Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Odd man out

Well, the drama which unfolded prior to the Nagpur Test when injuries, captaincy changes, general newsworthy items and British journalists became headline news have thankfully subsided in Chandigarh; two England net sessions have passed without problems.

So, diary can now concentrate on the real issue at hand as reported from yesterday - Indian wrestling and the story of a legend in the sport who became unrecognised in his own country.

Khashaba Jhadhav became India's first individual medalist in the Olympics when he won bronze at the Helsinki Games in 1952; a great feat considering Jhadhav's family had to beg for village contributions to send him to Europe after he failed at the 1948 London Games. He probably would have won gold too in Helsinki if the matting had been to his liking, but India couldn't hide its euphoria when news reached Bombay.

On his return there was a 151 bullock cart procession to a famous temple, which by foot would have usually taken 15 minutes, but on this occasion took a full day such were the scenes. The only plight in Jhadhav's return was his resentment towards Indian officials who travelled to Helsinki, who according to the medalist were only interested in shopping and casinos.

The Indian media was still in its prime during the early 1950s and Jhadhav's Bantamweight efforts were soon a distant memory; a spectacular change from today's attitudes as national media feeds on Bombay social gossip while no daily sports page would be complete without its frenzy of politically-based cricket stories.

So Jhadhav went back to his village and in no time was living in near obscurity. He took up a job in the police force three years later where he remained without promotion until 1982. Six months before his retirement, thanks to colleagues, he was appointed an assistant commissioner of police. He died two years later in a motorcycle accident.

A few years ago, his son finally got the recognition his father deserved after years of neglect and funding from the Indian government. Perhaps this is why it took until 1996 for India to win its second Olympic medal when Leander Paes won bronze in the singles tennis at Atlanta.

Rod Gilmour in Chandigarh