India’s Sad Saga in Sports and Why are We Struggling?

India has a great culture in sports and it is greatly influenced by the British in the 18th and 19th century. However, India,s achievements in sports are a very few. Since 1900, India won just 9 gold medals, 6 silver and 11 bronze medals, a total of 26 medals in 30 Olympics Games. We tried to find the reasons and the probable solutions of the sad saga of Indian sports.


India with the second largest population and seventh largest economy has been struggling in international sports. India has a great history and tradition in sports. Although cricket is more popular, in such a large country there are different games also played by a lot of people. Games like gilli-danda, kabaddi, pehlwani, Chess, Leg Cricket, Snooker and kho-kho are originated in India and manage to retain the popularity as indigenous games. Among them, Kabaddi is the most popular indigenous game in India.

India has hosted several sporting events such as Asian Games in 1951 and 1982, South Asian Games in 1987, 1995 and 2016, Cricket World Cup in 1987, 1996 and 2011, Commonwealth Games in 2010 and many more events. In 1900, India first took part in the Olympics and won two medals. Hockey is the most successful sports at the Olympics for India, won eight gold medals.

India’s recent performance in Olympics:

Year Participants Gold Silver Bronze Total Events
1996 49 0 0 1 1 Tennis
2000 65 0 0 1 1 Weightlifting
2004 73 0 1 0 1 Shooting
2008 56 1 0 2 3 Shooting(G), Wrestling(B), Boxing(B)
2012 83 0 2 4 6 Shooting(S), Wrestling(S),  Shooting(B), Wrestling(B), Boxing(B), Badminton(B)
2016 118 0 1 1 2 Badminton(S), Wrestling(B)

Source: Wikipedia/lead the competition

Some major achievements in sports

  • 1950s – 1960s – this one-decade was the glorious moment for India’s Football team. They won the 1951 and 1962 Asian Games and finished 4th in 1956 Olympics. India ranked in top 20 teams in the world. In 1950, the FIFA World Cup, they could not participate due to lack of resources
  • In 1952, KD Jadhav won first Olympic medal in wrestling for India
  • Mihir Sen was the first Indian to cross the English Channel in 1958
  • In 1960 Olympics Milkha Singh led the 400m but failed to get any medal. He also won medals in 1958 and 1962 Asian Games
  • India won 1975 Hockey World Cup by defeating Pakistan in Malaysia
  • Prakash Padukone won all England open in 1980
  • India won ICC cricket World Cup in 1983 and 2011
  • Viswanathan Anand won the World Chess Championship in 2000
  • In 2008 Beijing Olympics India finds it first individual gold by the hand of shooter Abhinav Bindra

However, this is still not sufficient considering India a country if over 1.3 billion people. India is facing some major problems in sports. On a tweet, the Union Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore expressed his concern over the dire condition of our sports icons who are struggling to meet the basic needs. Reasons behind the bad condition of Indian sports are as follows –


Infrastructure is the backbone of sports. It plays a vital role in a country on its sports culture. Infrastructure is necessary for training, organizing matches, and also helps to produce quality sports-persons. Lack of facilities and grass root level of Indian sports are the big concerns nowadays. Schools and collages suffer from its basic infrastructure in sports that can’t encourage students to play games. School and college sports are still not seen taking major tractions.

Corruption & Mismanagement

Corruption is everywhere in India and how can sports run away from it. Corruption is rampant in all major sports including cricket, hockey, weightlifting, and athletics. 2010 Commonwealth Game (CWG) scam is one of the major scams in India and involving around Rs 70,000 crore. Mismanagement is also a big issue in Indian sports. The sports administration controlled by politicians mostly have limited knowledge doesn’t contribute much to transform Indian sports.

Inadequate funding by the government

Due to poor government investment in sports, Indian players or team do not get any international coaches or good support staff, training facilities, proper diet, etc. India’s expenditure on sports is about Rs 2,196.36 crore in the union budget 2018-19. While Australia, China and USA, etc. spend millions of dollars in sports.


Many people in India live below the Poverty Line (BPL). Therefore, it is very difficult for them to provide financial support to their children to make a career in sports. In rural areas, lots of talents go lost or undiscovered due to lack of facility or they can’t afford better training.

Lack of popularity of different sports

Sports like cricket dominate in India. Other than cricket, a few can believe any career option in other sports as they don’t have money and glamour that cricket has. Cricket is like a religion in India.

Lack of believe

Most of the Indian families don’t believe in sports as a career. So, they don’t allow their children to play games most of the time. They have a belief “If you study hard, you will be successful but if you play sports you will ruin your life.

How can we improve India’s performance in sports? Here are some probable solutions –

Improvement of infrastructure: India should make considerable investments in sports infrastructure and facilities such as stadiums, availing international coaches, training camps, new technologies, nutrients and diets, gym facilities, etc.

Improvement of grass-root programmes: Many countries have grass-root level programmes where they train students of schools and collages by professionals and pick up athletes and send them for further. India needs to start such kind of programmes and promote it.

Promote different sports: there are hundreds of different sports, people can make a career. India needs to promote and invest in other sports also.

Introduce a new scheme: Scheme like “Khelo India programme” introduced by the current government to revive the sports culture in India. As per this scheme, financial support of INR 5 lakh per annum is being committed by the committee to talented Indian athletes for 8 years. The government needs to introduce more such schemes to help Indian athletes.

Public-Private Partnership: Public-Private Partnership (PPP) is required to improve the infrastructure of Indian sports. Leagues such as IPL, Hockey India League and Pro Kabaddi League have brought a significant amount of money and helps to develop infrastructure and athletes. So, we need more PPP models in various games.

Bring new technology: As time passes by, technology enters in every field, sports is not so far. To improve the quality and produce international level sportspersons, we need to bring new technology.

The Article is written by Asif Karim who is a student of BSc in Medical Microbiology, Dehradun. He aspires to be a civil servant and contributes to nation-building.

Article Name
India,s Sad Saga in Sports and Why is it Struggling?
India has a great culture in sports and it is greatly influenced by the British in the 18th and 19th century. However, India,s achievements in sports are a very few. Since 1900, India won just 9 gold medals, 6 silver and 11 bronze medals, a total of 26 medals in 30 Olympics Games. We tried to find the reasons and the probable solutions of the sad saga of Indian sports.
Publisher Name
The Policy Times