Another Inter-IIT to forget

The Inter-IIT squad of IIT Kharagpur spluttered to yet another humiliating sixth position in the recently concluded 48th Inter-IIT Sports Meet held at IIT Roorkee. Barring volleyball and tennis, our athletes simply had nothing to write home about. That Kharagpur managed to hold on to its sixth position is only due to the brilliant performance of our swimmers, who managed yet another Gold medal in aquatics and bronze in water-polo at the aquatic meet held in October. TSA caught up with some of the Inter-IIT captains of various sports to gauge what went wrong, again.

Lack of coaches

Athletics is perhaps the most pivotal sport in the context of the General Championship, as the winner takes home all of twenty points. Kharagpur used to have one of the strongest squads a couple of years ago, but has since seen a decline in performance. Interestingly, this period has been the same where
the squad has been bereft of a permanent coach. Two temporary coaches have come and gone, but TSA wonders if that is all that the administration can do for such a talented bunch of athletes. Even the Table tennis squad, which was placed in the group of death along with Guwahati, Roorkee and Bombay, had some sort of coaching only from October, and then too only on weekends. The boys’ team beat Guwahati 3-0, and lost narrowly to Bombay and Roorkee 3-2. Such results are testimony to the talent that KGP possessed, but lacked the temperament to finish the games due to insufficient coaching. Similar is the case for badminton, which had temporary coaching from Chandan Pramanik, but were pretty much on their own for the most part.

Improper funding

It is no secret that large amounts of funds are allocated to Inter-IIT sports every year by each of the fifteen IITs. Another reason that contributed to the poor start that KGP received in most sports was the mindless journey that all athletes had to endure to reach KGP. Where most IITs travel by AC 3-tier or better (IIT Roorkee contingent flew to Kharagpur in last year’s edition), IIT Kharagpur resorts to travel in sleeper class. As the Jammu-Tawi express train chugged along at a mediocre speed, the contingent reached late in the night a day before the tournament’s scheduled start, and was in no position to practice on the only day available. The table-tennis players had to even invest in their own rubbers and ply for the tournament, even though they were promised that the entire amount would be refunded. The question that needs to be asked is how the allocated funds are being used.

Insufficient practice

This year’s edition of Inter-IIT was prefaced by a relatively successful Shaurya, and performances in the Sports Fest made us hopeful for a better outcome in Roorkee. Looking back at Shaurya, one can easily see that any team had to play a maximum of three-four matches to win the tournament, while in Inter-IIT it takes a minimum of six. This only lends credence to the organisers’ demand to make Shaurya a five-day tourney, something along the lines of BITS Pilani’s BOSM.

Another change that most current captains would like to see is the start of practice from the Spring semester itself. That coupled with some sort of a Holiday Inter-IIT camp during the Durga Puja break would serve not only to sharpen the acumen of our athletes, but would also increase the bonding of the contingent as a whole, something which was lacking in Roorkee.

Motivation of players

It is no secret that an Inter-IIT certificate in your curriculum vitae significantly increases chances of a Day 1 placement. And nobody really has an issue with that. The problem starts when Inter-IIT probables start thinking in the reverse manner, and don’t show the same level of commitment once they make it to the team. A bigger problem arises, when these players, having the all-important certificate in the bag, don’t turn up for practice next year, essentially wasting a year of coaching and resources spent on them.

Another reason why some players may not be strongly motivated is the complete lack of incentives to perform well, apart from the love for the sport. Kislaya Dubey, who has the distinction of representing Kharagpur in both Water Polo and badminton, feels the buzz in the campus is only about getting into the team and not what happens afterwards. He also points in the direction of dedicated efforts by sports councils of other IITs who maintain performance record of each and every Inter-IIT player and regularly publicize them.

A fair game?

There is much prestige involved when it comes to Inter-IIT. It is hence only natural that the host IIT tries to maximize its chances of securing as high a position as possible in the General Championship. However some of the practices adopted by Roorkee were unethical at best, and downright ugly at worst.

For starters, Kharagpur was given practice slots at ungodly hours in sports where it was in the same group as Roorkee. Case in point would be table-tennis, where our players were supposed to practice at 6 am at 5 degrees Celsius. In badminton, the Roorkee players in their quarter-final match against Kharagpur girls could choose just about whenever to stop-start the match. But our football players probably had the worst deal of them all. Not only did they have to fight the cold and clammy conditions but also had to face some absurd refereeing decisions. It peaked in their last match, the quarter final match against Hyderabad, where they had two goals disallowed for off-side. They lost 2-1.

A few bright spots

Amongst the generally disappointing results were some scattered moments of brilliance by some athletes. Most notable among these was Sharmila, captain of the girls’ athletics team, being awarded “Best Athlete (female)”. Another would be Sange Tenzin’s heroic pole vault Gold medal, where he outperformed himself by a considerable margin. The continuous excellence of our girls in tennis, and resurgence by our boys in the same sport is very heartening. The boys’ volleyball team also deserves accolades for bagging a medal for the second straight year. The officials and coaches who travelled with the contingent to Roorkee were very helpful according to all captains we interviewed, and most teams had a family like bonding.

The way ahead

A lot needs to be done if Kharagpur is to revisit its days of glory at the helm in Inter IIT Sports Meet, and the time to start is now. The football team is taking part in the competitive Kharagpur Premier League beginning on January 19, and the basketball team is also looking to compete in several state-level competitions. Apart from more practice, some systemic changes with respect to budget allocation, coaching staff and an exclusive Inter-IIT camp are also in order. The players, on their part, must associate with Inter-IIT as an avenue to showcase their skills and seek to work harder than ever on their flaws, if Guwahati 2013 is to yield any better results than Roorkee 2012.

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