I didn't think it would be possible to find much more to say about the state of sport in India so soon after writing a feature on the subject. However, a picture in a newspaper on Sunday has inspired me to write a little more.
Saina Nehwal, a rising young badminton player, epitomizes what a young Indian sporting icon should be. Aggressive and ambitious, she makes us proud with her unabashed desire to win—and the hard work she’s willing to put in to do so. Nehwal deserves all the adulation she has received over the last year or so as she has racked up one victory after another.
Not surprisingly, advertising gold has followed the adulation. And with this has come what seems to be an image change. Sunday’s newspaper report wasn't about yet another sporting triumph, but instead talked about her apparent makeover. The ‘new and improved’ Nehwal has got a snazzy haircut, golden streaks in her hair and is wearing a lot more makeup.
Of course, it’s not up to other people to decide how a young woman should look. But I can’t help but feel that the brands she’s representing now are more interested in her marketability than her potential as a sporting role model.
Meanwhile, even as we’re getting used to the new-look Nehwal, there’s something else that could do with a serious makeover—Eden Gardens, one of the country's most popular cricket stadiums.
Shamefully, the International Cricket Council deemed the venue unfit for international cricket. This is a sad development for a place that can hold tens of thousands of fans, and which has been the scene of many great cricket matches. It’s particularly sad because Kolkata, where the stadium is located, is undoubtedly one of the most sports-loving cities in India. If only the magicians behind Nehwal's new look could give Eden Gardens a once over too.