

Sumariwalla, a former sprinter himself who represented India at the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, knows first-hand the level of training and attention a professional athlete needs and appealed to the corporate world to lend a helping hand.

“We can have a special board, with corporate, government and federation, and control the whole infrastructure and build the ecosystem,” he suggested.

With the AFI focused on giving the requisite support to sportspersons with separate development procedures for budding talents, the 62-year-old felt that it was only a matter of time before some of them develop into Olympic-level athletes.

“The grassroots is the harder part and it is a long-term strategy. We need to put structure, plans, processes and resources. But more importantly, we need patience,” he said.

“We conduct the largest grassroots programme with the national inter-district athletics championship that started with 90 districts participating 15 years ago to 500 districts last year in specific events at the under-14 and 16 levels.”

With talents like Neeraj Chopra, who has already qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, and Dutee Chand, who ran at Rio 2016, emerging as a product of these programmes, the future looks promising for India.

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