IPL investors look for profits, sports gets lost: P.T.Usha

By Venkatachari Jagannathan, IANS,

Chennai : Kerala’s cricket may have received a shot in the arm with little-known Rendezvous Sports World Limited adding commercial hub Kochi to the Indian Premier League, but legendary sprint queen P.T. Usha sees it as pure business and a dampener to the efforts to revive the state’s glorious past in athletics.

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“Those who invested money in the IPL look for profits. The players will never feel that they are representing the country. If I invest my money, I will surely look for ways to recover the investment,” Usha told IANS.

“The love for sports gets lost,” she added, pointing out that the investments made by the IPL team owners are close to budgets of small states and three-fourths of the investment for the 2010 New Delhi Commonwealth Games.

Kerala has given India some renowned athletes — middle-distance runner Shiny Wilson, hurdler M.D.Valsamma, Vandana Rao, K.M.Beenamol, K.C.Rosakutty, high jumper Anju Bobby George, longjumpers Suresh Babu and T.C.Yohannan, besides Usha.

Today Kerala’s atheletic scene is bare, starved of star performers, as Usha is trying hard to hone the furture of Indian athletic talent at her academy. The “Payyoli Express” recalls how her performance in the 1984 Olympics and the 1985 Asian Track and Field meet at Jakarta, where she won five gold and one bronze medals, hogged the limelight for days and even overshadowed cricketers.

“That was big news. I remember leading cricketers arguing with media that cricket should get prominence in the news columns.” says Usha.

Usha believes that a good performance by an athlete at the international stage will have the same impact even today.

“Cricket has changed Indian sports scene after the 1983 World Cup victory.”

“But I still feel that one big performance by an athlete will overshadow the media hype for the IPL cricket,” says Usha, who has pumped in all her energies to give shape to her academy.

Who will forget Usha’s feat in the 1984 Olympics, where she missed the bronze medal in 400-metre hurdles by a whisker (one hundredth of a second)? It was a memorable Olympics for Kerala girls.

Shiny Wilson (then Shiny Abraham) qualified for the semi-finals in the 800 metres and in the women’s 4×400 metres relay team (Usha, Shiny Wilson, M.D.Valsamma and Vandana Rao) set an Asian record in the final even though they finished last.

Incidentally, the news of the Kochi IPL team comes at a time when the women’s athletes who participated in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics are to be honoured at a function here in a couple of days.

Shiny Wilson says: “After the 1984 Olympics we haven’t seen any major performance by Indian athletes on the track. People should support other games as well.” Her husband Wilson Cherian, a former swimming champion, also feels that with IPL coming to the state, youngsters will be drawn more towards cricket.

“Almost all kids play cricket. Even volleyball courts are used for playing cricket. IPL will have a negative impact on other sports. It is very difficult to get crowds to watch even the Santosh Trophy football tournament. IPL is just business and not sport,” Wilson told IANS.

Valsamma, who is with Indian Railways, believes that an IPL team will be good for the state in certain ways.

“The positive side is that it would promote tourism. And the negative side will be that other sports will be affected,” she said.

But Kerala’s athletic fraternity is hoping that Usha’s academy would turn out world class runners in the years to come. “With movie hero Mohanlal becoming brand ambassador for Kerala athletics, we hope children will get attracted to the sport,” Valsamma added.

(V. Jagannathan can be contacted at v. [email protected])