The exploits of India's badminton girls are still alive in memory. A good two weeks after winning silver and bronze at the World Championship in Glasgow, P V Sindhu and Saina Nehwal have remained in the headlines, receiving accolades or spelling out future goals. This is well deserved. But unfortunately missing in this media melee to acknowledge excellence are Gaurav Bidhuri and Ankur Mittal.
They too won World Championship medals, in boxing and shooting, days after Sindhu and Saina. But Bidhuri's bantamweight bronze in Hamburg and Mittal's double trap silver in Moscow got negligible media coverage compared to the hours devoted to badminton, though the magnitude of their accomplishments was almost the same.
Does it mean the Indian sports fan is selective in appreciating merit? Looking up to cricket for decades when we were not contenders in other sports, it took us time to understand what achievements in global events means. The media, too, kept the focus on cricket, and only after the badminton players won Olympic medals did they start paying attention to them. This tendency to run after stars instead of highlighting achievements is a reason why Sindhu and Saina are in the limelight while Bidhuri and Mittal are not.
Officials running these sports are also responsible. Critical of the media for neglecting them, they do little to promote their players when they do something noteworthy. There has been no effort on the part of the boxing or shooting federations to sell the fact that these two disciplines have won India more World Championship medals than badminton. There in no news of them doing anything to encourage Bidhuri or Mittal to do better.
In contrast, the badminton federation organised a function and gave handsome cash awards to Sindhu and Saina. Nobody knows why other federations have not thought along such lines. Fortunately, these athletes have got used to the apathy and chosen to pursue their goals away from the spotlight.